By Asian Journal Auto Editor

It’s back! The venerable little Ford Ranger pickup, although not so little anymore. With the mid- size pickup market expanding, Ford have introduced a more compact Ranger based on the Australian Ford  Ranger, but with different suspension tuning, different engine and transmission. The new Ranger has a tough, well-integrated look with short overhangs, a high beltline, steeply raked cabin windshield, trapezoid grill, and big fenders to complete a contemporary handsome look. The Ranger is not available as single cab model instead it starts with a SuperCab version, with six-foot box, four seats, and small, rear-hinged back doors that only open if the front doors are opened first.

The SuperCrew as tested has a five-foot box, five seats, and four conventionally opening doors. All Rangers in Canada are 4×4 equipped. The Ranger model lineup features: XL SuperCab 4×4: $30,969, XLT SuperCab 4×4: $35,539, XLT SuperCrew 4×4: $37,339, and the Lariat SuperCrew 4×4: $42,289 as tested.

The engine powering the Ranger is the second generation  Ford 2.3L twin scroll turbocharged Ecoboost four-cylinder, with a forged steel crankshaft borrowed – from the Mustang EcoBoost- making 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s mated to a ten-speed automatic as fitted to the Ford F-150.—there is no manual transmission option. The Ranger can carry up to 1,650 lb of cargo with the short bed, Crew Cab 4 x 4 configuration, and 1,560 lbs for the SuperCrew. All Ranger models have a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 lbs, (When properly equipped with tow package) which Ford says is best-in-class,

Our tester was the top of the range SuperCrew Lariat model with 17 inch aluminum  wheels,  topped with numerous options, such as a $3,000 technology package including a Bang & Olufsen stereo system, Adaptive cruise control, and remote start. Also added was the FX4 off Road package with 3.73 ratio electronic rear diff, splash guards, and running boards. A Sport appearance package ($500) and spray in bedliner $600 –– brought it to $49,509 before freight and taxes

The Ranger’s cabin design is neat and well organized. The dash is also relatively uncluttered with big clear dials for stereo volume and tuning. The infotainment system is powered by Ford’s excellent SYNC3 system. The Lariat includes such niceties as heated leather seats, auto-dimming mirror, satellite radio, lane-keeping assist, and a blind-spot monitoring system that adjust when for trailer length for safer lane changes in traffic. The ebony leather front seats are very supportive and comfortable, and have eight-way power with lumbar support on the Lariat. The SuperCrew is roomier for second-row passengers than the SuperCab, while the rear cushion lifts up to uncover some hidden storage space below it. Gripes? No heated steering wheel in this day, and Supercabs rear door system is plain archaic.

On the road, the Rangers 2.3-liter turbo four cylinder engine offers good acceleration and cruising speed.  Meanwhile, the manoeuvrable size, and impressive turning circle make it easy to drive. The steering is light and responsive. In typical pickup truck fashion, it can be a bouncy jittery over bumps if unloaded but it’s a generally smooth ride on most surfaces. Note, the 4×4 system is part-time and for less traction situations and surfaces only  Our tester was also optioned with an FX4 Off-Road Package, at $1,400, which adds an electronic locking rear differential, all-terrain tires, and skid plates. Terrain Management, operated by a button on the console, optimizes performance in mud, snow, sand, and other conditions  The Terrain Management system also features Ford’s low speed forward crawl control system that can operate up o to 11 km/h.

I was impressed that although you sit high, the narrow cab and smaller size means it’s not a chore to park as a full- size truck. All in all, the new Ford Ranger is very impressive. Ford expect customers who perhaps had a Ranger in the past to consider the advantages of a smaller fuel efficient truck that’s easier to drive, park, and will fit in a townhouse or condo parking space. Even F-150 owners looking to downsize are being touted a potential buyers.  For whatever reason you decide to buy a Ranger- you won’t be disappointed. The new Rangers impressive 7,500 lb of towing capacity (when equipped with its trailer brake controller and towing package) means it’s the ultimate work and play truck. Highly recommended and sure to do very well. Another hit for Ford!

 2019 Ford Ranger Lariat 4×4 pickup truck base priced from $42,289. Price as tested with options $49,509 plus taxes – $51,309.