Fam­ily friendly Ranger

An old work­horse gets a stylish makeover, writes Gra­ham Smith

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Cars -

WHEN the Toy­ota HiLux first ap­peared on the monthly top-10 sales list a while ago it was dis­missed as an aber­ra­tion rather than a mean­ing­ful shift in the mar­ket.

A year or two later the Toy­ota ute is not only still there, it’s well en­trenched in the top-sell­ing mod­els.

The stun­ning suc­cess of the HiLux has caused mak­ers of sim­i­lar utes, in­clud­ing Ford, to look at their own mod­els. They found the rea­son for the suc­cess didn’t lie in the tra­di­tional work­ing­class seg­ment, but in the growth in the use of these ve­hi­cles for recre­ation.

Model watch

IN A re­flec­tion of this, Ford changed the name of its of­fer­ing, from the rather work­ing-class Courier to the more ad­ven­tur­ous Ranger.

It’s the de­mand from peo­ple who want to use them for recre­ational or life­style pur­poses that is driv­ing the devel­op­ment of to­day’s one-tonne utes. The Ranger is in re­al­ity a Mazda BT50 with a dif­fer­ent set of clothes.

Ford fol­lowed its ‘‘tough truck’’ theme when it restyled the front of the Mazda to cre­ate the good-look­ing Ranger with a nod to his F150 big bro.

The restyle brought a new grille and blue oval badge to the Mazda’s lines, which gave it a bold, pur­pose­ful look, but the rest was all Mazda BT-50.

Ford’s model line-up in­cluded three body styles, with the sin­gle cab, ex­tended Supercab and the Crewcab.

Each was avail­able as a cab-chas­sis and a ute with a box bed, and in 4x2, 4x2 Hi-rider and 4x4 mod­els.

Two equip­ment lev­els were of­fered; XL on 4x2 mod­els, and XL and XLT on 4x4 mod­els, with the XLT 4x4 be­ing the hero model aimed at those want­ing the Ranger for week­end fun.

In­side, the Ranger was the same as the Mazda, apart from the steer­ing wheel. It had the same neat car-like dash, a stan­dard MP3-com­pat­i­ble CD player, a de­cent ar­ray of di­als, dual airbags and stan­dard air­con­di­tion­ing.

Un­der­neath, the Ranger had a beefed-up lad­der chas­sis, tor­sion bar front sus­pen­sion and longer rear leaf springs with heftier shocks to im­prove the ride with­out sac­ri­fic­ing its load­car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity. The steer­ing was also re­tuned to be more re­spon­sive. As with Mazda, Ford dropped the petrol-

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