Family friendly Ranger
An old workhorse gets a stylish makeover, writes Graham Smith
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.
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-