PICK-UPS were never really “a thing” in the UK, but the market has ….err picked up in recent years and the further you move out into the countryside, the more you will see.

Popular with trades people, builders and farmers, pick-ups are also holding more appeal as a lifestyle choice and something different from the regular 4×4 SUV.

There’s certainly plenty of choice: Mitsubishi L200, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, Fiat Fullback, Volkswagen Amarok, Ssangyong Musso, Mercedes X-Class and the Ford Ranger, our latest review model.

The Ranger benefits from not only being one of the most refined pick-ups, but also has the widest model range from basic ‘builders tea’ version to high performance Raptor.

Ford has plenty of experience in the pick-up market – these vehicles are the largely the weapon of choice in the wide open plains of the US. The Ranger certainly looks the part with rugged styling.

But it’s not all about looks. The Ranger is very capable off road as it demonstrated in the farmlands of Dorset while it is not too big and bulky to make it unmanageable on the narrow country lanes.

Entry level is XL trim, complete with steel wheels and relatively basic equipment, but it’s a great workhorse and at the end of the day you can just hose it down.

Something more lifestyle? The Wildtrak version has more accessories while the Raptor is as scary as it sounds having been developed by Ford’s performance engineers, the same people who develop the brand’s Focus RS and Fiesta ST.

From the business perspective, the Ford Ranger is very capable. The Double Cab XL has a 1.5-metre long load bed and can handle a 1,217kg maximum gross payload, while the two-seat Regular Cab XL raises the bar to 2.3-metre and a gross figure of 1,307kg.

All models have four-wheel drive as standard and, the Raptor aside, can tow a 3,500kg braked trailer.

The 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine can return an average of 34mpg although we cashed in at 31.2 mpg, but it did involve some mud plugging work and trips around town and country – nothing on the motorway.

The line-up comes with a six-speed manual transmission although a 10-speed box is also available.

Nice to drive as well feeling responsive and solid on the corners while the steering is nicely weighted to make manoeuvring easy. It’s probably one of the smoothest pick-ups around on the road.

It’s nicely screwed together as well, beating many of its rivals with a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. Where -ups tend to lose points over regular SUVs is that that generally don’t come with high levels of  standard equipment – but there is lots available if you want to bump up the price.

IMG 0203 1Our XL test model is the most efficient Ranger emitting 179g/km of CO2 and as a light commercial vehicle it’s taxed at a flat rate with no CO2-weighted first year payment meaning you pay £250 a year from the first year of ownership regardless of the emissions rating.

If you’re thinking of the Raptor, though, its much lower payload means it no longer qualifies as a commercial vehicle and with that comes higher road tax. Models with the uprated 210hp diesel will also find an increase in CO2 to 233g/km.

As a commercial vehicle business drivers can claim back VAT and BiK tax is lower than for conventional cars, as long as payload exceeds 1,000kg.

Insurance groups range roughly from 37E for the XL and the Ranger  is covered by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which doesn’t stack up quite as well as those offered by Mitsubishi or Isuzu. Service intervals are at least every two years or 20,000 miles and there’s the added benefit of Ford having more dealers in the UK than any other brand.

RearAs for price, well you can go up to £40,000+ for a Raptor, but the XL comes in at £29,469 including VAT. Our test vehicle came with metallic body paint (£600), Load box liner (300), trailer tow pack (£480) and locking wheel nuts (£96) which pushed the price up o £30,945 – again including VAT.

 

FORD RANGER XL 2.0 EcoBlue 6-speed Stop/Start

Engine:        2-litre diesel

Power/Torque: 170hp/420Nm

Max speed/0-62: 112mph/11.3 secs

MPG (on test): 31.2mpg

CO2: 179g/km