GEORGE – Do you know Ford SA sells more Ranger double cabs than Toyota SA does Hilux double cabs? Or that Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa contributes more than 1% to South Africa's overall GDP, a large percentage fed by local production of the Ranger? The big bakkie is nothing other than crucial to Ford's bottom line and the economy of South Africa. What will traditionally conservative bakkie buyers make of a small-displacement turbodiesel under the bonnet of the revised Ranger, then? 

Heralding the local introduction of Ford's new 2,0-litre turbodiesel (and 10-speed automatic which has already seen service in the F-150 and facelifted Mustang) in both single- and twin-turbo guises, the updated Ranger also introduces new safety technologies, subtly revised styling and a rethink of the local range.

So, what's new?

The main change is that engine. It's the biggest update of the eight-year-old Ranger since its introduction and will be exclusively coupled with the 10-speeder, mirroring the drivetrain in the upcoming Raptor (which launches in May 2019).

In the XLT reviewed here, the power unit develops 132 kW and 420 N.m, ballooning to 157 kW/500 N.m in the Wildtrak when the second turbo is added.

When we last tested a Ranger in May 2017, it formed part of a seven-bakkie comparative test. On our scales, that 3,2 TDCi test unit (incidentally, the 2,2- and 3,2-litre engines will stay – find more info on the range here) was comfortably the heaviest of the lot at 2 229 kg.

I mention the Ranger’s weight because it has a notable effect on the performance of the new 2,0 SiT engine. Despite delivering its maximum torque from as low as 1 750 r/min, the unit does labour somewhat under the Ranger’s bloat; at higher speeds, in-gear acceleration is decidedly leisurely.

That said, the transmission adroitly selects the right ratio to keep the engine on the boil and, while performance is measured rather than sparkling, there’s always enough punch in reserve to see the Ranger SiT accelerate steadily. I would, however, suggest that – if you’re interested in towing – you should consider the BiT option. A brief stint behind the wheel of a Wildtrak model showed the second turbo to make a substantial difference to performance.

Far more impressive is the 2,0-litre’s refinement. Quieter than other four-cylinder bakkie engines, it’s also impressively smooth. It’s comparatively light on fuel, too; we averaged less than 10,0 L/100 km in a variety of driving conditions, including some challenging off-road terrain.
 
Anything else I’ll spot?

Visually, the revitalised Ranger sports a lower, wider grille and bumper, and new 17-inch alloy wheel design (pictured here, and also available in a black finish). Wildtrak models add LED running lights and xenon headlamps, among other changes.

Most intriguingly, XLT and Wildtrak trim offers something called an "EZ lift" tailgate using a torsion rod to lessen the effort of closing the tailgate by as much as 70%. It works brilliantly and it’s therefore baffling why we haven’t seen this feature before.
 
And inside?

XLTs and Wildtraks boast keyless entry and start, plus Sync3 with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. There’s an advanced new Thatcham security system to lessen the chance of the Ranger being stolen, plus acoustic laminated front glass to reduce noise intrusion to the cockpit.

Otherwise, it feels very familiar. The Sync3 system is one of the best in the market, seating comfort fore and aft is better than in most other leisure bakkies, and it’s still frustrating that the steering column doesn’t offer reach adjustment.
 
So, business as usual?

Precisely. Incrementally improved where needed, the facelifted Ranger should expand its reach into the segment thanks to the addition of that refined new 2,0-litre powertrain and rationalising of some models to appeal to more buyers. But don’t worry if the smaller engine has you raising a brow. It seems there’s no replacement for displacement as the 3,2 TDCi soldiers on…



FAST FACTS

Model: Ford Ranger Double Cab 2,0 SiT XLT 10AT 4x4
Price: R570 200
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Power: 132 kW @ 3 500 r/min 
Torque: 420 N.m @ 1 750-2 500 r/min 
0-100 km/h: n/a
Top speed: n/a
Fuel consumption: n/a
CO2: n/a
Transmission: 10-speed AT
Service plan: 6 years/90 000 km