The 2011 Ford Ranger is one of an ever-dwindling handful of compact trucks still sold in the United States. Until recently, the segment was going through a long and slow decline in sales as Americans opted for bigger and stronger full-size trucks such as the Ranger's bigger brother, the Ford F-150. Ford planned on discontinuing the Ranger in 2008, but reconsidered after compact trucks made a strong comeback due to rising fuel costs.
While the Ranger hasn't been redesigned in well over a decade, sales continue to remain strong. For the first quarter of 2011, sales of the Ranger were higher compared to last year. Its main competitors include the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Chevrolet Colorado, all of which have undergone numerous updates, redesigns and increased dimensions. Potential Ranger customers are likely attracted to its simplicity, small size and low price point.
The Ranger is powered by two engine choices. Buyers looking for a fuel-efficient and light-duty truck should consider the 2.3-liter inline-four-cylinder engine, which is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway. Power ratings for this engine are 143 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. The engine is capable for light-towing duty with a maximum weight of 2,160 pounds. A 4.0-liter V-6 engine is available for those who need more towing power and heavy duty use. The V-6 is rated at 207 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque, with a maximum towing capacity of 5,940 pounds (when properly equipped). Fuel economy for the V-6 is 16 city and 21 highway mpg. Both engines come standard with a 5-speed manual; a 5-speed automatic transmission is an option.
Three body styles are offered for the Ranger: a regular cab, and two and four-door Supercab configurations. Unlike its competitors, however, the Ranger's rear doors found in Supercab models are not full-sized. Instead they are smaller suicide-style doors that allow easier access to the rear area, which contains two small jumpseats facing each other - not exactly made for long distance travel.
The Ranger comes with a choice of three trim levels. The XL is the most basic of the bunch and only comes with the four cylinder engine; the 4-door Supercab body is unavailable in XL trim. Vinyl flooring and seating are standard in the XL. The XLT is available in all cab and engine configurations and comes standard with cloth bench seats, body-color bumpers, fog lamps, a CD player and auxiliary input. The top-of-the-line Sport model adds sport bucket seats, step bars and color-matched sport grille. All models come standard with 6-foot cargo box, though an optional 7-foot box is available as a fleet option on XL regular cab models.
Regardless of trim or engine, the Ranger is ready for towing duty and comes standard with a towing hitch. For owners who plan to use Ranger for frequent heavy load duty and towing, Ford offers an optional Payload Package that increases rear springs rates and includes beefier Rancho gas-charged shocks (the shocks are standard on the Sport model). Other options include rear privacy glass with sliding door, a bed liner and bodyside moldings.
When it comes to safety, the Ranger protects passengers with front and side, seat-mounted airbags and Ford's AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC). AdvanceTrac with RSC (commonly known as electronic stability control) is technology that prevents rollovers by taking various measures like throttle cutoff and brake application. The Ranger also comes standard with four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and a SecuriLock anti-theft system.
While the Ranger's level of sophistication or refinement may not match its competition, its increased sales figures indicate that a demand exists for a true compact truck with no frills. There is still no official word from Ford about the future of the Ranger in the U.S. But as more car shoppers look to downsize due to volatile gas prices, it will be interesting to see what Ford decides to do with its aging compact truck.