So you're thinking about buying a pickup truck but you don't want a full-size half ton or heavy-duty truck? That means a mid-size pickup should be just fine. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices right now — with more coming on the horizon. One is getting ready to debut in early 2019 from Jeep, largely based off the current Wrangler Unlimited and called either the Scrambler or Gladiator depending on which rumor you believe; the other is set to debut soon from Ford as the Ranger, an all-new pickup returning to the U.S. after a seven-model-year absence for the nameplate.
Related: We Now Have Full Pricing Details for the 2019 Ford Ranger
The biggest player in the mid-size market is the Toyota Tacoma, which offers plenty of trim levels and configurations, with the Chevrolet Colorado a strong No. 2 player. But there are also a couple of new contenders getting ready to make their mark that you might want to consider.
The first you can't see until later this year; the other you can drive right now. Here's how:
Ford is providing a series of tour events across the country to allow consumers to drive the new Ranger even before the automotive media. In fact, we went undercover and attended one last weekend, where we got our first chance to get behind the wheel for a short drive through a parking lot and local Southern California neighborhood, and you can do the same by registering online and searching out the locations below.
As for the new pickup itself, here's what we were told: The new Ranger will be offered in one wheelbase with two cab configurations (SuperCab and SuperCrew), two bed lengths (with SuperCrew, the bed is 5 feet long; the SuperCab is 6 feet) and just one (quite powerful) turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Rangers will be offered in XL, XLT and Lariat trim packages starting around $25,000. During our short test drive — on which we were treated to a relatively smooth and sturdy ride on the road — we were surprised at how good the overall visibility was all around the vehicle (benefiting from large rearview mirrors), as well as how quick to respond the 2.3-liter inline-four-cylinder engine with 10-speed transmission was when we put our foot to the floor.
All the Rangers available for us to drive at this event were well-equipped 4x4s, and came with the Ranger's exclusive Trail Control system and all-terrain setting, which provides drivers with multiple traction-control software settings as well as a kind of cruise control for off-roaders. In a paved parking lot, we did not get to do any off-roading during this test drive, but we did get a sense of how well the Ranger can navigate through traffic — and move ahead of traffic from a stoplight.
The cockpit of our Lariat package was quite impressively appointed with leather, a simply designed center console and instrument panel, as well as a nice, big navigation screen. Seating in the rear passenger area is quite reasonable for adults and will offer generous amounts of seating area (with a center armrest) for kids. Since our time with the new pickup was so limited during this type of early consumer drive, we were not able to gauge any kind of fuel economy data.
With all that said, our short time in the Ranger has us thinking this will be a big hit for both old-time truck buyers who have been waiting for Ford to come back to this segment, as well as first-time buyers looking for a new kind of economical work-and-play vehicle for their family.
See for Yourself
To sign up for a Ford drive event near you to see, touch and drive the new Ranger, you can go to the automaker's website and register for one of the remaining 16 tour stops that hit California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Florida. And don't be surprised if you get pulled out for a few quick comments about what you liked or didn't like about the Ranger as organizers collect impressions with an on-site video crew.
Here are 2019 Ford Ranger drive event dates that may be near you:
- Nov. 15-18: Charlotte Auto Show, Charlotte, N.C.
- Nov. 15-18: San Antonio Auto Show, San Antonio
- Nov. 17-18: Seventh Annual Sand, Water & RV Expo, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
- Nov. 21-25: San Francisco Auto Show, San Francisco
- Nov. 22-25: Central Florida Auto Show, Orlando, Fla.
- Nov. 22-25: Phoenix Auto Show, Phoenix
- Nov. 30-Dec. 9: Los Angeles Auto Show, Los Angeles
- Nov. 30-Dec. 2: International Off Road & UTV Expo, Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Dec. 1-2: BFGoodrich Tires Unlimited Off-Road Show: Winter Wonderland, Cummings, Ga.
- Dec. 6-9: Fort Worth Auto Show, Fort Worth, Texas
- Dec. 7-9: Cape Coral Outdoor Expo & Boat Show, Cape Coral, Fla.
- Dec. 15: Somerton Tamale Festival, Somerton, Ariz.
- Dec. 15-16: Traders Village, Grand Prairie, Texas
- Dec. 22-23: Traders Village, Houston
- Dec. 22-23: Desert Sky Mall, Phoenix
- Dec. 27-30: San Diego Auto Show, San Diego
More from PickupTrucks.com
- 2019 Ford Ranger news
- Ford Exec Confirms: No Ranger Raptor for the U.S.
- Ford Releases 2019 Ranger Towing, Payload Numbers
- 2019 Ford Ranger: An Old Friend Returns
- Ford Releases the Real Prices for 2019 Ranger
Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.