Versus the competiton:
A face lift and a new twin-cam four-cylinder engine haven’t totally transformed the 2001 Ford Ranger. But the changes make this best-selling compact pickup more attractive, especially in affordable XLT trim. But if you have only $16,000 to spend on a new set of wheels for yourself or perhaps your newly licensed high-school student, is the Ranger a good idea? Read on.
She: It’s probably inappropriate to talk about baby showers and trucks, right? But you know me. I feel like the Ranger did not serve me well for my friend Amy’s shower last Sunday. Here’s why. I had to haul folding chairs, a big ham and a gift. And I was afraid to put the folding chairs in the bright-red cargo bed because I thought it would get all scratched up. I don’t understand why the Ranger XLT doesn’t come with a standard plastic bedliner. I wound up asking my friends Rick and Kathy and their son Ricky to walk the chairs to the party. Now isn’t that the dumbest thing you ever heard, considering I had a truck in the driveway?
He: No, I think the funniest thing was imagining you hauling the ham in the pickup bed.
She: Actually, I wish I would have been in the truck since all the dogs in the neighborhood started following us.
He: In the new Ranger, at least you would have been able to pull away quickly. The new sheet metal and new face on the 2001 model are nice enough, but it’s the new four-cylinder engine that Ford introduced at mid-year that really makes the difference to me.
She: I couldn’t tell one bit of difference. And we used to own one of these babies, which our son drove back and forth to high school one winter. There’s another story.
He: As I recall, our Ranger had an OK engine, which returned pretty decent fuel economy, but wasn’t all that powerful – which was the basic idea in trying to keep Dan out of trouble. That might be a little more difficult with this new double-overhead-cam 2.3-liter unit, which was developed with Mazda, Ford’s Japanese affiliate, and is considerably more modern, powerful and efficient than the old pushrod 2.5-liter engine. The new one makes 135 horsepower, compared with 119 horsepower for last year’s model. You can really feel the difference with the standard five-speed manual gearbox, although you’re going to give up something in fuel economy.
She: I wasn’t that impressed with the mileage, which is one of the reasons I’m giving the Ranger just an average rating. The old engine was rated at 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 on the highway – not bad numbers for a pickup truck. The new engine, however, is rated at only 24 and 28. That doesn’t sound like much, unless you tend to put a lot of miles on your vehicles. With gas closing in on two dollars a gallon, all of a sudden that looks like a big gap. On the other hand, I was glad to see that four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard, but I was disappointed that you can’t get side air bags – another consideration if you’r e thinking about buying a Ranger for your teen-ager.
He: The XLT version is a step up from the base model, but it’s still pretty affordable at $14,920 – or $15,830 with destination and the $325 option package that bundles cruise control and tilt steering wheel. You get some nice standard features, including a CD player, but the XLT otherwise is pretty Spartan on the inside. I don’t mind the cloth seats so much; they’re pretty comfortable. But be prepared to deal with manual crank windows and a total lack of outside mirror adjusters – a potential safety hazard for kids, as far as I’m concerned.
She: There’s still plenty for teens to like about the Ranger. I suspect where I found the bouncy ride annoying, they might like it. It still feels like a truck.
He: One trap to avoid for parents shopping with kids: The new Ranger Edge looks much sexier, and so do the extended-cab and 4×4 models. They’re also considerably more expensive. So if you’re really shopping on ce, set your limit before you leave the house – and stick to your guns once you reach the dealership.
Anita’s rating: Acceptable
Paul’s rating: Above average
Likes: New engine feels peppy (Paul). Nice place to stash your purse behind front seat. Attractive price. Standard CD player and antilock brakes.
Dislikes: No mirror adjustment. Pretty minimalist. Ride still feels bouncy and bumpy. Bed needs plastic liner for protection. Flaws in metal and trim. Gas mileage lower than last year.
Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, three-passenger compact pickup
Price: Base, $14,920; as tested, $15,830 (inc. $585 destination charge).
Engine: 2.3-liter I-4; 135-hp; 153 lb-ft torque.
EPA fuel economy: 24 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
12-month insurance cost: $992 (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)
Where built: St. Paul, Minn.