Splash added a little dash for 1994.

The dolled up Splash version of Ford's compact Ranger pickup with its flared cargo box and multicolored decals added a SuperCab version for 1994 in two- or four-wheel-drive.

SuperCab in Ford vernacular means an extended cab with two pull-down jump seats in back. But Ford doesn't like to use the term "extended cab" because Chevrolet does.

Automakers are funny that way. For example, rather than use the term "hatchback," Ford refers to cars with lift-up rear hatch lids as "three doors" or "five doors," the lid being the third or fifth door. It doesn't make sense to call a hatchlid a "door" because we never saw anyone open the hatchlid on a car and step in as they would through a door. But if it makes Ford happy, who are we to object?

But we digress.

Splash, Ford's fashion statement for youth, now holds the family, thanks to SuperCab. When pulled down, those rear jump seats hold a couple of tykes. When left hidden in the side walls, there's enough room for some groceries, luggage, fishing or hunting gear or golf clubs-stuff you wouldn't want to leave exposed in the rear cargo bed to get wet or bounced around and damaged. Extended cabs are the rage among truck buyers because they offer added passenger-hauling capability and as well as cargo security from the elements.

The truck we drove came with a 4-liter, 160-horsepower, V-6 engine, which meant ample off-the-line and up-the-hill power. If the 4-liter is weak in any respect, it's in its ability to meet a gas pump it doesn't like. The 4-liter has a 16-mile-per-gallon city/21-m.p.g. highway thirst, a rating you might find easier to live with in a full-size F-Series pickup than in this compact Ranger.

The Splash we tested came with four-wheel-drive and push-button activation. Just press the button on the dash to engage all four wheels for a trip through snow or along the beach. Some still favor stooping over, finding the transfer case lever and tugging to engage the wheels the hard way. At the same time, however, those who favor the macho approach, are apt to want push-button activation to make it simpler for the wife and kids to be safer.

Our test truck also came with rear-wheel antilock brakes to keep the cargo bed pointed in the right direction should you have to make a panic stop while hauling a load. It's a nice feature. Four-wheel ABS is nicer, but with four-wheel-drive, rear-wheel ABS does nicely, thank you.

Unfortunately, Splash lacked one feature we'd like-an air bag. No safety cushion until the 1995 model year, when a driver-side bag will be standard. A passenger-side bag was planned for 1995 but won't be added until the 1996 model year. There also are plans for that passenger bag to come with a cutoff switch so it won't deploy in a frontal impact if the passenger seat is empty.

Base price of the Splash is $18,328. It's easy to run th e price up more. Splash trim-decals, body-colored mirrors and bumpers-added $477, the V-6 $179, automatic transmission $990, air conditioning $806, AM/FM stereo $370 and power windows/door locks $379. With a few other goodies, our test vehicle topped $22,500, which included $470 for freight.

>> 1994 Ford Ranger Splash Wheelbase: 125.4inches Length: 198.2 inches Engine: 4 liter, 160 h.p. V-6. Transmission: 4-speed automatic. Fuel economy: 16 m.p.g. city/21 m.p.g. highway. Base price: $18,328. Price as tested: $22,579 includes $470 freight charge. Strong point: Smart design. Smooth ride, surefooted handling, long distance comfort, 4x4 foul weather insurance with pushbutton 4x4 activation. Rear wheel ABS standard. Weak point: No air bags until '95. >>