Ford Ranger guide: What to look for when buying NZ's most popular vehicle
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The Ford Ranger has practically reached cult car status. Designed and engineered in Australia, though built in Thailand, it has passionate and loyal owners and in recent years has almost single-handedly kept Ford in this part of the world afloat.
Given its ongoing status as New Zealand's most popular vehicle, clearly our love affair with Ford’s one-tonner is enduring, especially with the lifestyle versions.
Ford asks about $47,490 for the cheapest dual-cab, so for many people a new example is unaffordable to many. Little wonder they’re desirable used car buys but late model examples are still big investments.
It hasn’t been plain sailing, reliability-wise, for the current PX generation that’s been with us since 2011. Some early issues — diesel injector leaks, noisy transmission and coolant leaks — appear to have been addressed but reports of big-ticket repairs persist, including catastrophic engine and gearbox failures.
I’ll concentrate on 4WDs from the facelifted PX2 from August, 2015. These will set you back more than earlier examples but are safer bets and feature better equipment and greater refinement.
Find one with warranty remaining and it’s safer still. There was a three-year/100,000km warranty up to May 1, 2018, and more generous five-year/unlimited km warranty after this.
You might want a Ranger for its tough good looks but you’re also buying one of the best all-round one-tonners in a crowded, competitive market.
It's comfortable enough even without load in the tub (certainly more so than a HiLux), well-equipped and tows up to 3500kg. The 3.2-litre five-cylinder or later 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder are eager performers.
It trumps many rivals with excellent 237mm ground clearance, 800mm wading depth and rear diff lock. The PX2s also scored electric power-assisted steering, meaning light effort and easy manoeuvrability around town and quite effortless off-road.
No modern one-tonne ute is particularly easy to live with in town — they’re cumbersome, need big parking spaces, don’t enjoy cornering and the cost to own and run is more than a family car. Among the dual-cabs, the Ranger’s hailed by road testers and owners alike as one of the better for daily duties with impressive driveability and even reasonable fuel economy.
Which model to choose? The PX2 launched with 26 4WD variants, so study the Ranger’s full specifications carefully.
Mid-spec XLTs were the popular choice, with decent infotainment and navigation via the eight-inch touchscreen. If safety’s your thing, the XLT (and Wildtrak) had an optional Tech Pack adding adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and reversing camera. From June 2016, the infotainment was upgraded with desirable Apple CarPlay/Android Auto for XLT and Wildtrak.
The XL grades were more basic with steel wheels, vinyl floor and antique infotainment. The XLT got a towbar and dual-zone climate control and the Wildtrak took on leather heated seats and ambient lighting. The FX4 launched in February 2017 had black body bits and leather seats.
In the super-cab body style, the rear seat lacks comfort and Isofix points, making dual cabs better for family use.
When the PX3 Ranger arrived in September 2018, the big deals were the 2.0-litre bi-turbo mated to a 10-speed auto gearbox — and the Raptor, the new chief ute rooster at $84,995. Also available were autonomous emergency braking and further active safety kit.
What to look for
Any Ranger you consider should have an impeccable service record: intervals are annual or every 15,000km. Be wary of any seller telling you they know their way around a vehicle and have performed oil changes in the car port. If the 3.2-litre’s oil is allowed to drain out completely and not refilled rapidly, there’s a danger the oil pump won’t be able to self prime, toasting the engine.
As these Rangers are reasonably new-ish, and with Ford’s reasonable capped price service charges, favour one with a full dealer service history, or at least the stamp of a specialist independent garage.
How’s the Ranger been used? Its good looks work for it here: many have been driven exclusively on road by those keen on the image of a rugged lifestyle without actually taking part. Prioritise any with low kilometres, free of any off-road specific enhancements, and the only scratches in the tub being from the weekly shop.
Any that have been used for regular heavy towing (such as circumnavigating Australia with a caravan), beach or off-road driving — look for underbody bashes and scrapes, small scratches to the body panels and caked-on mud or sand in hard-to-reach places — will have lived a tougher life than the city slickers but need not be dismissed.
Check the ownership history. At this age, one private owner from new is the target. Any owned by a worksite or mining company will no doubt have lived a tougher life with less love lavished.
High used prices make a pre-purchase inspection a no-brainer. Spend a few hundred bucks on a specialist – or get Ford to do it – and you could save thousands down the line.
If on test drive there are nasty vibrations, harsh gear changes, rattles, knocks or misfires from the engine, or excessive smoke from the exhaust, look elsewhere. Many Ranger engines and gearboxes have been replaced under warranty.
Test in high and low-range off-road too. Some owners report the transmission popping back into 2WD.
Among known flaws are aircon failure and electrical gremlins. If adaptive cruise control is fitted, test it out, along with Bluetooth and the screen’s functionality.