I’ll admit to having been a bit annoyed with Ford for axing most of its passenger cars.
Granted it makes good business sense to shift the focus to those more profitable SUVs and bakkies instead, so I do (begrudgingly) get where they’re coming from.
And honestly it wouldn’t bother me as much if Ford wasn’t so good at making compact cars that are really entertaining to drive.
Almost every Ford hatchback or sedan that I’ve encountered in the past two decades or so has been rewarding to drive in one way or another. From the slick, solid gearshift to how the nicely weighted steering makes you feel a connection with the road. Everything just feels so right.
Which is why spending some time with our long-term Ford Ranger XL Double Cab manual before its recent departure was a pleasant surprise.
Manual bakkies normally feel cumbersome to drive with their typically long-throw gear sticks, but the Ranger’s box felt really solid and enjoyable to stir, by comparison.
The 2.0-litre single-turbo diesel engine is a smooth operator too, without much in the way of lag and more than sufficient power and torque for this package, 125kW and 405Nm to be precise. In fact in urban settings it felt more eager than I’d expected. Fuel consumption, on the open road, amounts to around 7.8 litres per 100km.
The steering, too, feels solid and communicative for a bakkie, and the ride quality also surpassed expectations.
Of course, I need to emphasise the “for a bakkie” part as this is not a hot hatch or a wafty Lexus. It’s still a workhorse at the end of the day, but by those standards and within that context it feels really good to drive in my humble opinion.
I really enjoyed almost every second behind the wheel of this bakkie, which is not something I would have expected from a relatively humble model like the XL.
Now I know the phrase “all the bakkie you’ll ever need” has been bandied about quite a bit, but at R556,800, the Ranger XL does make a pretty good case for itself in a world where people barely flinch at a million rand bakkie anymore. There’s also an auto version at R580,500, which would probably make more sense if you do a lot of city driving.
Of course, the XL doesn’t have all the trimmings of the larnier Ranger models. The seats are cloth, for instance, and the driver’s chair has no height adjustment. You also have to start it using a conventional key rather than a push-button. Just like a real bakkie..
But by those standards it is still rather well stocked, with standard amenities including electric window and mirrors and an 8.0-inch (20.3cm) vertical touchscreen as well as a digital instrument cluster. Our vehicle also came with optional cruise control.
The cockpit feels modern without being overly digital, as far as I’m concerned.
Overall it’s a very sensible package in a market where most bakkies have become outrageously overpriced.
The Ford Ranger XL Double Cab is also competitively priced against rivals such as the Nissan Navara SE Plus (R572,500), Isuzu D-Max LS (R585,100) and Toyota Hilux 2.4 GD-6 Raider (R602,100).
Just a pity you have to pay extra for Ford’s service plan though.