Ford Ranger Thunder Road Test
The announcement by The Chancellor last year that Double Cab pick-ups, the driving force in the UK’s pick-up market, would be more heavily taxed from 2007 when used as company vehicles has not slowed down demand – yet.

Once the personal tax band of £500 is increased on vehicles with a payload of more than one metric tonne, bringing them closer to the tax levied in passenger cars, things might change. Of course the reclaim of Vat if use as commercial vehicle will still apply.

Industry figures show that UK customers bought 33,742 Pick Ups in 2004 of all types, two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive, single to double cabs. This was an increase of over 20 per cent and the fifth year in a row this sector of the UK new vehicle market has grown.

Top of the tree is still the aging Mitsubishi L200 range but its appeal has fallen slightly although it still dominates the sector with 36 per cent of all sales. Next in line is the Nissan Navara range which has the most power and biggest towing capacity. This range takes 22.6 per cent of sales. In third place, a whisker behind Nissan, is Ford with their Ranger range which had 22.3 per cent of sales last year.

For the record the highly rated Isuzu Rodeo models are starting to make an impression with sales more than doubling but still they only attracted 6 per cent of buyers. Toyota, once the sector leader now have their Hilux range accounting for 11 per cent of sales and Mazda, whose models are basically re-badged Fords, chipped in with a decreasing 2 per cent of the market.

The wide range of uses pick-ups are now put two, everything from workhorse to poseur wagon, has driven the designers of such vehicles to come up with several body styles, single two door cabs, four door sports cabs and four door double cabs.

Unless you are a family person and need four full doors and larger car like rear seats the emerging design is the sports cab, basically it is a cab and a half and the rear seats are much smaller and designed for occasional use. They can be folded away to leave a secure area for tools or sports equipment inside the main passenger compartment of the vehicle and, unlike double cabs, have more or less a full-length rear load area.

Needless to say the optional equipment and accessory markets now produce and supply all manner of tops, load area covers, cargo area liners, sports bars and racks to fit every model so the customer can tailor the vehicle to meet their needs, work to play.

Ford, and Mazda, has a unique layout for their cab and a half design. Unlike others, their vehicle has a pillarless four-door layout for their Super Cab design. This innovative design features reversed-hinged, counter-opening rear doors that eliminate the B pillar between the front and rear doors. This results in class leading to and from the rear of the cab either for passengers or, with the rear seats folded, for storage of tools and goods.

This layout provides reasonable levels of comfort for children if it is a family vehicle, or just about enough space for an adult or two if it is used as an occasional carrier of workmates or employees. Another great feature of this design is that operators benefit from more carrying space in the load bed, a significant 14.5 per cent increase in load bed length over a conventional four-door double cab.

In the interests of passenger safety and security the rear side doors have no exterior handles, they can only be opened when the front doors are opened. The two pairs of doors lock together for safety and strength and the side rigidity is not affected.

I found this layout to be really practical, but then I wasn’t carrying children, but it strikes me as a pretty good way for the owner-driver to carry more than two passengers as and when required and additionally to have a secure area, just like an estate car, to carry valuables.

The vehicle I tried was Ford’s Ranger Thunder, the top of the range specification model with leather, all the interior gizmos of a passenger car but unfortunately with rather over the top exterior graphics but no worse than the L200 Warrior for instance.

Like all other double cab pick-ups the Ranger Thunder has a two and four-wheel drive system with selectable high and low ratio gearing with automatically selected front driving hubs.

The styling of the Ranger is very American, its natural home despite the fact that like so many pick up these days it t is built in Thailand.

Power comes from four cylinder, turbodiesel engine which produces 108bhp and 196 lb ft of torque. Top speed is 91mph but acceleration from 0-62mph is an uncompetitive 23 seconds. The engine is pretty agricultural as well but it will get the job done.

Unlike the L200, the suspension and ride comfort is very much softer, too soft for me, because it floats along the road. The steering too is less than responsive and the whole driving dynamics shout ‘designed for the American market. The class leader in comfort and driving qualities is the new generation Isuzu Rodeo range.

However the Ranger range scores heavily for having the largest carrying capacity and towing capabilities, the things that really matter in a pick up.

Milestones. Ford Ranger Thunder 4-Door Super Cab. Price £16,300 excluding Vat.
Engine? 4-cylinder, turbodiesel with intercooler, 108bhp, 196lb ft of torque.
Top speed? 91mph, 0-62mph 23 seconds.
How thirsty? Estimated 26mpg, no CO2 emissions given as it is classed as a commercial vehicle.
Size matters. Payload? 1050kg, braked towing capacity 2,800kg. Insurance group 12.
How good? American styling, excellent interior with top of the range trim and equipment, clever seating and load carrying flexibility de to is counter opening side doors, good load area space and towing capacity.
How bad? Agricultural driving characteristics, poor on road handling, pricey but look for a deal they are easy to get as the market is now over supplied by all manufacturers Ford are currently offering cashbacks and test driving days on Ranger models.

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