Compact pickup trucks are usually designed to offer buyers as much of the utility found in a full-size truck as possible in a smaller package that gets better fuel mileage, is easier to drive and is which is better suited for darting through urban traffic and narrow alleyways. There is a huge market for these vehicles, as their large open cargo areas are extremely useful for moving loads of all sizes - even if drivers might have to make a few extra trips when compared against a full-size truck.
The Ford Ranger has long been an icon of the compact pickup truck scene. In 1983, when companies such as Volkswagen were releasing ultra-mini 'trucks' based on their hatchback platforms and Toyota and Datsun offered pint-sized micro trucks of dubious durability, the newly released Ranger was like a ray of sunshine. Anyone who wanted a pickup truck that was smaller than the Ford F-150 or the Chevrolet C/K series but still offered a reasonable amount of cargo capacity and power flocked to the Ranger in droves. The vehicle became a rousing success for Ford, and spawned several notable imitators as Japanese automakers eventually pulled their trucks off the market and went back to the drawing board in order to design a vehicle more capable of competing with the Ranger.
As compact trucks gradually increased in size between the late 1980's and early 2000's, the Ranger remained resolutely committed to servicing compact buyers in the face of a largely mid-size batch of domestic competitors. The Ranger certainly grew both in length and width, but it came nowhere near matching the steroidal ballooning of vehicles like the Dodge Dakota. In addition to preserving its smaller dimensions, the Ranger also competed heavily on price, developing a reputation for being an expensive compact truck that didn't skimp on build quality. This helped the Ranger maintain its status as one of the best selling vehicles in North America for many, many years.
The simple design and inexpensive maintenance costs associated with the Ranger make it one of the better compact pickup truck buys on the used market for buyers on a tight budget or organizations looking for a fleet of smaller vehicles that will easily navigate city streets or the tight lanes of an expansive campus. This article examines the best generation of Ford Ranger and explores some of the features and capabilities which have kept the Ranger near the top of the sales heap.
1998 - 2007 Ford Ranger
Redesigned in 1998, the Ranger benefits from new exterior styling that is much more muscular than the previous generation, giving the truck a more imposing street presence. Bulging fender flares and the availability of a monochromatic front grille and trim package add an air of sportiness that was missing from older versions of the truck. Underneath the new threads, the Ranger also sees upgrades in the suspension and chassis department. The frame has been strengthened through boxing, and the front suspension upgraded to a wishbone system which can better accommodate the new rack-and-pinion steering borrowed from the Ford Explorer. This helps to make the Ranger feel much tighter when it comes to responding to steering inputs, and better at resisting deflections from potholes and rough stretches of road.
The 1998 - 2007 Ford Ranger was initially offered with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that made 119 horsepower, but this was eventually replaced with a much stouter 143 horsepower 2.3-liter I4. Two V-6 engines have been available throughout this generation's production: a 147 horsepower 3.0-liter and a 4.0-liter which generates between 158 and 207 horsepower and 223 - 238 lb-ft of torque (depending on the year). The 4.0 is the most potent motor to have ever been offered in the Ranger, and it is the best option for anyone hoping to take advantage of the truck's 3,100 lbs towing capacity. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and a 4 or 5-speed automatic transmission can also be outfitted depending on configuration. As with all Ford pickup trucks, 4-wheel drive can be installed in most versions of the truck.
The Ranger is not meant to be loaded up with luxury options like modern full-size trucks, but it is possible to make the passenger compartment a fairly comfortable space to spend some time. An extended cab version of the truck is available, but the jump-seats that are provided for an extra two passengers are best left to small children. When it comes to more functional options, an FX4 off-road package which adds a limited-slip rear differential, skid plates and trail-rated tires and suspension is a popular choice, and FX4 trucks are not difficult to find on the used market.
When it comes down to sheer value for the money, it is hard argue against buying a used 1998 - 2007 Ford Ranger. With a good utility, decent gas mileage and a huge aftermarket catering to the accessory and replacement parts needs of Ranger owners, this compact pickup is the backbone of Ford's small truck strategy.