Making their UK sales debut in September in time for the new 59 registration plate is the all new Ford Ranger line-up of 4x2 and 4x4 pick-ups with Single, Super and Double Cab body styles plus a 4x2 Tipper version.
Sales of pick-ups, mainly Double Cab models, from manufactures such as Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota reached their peak in 2007 after 10 years of significant growth as 'lifestyle' use took over from pick-ups just being used as workhorses.
Get a FREE quote on your new car
Click below and save up to 30% on a new car
Retail customers still outnumber fleet users but the company car driver, who up until April 2007 enjoyed the pick-up's £700 Benefit-in-Kind taxation level, suddenly were hit by the tax grabbing Treasury upping this taxable amount to £3,000, almost that of a conventional passenger car.
The increase in personal taxation, the reduction in lifestyle use, partly down to the recession, high running costs and perhaps owners losing their love-affair with 4x4s meant sales dropped by 38% in 2008 and this year they are down by another 30%.
But life goes on and long planned model changes still take place despite the market conditions. So the new Ford Ranger models are now ready for private, business or workhorse customers. With prices from £13,400 excluding Vat (£15,410 with Vat) ranging up to £25,127.50, the Ranger line-up is huge although there are just two diesel engine options.
The majority of models are available with the 2.5-litre 143PS/330Nm TDCi turbodiesel engine but the luxury lifestyle Wildtrak version uses a 3.0-litre 156PS/380Nm diesel unit. Both are four-cylinder units.
The most popular model in the new line-up will be the Thunder 2.5 Double Cab priced at £22,540 and this model will account for around 45% of sales. It will appeal to private customers as well as business users and to commercial operators who want a stylish and well equipped vehicle, even for work use, and of course having five seats with access through four doors is good for family or work use.
Electrically operated windows, air conditioning, privacy glass, leather seat trim, heated front seats, 16-inch allow wheels and a bedliner and sidewall protector means this model meets all needs. The all important load bed length doesn't come up short either at 1,530mm, the longest in its class.
Commercial users or muddy families might well think the cheaper XL or XLT versions, still with electrically operated windows and mirrors and air conditioning for the XLT, suits their needs just as well and the functional interior surfaces will be easier to clean and more durable.
All models have a payload of 1,000kg and all 4x4 versions have a braked towing capacity of 3,000kg, ideal for caravan or boat towing by retail owners or trailer lugging for business and commercial users.
The new range offers real power and distinctive muscular styling but in common with Ford's latest passenger cars the interior quality and specification has been increased significantly. Ride comfort seems to have been improved as do the road manners.
The evolution of steering and suspension performance means the Ranger Double Cab can now compete with most affordable SUV 4x4s as a realistic alternative when load and people carrying plus towing ability are important requirements.
The 2.5-litre unit is strong and responsive, quiet as well, the 3.0-litre unit is more of the same and perhaps handles the taller fuel and CO2 saving fifth gear better on country roads.
Whilst the Ranger's on-road driving manners have improved, the greatest improvement has come from the vehicles off-road abilities. With two or four wheel drive And with high or low ratio gear selection and a new anti-stall low engine speed system the Ranger can crawl up and down significantly steep mud and rocky tracks, ford water up to 750mm in depth and during some driving on and off road in Scotland this week this is where the newcomer impressed most.
It appears Ford, during their past ownership of Land Rover, learnt one or two tricks about off-roading capabilities.
Ford Ranger Thunder MILESTONES
Ford Ranger Thunder 2.5 Duratorq TDCi Diesel Double Cab 4x4 (best selling model)
Price: £19,600 ex Vat (£22,540 with Vat added)
Engine/transmission: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder TDCi turbodiesel, 143PS, 330Nm of torque from 1,800rpm, 5-speed manual gearbox with high/low ratio transfer box, all wheel drive
Performance: 98mph, 0-60mph 12.5 seconds, 30.4mpg, CO2 255g/km, VED (commercial vehicle rate) £185
Dimensions/capacities: L 5,080mm, W 1,778mm, H 1,762, load length 1,530mm, payload 1,140kg, braked towing weight 3,000kg
Insurance group: 14A
For: Smart styling, still truck-like but it looks good, improved quality inside and out, comprehensive car like specification, good on road and much improved off road performance, anti-stall for serious off road work, practical long load bed length, huge 3,000kg towing capability
Against: Over five metres long and with a wide turning circle makes it difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces.