With the introduction of the 2019 Ford Ranger the mid-size pickup truck wars can officially begin! Toyota Tacoma has held the outdoor adventure market with stiff competition from Nissan Frontier. Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon have been GM’s answer to small personal or work trucks. Ford Ranger will shake that up in the coming years. The first year of the new Ford Ranger offers limited options, but that is sure to expand in the near future.

Limited Trims and Engines

Ford released the Ranger in 3 trim levels, 2 cab and bed lengths, 2- or 4-wheel drive and one engine option. The limited combination is enough for Ford to compete in almost every facet of the small truck market. The 2.3-liter, Twin-Scroll turbocharged engine fitted into the Ranger pumps out 275 horsepower and a big 310 foot-pounds of torque. Every Ranger gets the 10-speed automatic transmission with 3 overdrive gears to boost fuel economy and high-speed performance.

The XL is the bottom of the lineup and is the work truck edition of the Ranger pickup. The old Ranger was a popular choice for businesses needing delivery or service vehicles, and Ford expects the new Ranger to tap that market once again. The Ranger is rated at a combined fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon, can carry a payload of 1700 pounds and tow up to 7500 pounds making it a versatile option for commercial use.

Ranger XLT expected to be the winner

Ford expects the XLT to become the mainstay of the Ranger market. The XLT comes equipped with the Sync 3 system that includes Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Ford+Alexa. The infotainment system uses an 8.4-inch touch screen to display climate control, audio, optional navigation, parking sensors, and backup camera. It also features Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 safety system that incorporates cross-traffic alerts, blind spot monitors, collision warning and emergency braking to reduce accidents. All Rangers come with keyless entry and start.

The Ford Ranger XLT standard seats are cloth with 4 way manual adjustment. Power seating is available on the XLT as an option. A SuperCrew cab XLT begins at $30,155 and comes well equipped without having to add a lot of high-priced options. The four-wheel drive sets you back another four grand but includes a better suspension, more lift, skid plates and electronic locking differential, terrain management, and trail control. You can upgrade to the better Sync 3 system for another $995 or go the whole hog with the Sync 3 package that includes Satellite radio and folding mirrors plus the appearance and technology packages that bring adaptive cruise control, power seating, and a sports appearance pack. That would bring the asking price of a Ranger to over 41 thousand.

If you chose to load up on the options, a better choice is to go with the Lariat edition. With all the options included in a loaded up XLT plus the model specific goodies of the Lariat you only spend a thousand dollars more. The Lariat comes with leather-trimmed heated seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and upgraded interior trim.

On the road, the Ford Ranger handles well. The ride is very different than that of its bigger brothers with more road intrusion and noise. Old Ranger owners will notice the similarity in driving characteristics with the shorter wheelbase and narrower stance. However, nostalgia stops there. Performance from the little 2.3-liter 4 cylinder is on par with any of the V6 small pickups on the market and fuel economy is good. Ford claims 23 mpg overall, and in the real world, we achieved 21.7. Acceleration is very good with the 10-speed transmission providing a proper gear ratio for smooth power transfer. While some reviewers have noted a tendency of the transmission to hunt for the right gear, we didn’t experience that at all.

The Ranger is rated to tow up to 9500 pounds depending on the configuration and with the max towing package added. The Ranger comes with trailer sway control and blind spot monitors that extend past the towed trailer, but it does not include a trailer brake controller.

The sync 3 system now features not only Apple Car Play and Android Auto but adds Waze navigation and Alexa compatibility. Waze gives users real-time traffic reports and routing based on foreseen delays, and Alexa puts all your Amazon connections on the road with you.

Let’s go off the pavement

Ford put some focus on the 4-wheel drive, outdoor adventure minded when it put the Ranger together. Factory bash plates line the undercarriage protecting relatively delicate components. The 8.9-inch ride height makes the Ranger capable of negotiating almost any terrain and the electronic driver enhancements allow even amateur off-roaders to leave the crowd behind. Yakima accessories provide a full line of bolt-on components to carry whatever your outdoor hobby interests need.

The cabin is comfortable if a bit confining compared to a full-size pickup. Front seat leg, head and shoulder room are good, but a really big driver will find his knees on either side of the steering wheel. Back seat space is sparse in a SuperCab and better in a SuperCrew but still no roomier than an economy class airline seat. Storage is hampered by the fold-up rear seat and the lack of a flat floor. The driveline hump separates the rear floor storage into 2 useable areas.

Ford Ranger entry price is only $24,300, but that quickly climbs as you dress up the small truck. For many the base model will serve well as a functional work truck, but for those wanting better trim, fancier electronics and off-road ability forty thousand is a more likely price tag. A comparably equipped full-size F150 Lariat lists for about 10 grand more.