Fordís Ranger is the rising star in the 4x4 market, with an additional 2762 sales in 2015 compared to 2014, the biggest increase of any of the vehicles in the top-ten 4x4s. And while the Ranger still finished second, behind the Hilux, it closed the gap between it and the Hilux, from 6645 to just 2503 sales.
Back in 2013, the Ranger 4x4 was in fourth place, with 16,913 sales. In 2012, the first full year of sales for the then new-generation (PX) Ranger, the 4x4 sales were just 12,743. That means that in the four years since the PX arrived in late 2011, Ranger 4x4 sales have increased by a whopping 84 per cent.
Perhaps the best news for the Ranger is just around the corner, given the large number of significant upgrades that accompanied the modelís mid-life facelift in late 2015.
Aside from new front-end styling and a new dashboard with a larger touchscreen, the Ranger has a smaller, more efficient turbo, new fuel injectors and changes to the cylinder head, all of which improve the engineís response, especially at low rpm. A number of refinement details also make it smoother and quieter.
The Ranger gains electric power steering in place of the hydraulically assisted steering used previously. This makes for very light steering at parking speeds, and the system firms up the steering nicely at road speeds. But not everyone is a fan of it.
The electronic control of the 4x4 system has also been significantly enhanced so that the electronic traction control (ETC) stays active across the front axle when the rear diff lock is engaged. This gives a noticeable improvement off-road, given that previously the front ETC was deactivated when the rear locker was engaged.
Ford has also successfully addressed the much criticised shift action of the six-speed manual.
The Rangerís mid-life facelift also bought a raft of high-end safety features as an option on the two top-spec models.
No doubt the Ranger is well-placed to bring the fight up to the new Hilux in 2016. Let the battle begin.