Ranger and its platformmate, the Mazda Truck (yes, quite an uninspired name),
have been with us for a while. Somehow, however, they have stayed fresh and continue
to be popular and attractive trucks for the new Millennium.
first attractive attribute is the low base price of under $13K, but don't expect
a lot of comfort and convenience features for that kind of money. Checking the
option box so as to get it up near $20K will get you what you need to make a personal
truck out of what otherwise would be a workhorse only. That neighborhood is where
you'll find such niceties as cruise control, nice seat fabrics, CD players and
at all costs the base model with the 135-hp 4-cylinder engine, as it huffs and
puffs in an overtaxed kind of way, particularly when there's a load in the back.
Higher trim levels have 154- and 207-horsepower V-6s under their hoods, and each
are available with an optional 5-speed automatic transmission that make the most
of the engines' available power (and help with fuel economy, too).
Ford/Mazda pair are available in short and extended cab configurations, with rear-
and four-wheel drive. Neither offer true 4-door variants (the kind with the front-hinged
rear doors and a real back seat. The best they can do in terms of handling extra
people is offer a pair of jump seats that fold fold down from the side to bring
seating capacity to five. Truly, the extended cab portion of models so equipped
are best used as secure, weather-protected storage areas for those valuables you
don't want to leave exposed in the bed.