The mid-size pickup has always felt like an obvious decision for buyers who love the rugged capabilities of a full-size pickup, crave the bold aesthetic, but don’t really want all that truck filling up their garage or driveway.
Pickups are not the most practical vehicle choice for many people, and that includes some of the millions who own them. If you are not utilizing that bed for hauling or utility, it can become wasted space. Thankfully, pickups are no longer just made for working – they are now a lifestyle statement.
The Ranger follows the three-box pickup standard, though I appreciate the softer lines up front. My tester was the XLT SuperCrew with a Tremor package that added beefy tires, and a raised ride height.
Available exterior packages can either add chrome or delete it for color-matched panels. The 2022 Ranger offers a new Splash package with black and orange flair outside, which is repeated in interior detailing.
My tester featured the ($495) Toughbed spray-in bedliner that is a factory option for either the 6-foot bed on extended-cab trucks or the 5-foot bed included with the crew cab. All trucks have an easy-to-open tailgate.
Stepping up to the XLT brings several features otherwise optional on the XL, including alloy wheels, color-matched exterior trim, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Ford has several packages that allow you to tailor a Ranger to your specific needs. The FX2 package, for example, adds some chunky off-road tires and a beefed-up suspension. The Sport package gives you a Ranger more suited to edgier driving, while the Tremor package aims to make the Ranger as off-road-capable as possible. It adds a lifted suspension with dampers from Fox and 17-inch alloy wheels with off-road rubber.
The cabin of the Ranger offers a standard dash without any special distinguishing features. Upfront the seating is generous and cloth covered. Look for some plastic trim pieces mixed with mostly soft-touch surfaces.
My XLT trim level featured a power-adjustable driver’s seat with a manual adjuster for the passenger. The seating is well-bolstered and provides a comfortable seating position with a great view of the road.
Base extended-cab models have small rear seats for occasional use, while the bench fitted to crew cabs can accommodate adults for longer rides. A small sliding rear window panel behind the rear seat is optional. My SuperCrew version offers nearly 98 cubic feet of cargo space.
The optional 8.0-inch touchscreen provided an interface with a nice Ford infotainment system. I found it to be quite intuitive to use, offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The Ranger features one powerplant, a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder pushing out 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, pretty decent numbers for a mid-size pickup. I found the 10-speed automatic transmission to be quite responsive, making the most of the available power and delivering crisp acceleration from any speed. This is no sports car, for sure, and Ranger sits in the center of the ratings with 0-60-mph in 7.4 seconds.
The optional four-wheel-drive system is a part-time setup that’s not intended for use on dry pavement. A useful locking rear differential is a stand-alone option on most trim levels while adding the FX4 or Tremor off-road packages unlocks more traction control modes.
Another big plus from the Ranger was its max towing capacity of 7,500 lbs. 0-60-mph sprint in only 7.4 seconds. I found it to be lacking a lot of feedback for the driver, and it does tend to roll a bit in the corners.
Even though it’s a small pickup truck, it only gets 20 mpg, which is still the best in the segment. On the upside, the smaller size does translate to a more responsive driving feel and much easier maneuverability over any full-size pickup.
The 2022 Ford Ranger offers a perfect balance between commuter comfort and the ability to carry a heavy load. The small size offers decent towing power, a well-appointed cabin, and a base price of $25,500. My tester XLT with the Tremor package landed at $44,375, which still makes the Ford Ranger a tough model to argue against.
• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.