Ranger is Ford's answer to the masses of mostly younger buyers who, for reasons of size, price and long-term operating economy prefer compact pickup trucks. It's been the segment sales leader almost since the day it was introduced in 1982, and contributed to Ford's 2 million truck sales in the 1996 model year, an all-time record. Although the exterior cosmetics were redone three years ago and the interior a year later, the basic Ranger shape, dimensions and proportions are the same as the original 1982 truck, and it's due for a total redesign next year. Like all American trucks, the Ranger is available in an enormous variety of models, 19 in all, starting with a four-cylinder five-speed short-wheelbase XL for $11,380 and going up from there to nearly $25,000. It is also sold in clone form as the Mazda B-Series.