After an eight-year hiatus, the Ford Ranger makes a comeback for 2019. As Ford repositions its lineup to focus on larger vehicles, the Ranger occupies a valuable niche below the bestselling F-150. It’s not the boldest debut package, and it doesn’t come cheap, but the 2019 Ford Ranger does an admirable job marrying utility with economy.

Best Value

Many buyers will (understandably) opt for the mid-range XLT trim, but for all-out value, the base trim can’t be beat. Most importantly, it gets the same powertrain as the rest of the lineup, with more towing power than most buyers will ever need.

The cheapest Rangers are extended-cab models, but it’s worth springing $2,220 to upgrade to the crew cab. The extended cab’s second row is best suited to storage rather than actual passengers. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and four-wheel drive is around $4,000 extra, depending on trim. That’s exorbitant, but sadly it’s par for the course among mid-size pickups.

The starting price has already swelled over $30,000, but we’re not done yet – this is why it’s good to start with the base trim. An equipment group adds back essentials like cruise control and power mirrors, while a bed liner, a towing package, and an electronic locking rear differential ready the Ranger for duty. Finally, the STX Appearance Package adds more supportive front seats (along with alloy rims).

That may seem like a lot, but it’s still cheaper than bumping up to an equivalent XLT. So equipped, the Ranger includes the essentials for around $35,000:

  • Model:2019 Ford Ranger XL SuperCrew 4x4
  • Engine:2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output:270 hp / 310 lb-ft
  • Transmission:10-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy:20 City / 24 Hwy
  • Options:101A Equipment Group ($1,135, cruise control, anti-theft alarm, power side mirrors, remote key fob), Bed Utility Package ($395, drop-in bedliner, 12-volt power outlet), Trailer Tow Package ($495, wiring harness, Class IV trailer hitch receiver), Electronic-locking rear differential ($420)
  • Base Price:$31,875 (including the $1,195 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$34,320

Performance

Ford Ranger

A typical pickup driver might be disappointed to learn that the Ford Ranger offers only one engine, and that it only has four cylinders. The feeling would be unwarranted – the turbo-four pumps out 310 pound-feet of torque and allows an exceptional 7500-pound towing capacity. The 10-speed automatic transmission is quick and smooth. The handling is precise, and the ride is compliant without being bouncy. The available part-time four-wheel-drive system is controlled via a knob on the console, and an available off-road package adds a variety of all-terrain upgrades, including a crawl control system. Even the Ranger’s fuel economy is impressive, beating out other mid-size trucks with an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon combined on rear-wheel-drive models.

Our only real complaint is a loud cabin. The top-trim Lariat introduces extra deadening into the cabin, but even then, more wind noise enters than we'd like. Despite the available package, Ford also hasn’t released a dedicated off-road model like some competitors.

Style

The new Ranger isn’t exactly bold, but it’s one of the more stylish entrants in a generally unimaginative class. The front end neatly frames Ford’s hexagonal grille, while cutouts down the side lend some personality to the profile.

Extended cab trucks come with a six-foot bed, while crew cab models use a five-foot one. The crew cab offers plenty of space for four adults, and seats are supportive on most trims. The trim lineup is widely customizable and covers more than $20,000 from cheapest to steepest. One final high point is safety: all Rangers roll off the line with standard automatic emergency braking, a claim only the Toyota Tacoma can match. In another nice touch, extra safety features like blind-spot monitoring and lane keeping assist are reasonably priced and available on all trims.

The interior of the Ranger is less inspiring. Hard plastics abound, none of the interior colors are lively, and the lower trims come with tiny 4.2-inch radio screens. Even the Lariat trim’s stitched-leather dash isn’t enough to elevate the feel. Options can also get expensive, and a kitted-out Lariat will set you back close to $50,000.

The Best and Worst Things

Ford RangerThe performance and utility of the Ranger and its engine ought to win over most of the naysayers. We wish that Ford had spent a little more effort on the interior, though.

Right For? Wrong For?

For drivers who don’t need the superlatives (or the bulk) of the F-Series, the Ranger is a worthy alternative. It has all the utility a mid-size pickup could ever need, with a strong powertrain and surprising fuel economy. It even handles well.

Buyers expecting either a bargain or a luxury experience should look elsewhere. The Ranger can offer strong value in the right trim, but nothing comes particularly cheap. Although they’re pricey, the top trims don’t feel truly luxurious.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Ford Ranger is a fitting re-entry to the world of mid-size pickups. It has the brawn to be expected of Ford trucks, but with perks like better efficiency and easier drivability. It’s not perfect, but it deserves to be on the shortlist of many buyers.