So the wheels in my head started spinning and the thought that came to me was this- What would I buy if I was looking to replace my Ranger today? Would it be a new Ranger, or could something else take it's place. I'd like to say that I bleed blue, but the facts are that I've owned other makes before including 2 Chevy trucks. Out of 17 vehicles I've owned over the years 9 were Ford, but in the end it would be what truck met my needs and did so at a reasonable price. So here goes, the criteria for my search ; A compact or "mid size" pickup, it must have 4 wheel drive preferablly with an available "off road" package, it should be an extended cab and a crew cab would be most desirable. Power and Economy will play a role in the decision as will cost to buy. I think I've assembled all the players here, let me know if I've missed any.
My current ride is a 1999 Ford Ranger XLT with the OffRoad package and trailer package, with the 4.0L V6 and manual transmission. It's got a nice cloth interior and air conditioning and a stereo. I don't need power windows unless I get a crew cab, but a slidding rear window is necessary, power or not.
Subaru's latest attempt at a truck is the Baja is more akin to a crossover SUV than a truck. Based on the Legacy Outback Sedan/Wagon with the horizontally opposed 6 making 165 hp and a small "bed" it's the token truck from Subaru. Not as cute or even useful as their previous effort the Brat and all that cladding just looks stupid. No real payload/ towing capacity or ground clearance to speak of, I don't see much utility in this at all. EPA ratings are 23/28 price $23,120
Honda's first attempt at a truck the Ridgeline is based on their Pilot/MDX unibody chasis and has the same 245 hp V6. Fuel Economy of 16 city 21 highway are not impressive numbers, but average for this segment. Honda gave the truck market only a half hearted effort and I don't care how many little cubby holes or underbed storage bins it may have, it's not a truck to me.
EPA rating of 16/21 price of $28,250
OK, here's the first serious contender, Nissan's latest Frontier with the most powerful V6 in it's class at 265 hp. EPA rating of 17/21 price of $23,305
The Toyota Tacoma is the truck that made it possible for the Japanese to expand into the full size market. A reputation for being tough and dependable, this is the truck that nipped at the heals of the big three, until it became a force to be reconned with in "compact" trucks. The latest redesign brought the Tacoma into the growing "mid size" club. EPA rating of 17/21 price of $24,145
The truck that created the "mid size" segment and now blurs the line between the mid and full size trucks is the Dodge Dakota. Unless they're parked side by side, it's tough to tell it from the Full size Ram. And it was the first mid size to come with an optional V8. EPA rating wiht 3.7 V6 is 16/20 price of $26,850 Mitsubishi after being absent from the truck market for several years has opted to sell a rebadged Dodge Dakota. Funny how the world has turned, years ago Dodge sold rebadged Mitsubishi Mighty Max trucks as Dodge D-50's. EPA ratings same as above, prices not available, no manual trans with V6 4x4
Even General Motors wasn't going to give up on Compact/Midsize trucks. Retiring the S10/15 after over 20 years they came up with the new GM twins, the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado (as well as an Isuzu clone) A variation of the Trailblazer's chassis and choice of 4 or 5 cylinder inline engines making 175 and 220 hp each, GM put some money into this and came up with a competative vehicle. EPA rating of 16/22 price of $23,855
EPA ratings same as above price of $23,800
Isuzu whick like Mitsubishi used to supply their American partner with compat trucks (remember the Pup/Luv ?) now sells rebadged versions of the Canyon/Colorado only with fewer choices. The I280 and I350 have the same I4/I5 engines also. EPA ratings same as above and pirce of $24,860, no manual trans available with I5 and 4x4.
The "Once and Future King" of the compact truck segement, the Ford Ranger was the #1 selling compact truck for about 16 years. The latest version is basically a cosmetic upgrade of the same truck Ford has been selling for many years. Now one of the smaller trucks in it's class and on the low side of the power scale. What may surprise you is that the 4cyl 2wd Ranger is the EPA's best rated truck for fuel economy. But with the 4.0 V6 and 4wd, the economy is poor at 16 city and 19 highway. Pricing was $23,100 after the $1500 cash back. Yet another Japanese manufacturer that sells rebadged versions of their American partner's pickup is Mazda. Mazda used to build the Ford Courier, a rebadged Sundowner pickup. EPA rating are same as Ranger, price was $22,515, not as much content, packages restricted.
And getting mention but little consideration is the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, based on the previous generation Explorer SUV, it's deep 4 ft bed seems of little utility to me. This one, who cares, it's not offered for 2006.
Problems with Blogger caused me to loose this post 4 times and have to retype. I will be away until Monday.
I almost forgot, the winner is the Nissan Frontier, with it's class leading power and pricing that is right where it should be. Who could pass up 265 hp and a 6 spd manual trans?