2020 Ford Ranger

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2020
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2019
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
December 3, 2019

Buying tip

If you’re thinking about a four-wheel-drive Ranger, we’d add the FX4 package for $1,295. It adds good shocks and better software to get lost.

The 2020 Ford Ranger mid-size pickup is a willing companion to weekend adventures. It’s our worst best friend.

It would be a shame if the 2020 Ford Ranger were lumped into a category to include “all trucks.” 

The 2020 Ranger is not a diesel-swilling, lifted, train-sized hauler that hardly fits in your driveway. The Ranger is not a profane sticker with a comic character or an ill-advised tattoo. 

The Ranger isn’t faultless, but it is good at being a small truck. 

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It’s a 5.0 on our overall scale that bends toward the base models that aren’t full of creature comforts that our scorecard rewards. We have beef with the Ranger’s safety scorecard and ride quality, but that’s true for all trucks. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Like last year, the Ranger is available in XL, XLT, and Lariat trims with options scattered among the three like chocolate chips in cookies. The new addition this year is an FX2 option that adds the FX4’s electronically locking rear differential to rear-drive-only pickups—a boon to smile-state buyers. 

The Ranger’s honesty is worn on its sleeve. There are interesting curves and stamps, but the Ranger’s open box is an empty promise—outdoor adventure, help with moving, or all of the above. 

The base turbo-4 makes 270 horsepower and drags up to 7,500 pounds when properly equipped. It’s sweetly paired to a slick 10-speed automatic and we couldn’t be happier with its performance. No really, it’s fine. 

Four-wheel drive will be a common but pricey upgrade (more than $4,000, to be honest) and it’s a good system for getting lost. 

The four-door crew cabs are more common, and comfortable for up to four adults. We’d prefer some better differentiation between the models and trims—top trucks don’t feel like $40,000 vehicles. 

We’d also like better safety scores. The IIHS is mostly complimentary, but the NHTSA puts the brakes on any good feelings with relatively low scores. 

Base XL trucks are work spec. Skip them if you’re not spraying for bugs regularly. 

We’d opt for an XLT with off-road hardware, four doors, and four-wheel drive. Those trucks get a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone software, automatic emergency braking, 17-inch alloy wheels, better options, and durable cloth for about $35,000. 

They’re not the cheap Rangers they were in the last decade, but they’re better trucks.

6

2020 Ford Ranger

Styling

The Ranger skips pretense and heads straight into our good graces.

We’ll get this out of the way first: Pickups are always in fashion. 

A box up front with an open bed in back is plainer spoken in its worldview than a frock and friar tuck. 

The Ranger’s a 6 on outward appearances alone. 

The Ranger assimilates well into the Ford lineup thanks to its wide grille fit between the headlights. A big “RANGER” moniker stamped into the plastic top shelf, above the grille, wears well too. 

The Ranger skips the slab-sided bodies of yesteryear’s pickups with a deeply cut line at the bottom of the doors. In back a RANGER stamped into the back is the kind of recall we like—no political jokes at all.

Inside, the Ranger is more straightforward, which is good for the pickup. We’d appreciate nicer materials in more expensive versions of the Ranger, but that’s covered below. 

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5

2020 Ford Ranger

Performance

The 2020 Ranger’s small turbo-4 is up to the task, but the ride seems less confident.

The 2020 Ranger’s plucky turbo-4 has our admiration. The Ranger’s ride? Consternation. 

Starting from an average score of 5, we give the Ranger one point for its powertrain but take it back for a ride that can bound, buck, or confound. It’s a wash at 5. 

Hand-wringing truck purists can put their minds at ease: The Ranger’s 2.3-liter turbo-4 makes 270 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque, which is stout for the small Ranger. The standard 10-speed automatic is just as slick, it drops a gear or three without fuss and it’s a willing partner off-road, too. When properly equipped, the Ranger can tow up to 7,500 pounds, which should be tough enough for most occasional towers. 

The Ranger’s optional four-wheel-drive system is part-time, and not meant for use on dry pavement. It can help the Ranger crawl up just about any dusty trail and when equipped with an FX4 off-road package, it intelligently splits torque along the rear axle with an electronically controlled rear differential. (A new FX2 package for 2020 uses the same electronic differential for rear-drive pickups.)

The FX4 package also adds off-road traction modes for loping along the trails at preset speeds; think of it as off-road cruise control.

Like bigger full-size trucks, the Ranger rides on a ladder frame with an independent front suspension and solid rear axle. Some of our editors are split on the Ranger’s ride, but nearly all of us agree that it’s bouncier than it needs to be. There’s considerable nose dive and some squat, the body motions are a little too much for our liking. In addition to the motion, the Ranger lets too much sound into the cabin. 

On the plus side, it’s mostly comfortable for day-to-day detail. 

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2020 Ford Ranger

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Ranger nails the pickup basics: bed in the back, room in the cab for up to four.

Increasingly, pickups are playing the role of family car that shuttles between home and work, stores and practice, errands and the mountains. 

The 2020 Ranger is up to the task, although we admit that there may be better-suited vehicles for the task. 

Starting from an average score of five, the Ranger gets points above average for its open bed in the back—how much you can fit in the bed is mostly limited to your imagination. It’s a 6 for comfort. 

Most trucks on the road will be the four-door, crew cab configuration with seats for up to five. Four adults will fit better—call shotgun or grab the keys, if you can. 

The front seats are comfortable and mostly adjustable, although base versions of the Ranger don’t offer height adjustment. 

The rear seats should be fine for average to smaller adults, with enough leg room for 6-footers to sit behind other 6-footers—just not NBA power forwards, please. 

Extended-cab Rangers are available but aren’t ideal for more than two adults. The rear cab is best for pets or very small children. 

Crew cab trucks get a 5-foot bed while extended-cab trucks get a 6-foot bed. 

Inside, the Ranger is shod in hard plastics regardless of trim level. There are small touches like a stitched dash in Lariat versions that separate it from the lineup but not by a large margin. We wished Ford would have spent more time inside. 

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2020 Ford Ranger

Safety

Poor crash-test scores don’t help the 2020 Ranger’s safety scorecard.

Crash scores for the 2020 Ranger are mixed, but the pickup doesn’t skip the good stuff. 

Starting with an average score of 5, the Ranger gets one demerit for a sub-par federal score and one more for a rare three-star result in the rollover crash test. It’s a 3 for safety. 

The IIHS gave the Ranger mostly top “Good” scores in all its crash tests save the passenger-side small overlap crash test, where it earned an “Acceptable” rating. The IIHS rated the standard automatic emergency braking as “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes at 12 mph and 25 mph. 

The NHTSA was less kind. Their four-star overall rating is relatively rare among new cars, and its three-star rollover crash rating is even rarer. 

For a mid-size pickup, the Ranger has good outward vision but we recommend the suite of safety features that’s standard on XLT and Lariat trucks that adds blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control. 

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2020 Ford Ranger

Features

Options abound for the mid-size 2020 Ranger, but they can stack up quickly.

Compared to full-size trucks, the mid-size 2020 Ranger’s lineup is more streamlined but it still hits all the right markers. 

This year, the Ford Ranger is available in XL, XLT, and Lariat trim levels with a heavy helping of options and packages scattered throughout the range. 

Base trucks skip most of the good features we’d prefer, including a touchscreen for infotainment, but all the bases are covered. 

Starting from a base score of 5, the Ranger earns one point for available options and we land at a 6 for features. 

The spartan Ranger XL is built for work detail, mostly. It’s equipped with a 4.2-inch display for infotainment—no smartphone software, and certainly no touchscreen—with Bluetooth connectivity, one USB port, power features, air conditioning, steel wheels, and automatic emergency braking for $25,605, including destination. Adding four-wheel drive tacks on another $4,000 to the bottom line, which is steep but also common. 

The Ranger XLT is our preferred pick thanks to a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. There are two USB ports, keyless ignition, dual-zone climate controls, and better-looking 17-inch aluminum wheels. The 2020 Ranger XLT starts at $29,655, but the one we’d have is $38,965: four doors, four-wheel drive, and off-road package. It’s steep, but also par for the course. 

All-in on a Ranger Lariat tips the price past $45,000 with premium audio, navigation, better audio—and right into the wheelhouse of comparable full-sizers, some of which may be discounted. 

With an iron gut, the Ranger can be an affordable option to full-size pickups—albeit just barely.

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2020 Ford Ranger

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Ranger is fuel-efficient among mid-size pickups.

Mid-size pickups have a small secret: they’re not much more efficient than the full-sizers across the lot. 

The 2020 Ranger’s turbo-4 and 10-speed automatic earn EPA ratings at 20 mpg city, 24 highway, 22 combined with four-wheel drive. With just rear-wheel drive, the 2020 Ranger rates 21/26/23 mpg. 

Among mid-size pickups, the Ranger is at the top of the class. The Tacoma is rated at up to 20 mpg with four-wheel drive, the diesel-powered Chevy Colorado nets 22 mpg combined. 

Compared to full-sizers, the Ranger’s turbo-4 isn’t appreciably more efficient. With a 2.7-liter turbo-6 and four-wheel drive, the F-150 rates up to 20 mpg combined. The 2.7-liter turbo-4 in the Silverado is rated the same and the V-6-equipped Ram 1500 with four-wheel drive is rated at 21 mpg combined. 

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5.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 3
Features 6
Fuel Economy 4
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