Gone are the days when a pick-up could be constructed from little more than a few bits of pig iron perched atop some cart springs.

Today’s buyers expect their trucks to be far more than just a working vehicle.  That’s important too, of course, but so increasingly is the ability to drag the family out into the great outdoors come the weekend.

Perhaps mindful of that, the new Ford Ranger is now laden with more safety gizmos than ever before, this year gaining pedestrian detection for its collision avoidance system which can prime or apply the brakes should someone be absent-minded enough to step out in front of a two-tonne truck.

Also new is an intelligent speed limiter which can read road signs and, coupled with the adaptive cruise control, adjust the Ranger’s speed automatically, while Active Park Assist can parallel-park your ‘ute for you once you reach your destination.

It’s this continual rounding-off of the rough edges that’s helped the Ranger become Europe’s best-selling pickup, with an ever-increasing number of well thought-out touches that make life with a truck that much easier.

filled with well thought-out touches that make life with a truck easier

Such as the new easy-lift tailgate that uses a torsion bar to reduce the effort needed to raise it, as well as the fact it locks with the central locking; the 240v inverter that means you’re never far away from a power source, even in the middle of nowhere; the chilled storage bin under the central armrest; the dash-top tray that’s perfect for slinging your phone into; the misfuelling inhibitor so you can’t accidentally fill it with petrol; the load-bed lights activated by a button on the dash.  The list goes on.

It’s more connected than ever before, too, and not just because Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system has been gradually refined into a very usable set-up, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.  The Ranger now includes a built-in modem that can provide in-vehicle Wi-Fi, while the FordPass smartphone app allows you to monitor fuel level, trip mileage, tyre pressure and vehicle lock status remotely.

The Ranger always was one of the better riding pickups, and this year Ford say they’ve tweaked the suspension to keep it that way, with spring and damper rates tuned to suit each individual model in the range.  Our Wildtrak perhaps didn’t ride quite as well as the coil-sprung Mercedes X-Class, but the Ranger’s steering is far lighter than the Merc’s at low speeds, making it much easier to park.

Our previous favourite, the 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel engine, is still available in the Wildtrak, although to some extent it’s been usurped by a new 2.0-litre unit that’s offered in three states of tune.  The more workman-like models make do with a single turbo to generate 130ps and 340Nm, while much of the rest of the range uses a 170ps/420Nm version.

Limited and Wildtrak models have the option of using the 213ps, 500Nm twin-turbo unit from the Raptor which, combined with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, pummels the air into submission for 9 seconds until it reaches 62mph.

As in the Raptor, the 2.0-litre emits a suitably truck-like grumble at low revs that seems to suit the Ranger’s character, while the 10-speed auto – borrowed from the Mustang – marshals the not inconsiderable torque towards the wheels.

Ten speeds is perhaps four too many for something with this much torque, and although left to its own devices the gearbox manages to not trip over them too much, when manually downshifting to gain engine braking the process becomes somewhat long-winded.  The rocker switch mounted conveniently on the side of the gear lever seems to wilfully disregard most inputs, but is thankfully more responsive in Sport mode.

Still, Ford claims the ten-speeder helps the Ranger achieve economy gains of up to 9% over the old model, and although we couldn’t match the official figure of 36.2mpg, we recorded a 31.1mpg average over the course of a week’s testing.

That included a day spent on forestry tracks lugging firewood, something it managed without complaint thanks not only to respectable approach and departure angles (29 and 27 degrees respectively, with an 800mm wading depth) but also our Wildtrak’s standard-fit rear locking differential and a 75mph shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system.

Piling on the accessories needs careful planning so as not to drop the payload capacity below the one-tonne threshold, while an unladen weight well in excess of 2,040kg means technically the Ranger is limited to 60mph on dual-carriageways.  All Rangers, bar the entry-level 130ps model and the Raptor, boast a 3.5-tonne tow rating.

Prices for the Ford Ranger start at £21,656.37 + VAT for the XL Regular Cab, while something more useful such as a Limited Double Cab can be yours from £28,406.37 + VAT.  Our 213ps Wildtrak auto bumps that up to £32,006.37, or £38,344.64 with the VAT.

All of which means that while the Ford Ranger might still be a working vehicle at heart, it’s also one that’s incredibly easy to live with.

Entry-level Price£21,656 (£25,924 inc VAT)Price as tested£41,514 inc VAT
Engine1996cc 4-cyl twin-turbo dieselTransmission10-speed auto
Power213ps @ 3,750rpmTorque500Nm @ 1,750-2,000rpm
0-609.0 secsTop speed112 mph
Economy36.2 mpgCO2201 g/km
Dimensions5359 x 1977 x 1848 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight2246 kg