Ford has invested over R20 billion in its Mzansi operations over the past two decades. The main benefit to that has been the expansion and modernisation of its manufacturing facilities in Silverton (Tshwane) and Struandale (Eastern Cape). And of course the driver of all this is the Ranger bakkie range, which is the country’s second most popular bakkie by sales and is also exported internationally. Chief among the popular models – including the Raptor – is the XLT, which has been the best-seller of all.

Really the main reason for its popularity must be the balance it offers in terms of performance, features and price. While the XLT is somewhat of a middle child, it appeals to more people than the other models. The XLT stands out with its front end as well as its wheels, which can be ordered in standard 16-inch or optional 17-inch. There are interior highlights too of course, as well as rear differentiators.

The C-shaped headlights flanked by LED daytime running lights are the main focal point in the new Ranger XLT’s front facia. These are separated by a double bar in a metal alloy. That also separates the upper grille, while the lower grille is colour-coded. Bi-Turbo badging appears on the front fenders, and our unit did have side steps for easier ingress. The rear load box also features a step just below the rear lights. Quite a unique and very useful item for loading. Another innovation that Ford has fitted in the new XLT – as they had in the updated previous-generation model – is the easy lift rear load door that even a 10 year old can lift with no issues. Again, very useful for people who are constantly opening and closing that tailgate.

The interior is dominated by black, including the dashboard, seats and so on, though there are some metal alloy and piano black accents here and there. A highlight of colour is the large 25.6cm Sync 4 touch screen that houses all the infotainment needs. They include the radio function with over 12 preset stations, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation, climate control, Android Auto and in-car WiFi (we could not get this feature to work). Another nice thing is the keyless Start/stop button to the right of the height and telescope adjustable, multifunction steering wheel. Wireless smart phone charging was included but we understand it is optional. USB and C-type ports are there for wire charging.

Powering the Ranger XLT is Ford’s trusted 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine that delivers 154kW at 3 750rpm, and 500Nm of torque between 1 750 and 2 000rpm. If those power figures sound familiar then you are spot on, because they are common in the bi-turbo motor. In fact, the previous-generation Raptor boasted almost the same too. The XLT is no Raptor in terms of sprint performance, returning a respectable 9 seconds on the 0 – 100km/h test. That is obviously not a deal breaker for a car of this nature as it excels in carrying loads, pulling up steep hills and towing. We also averaged 9.5 litres per 100km from the 80 litre fuel tank, giving us an 840km range.

The Ranger is the reigning Mzansi 2023 Car of the Year and there are plenty of reasons for this. Included here is how easy it is to drive. The steering is light, especially at lower speeds, making manoeuvring in and out of tighter spaces easier than with most bakkies. Thanks to the 10-speeds, the standard automatic transmission changes gears smoothly and almost seamlessly, with no uncomfortable jerking. Ride is comfortable, and almost feels like the Everest. Therefore longer journeys don’t necessarily feel like they were covered in a bakkie.

It’s easy to really like the Ranger XLT. It covers so many bases that bakkie hunters like covered, while leaving out some of the unnecessary extras that most may not need or even desire. Based on a highly competent chassis and powertrain, the XLT is happy to be your daily, your weekend love or your worker.

Ford Ranger XLT Prices

XLT – R748 800

XLT 4×4 – R833 800

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