Ford’s popular compact pickup undergoes numerous trim changes for 2006. For model changes, the Edge name has now been changed to Sport.

Exterior changes include a new bar-style grille; new two-piece front bumper; new fog lamp design; a Ranger windshield logo graphic on all series; revised side marker lamps; new wheel lip mouldings with exposed ornamental fasteners; revised rear bumper; new taillamps; and new tailgate badging. Six-foot-box trucks receive a bed rail and tailgate protector as standard equipment (except on STX); there are new available 16-inch aluminum wheels and new 15-inch Alcoa forged aluminum wheels; and two-tone paint is standard on FX4/Off-Road and FX4/Level II. Exterior colours Redfire Metallic, Torch Red and Oxford White come in, while Bright Red, Dark Satin Green Metallic and Toreador Red bow out. Screaming Yellow Metallic exterior colour will be available for the first six months of production and will then be replaced with Silver Metallic.

Inside, a smoker’s package is now standard, the XLT SuperCab gets a standard CD player, and the FX4/Off-Road and FX4/Level II get textured vinyl floor coverings as standard equipment. All V6-equipped trucks get a SecuriLock passive anti-theft system.

Option package changes include new 16-inch, five-spoke painted aluminum wheels on the Tremor package; new chrome mirror caps on the Bright Trim Group on XLT; the wheel lip moulding can be deleted on the FX4; there are colour-keyed bodyside mouldings on the XL, Sport, STX and XLT; and P235/70R16 all-season tires have been deleted on the Sport trucks.

The Ranger, which is also sold as the Mazda B2300/B3000, comes as a regular cab or the extended-wheelbase Supercab, in two- or four-wheel-drive. Both are two-door models, but the Supercab adds two small “suicide” doors, which can only be opened or closed when the front doors are open, for easy access to the rear seats or stored cargo. The 4×2’s six-foot box stretches to seven feet in 4×4 configuration. Three engines are available, depending on the model: a 2.3-litre four-cylinder, 3.0-litre V6, and 4.0-litre V6. The four-cylinder is only available in the base XL.

Available trim lines are the XL, Sport, STX, XLT, FX4/Off-Road and FX4/Level II. Depending on the trim level, standard features can include vinyl or carpeted flooring, 60/40 split bench or bucket seats, fog lamps, air conditioning, tow hooks and an airbag deactivation switch.

Available options include 16-inch wheels, six-CD/MP3 player, leather-trimmed seats, privacy glass, skid plates, tilt wheel, trailer tow package and rear sliding window.

The FX4/Off-Road includes a 4.10 axle, premium shocks, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates, 16-inch aluminum wheels, vinyl flooring and vinyl “slush” floor mats, while the seriously capable FX4/Level II adds a Torsen limited-slip rear axle, Bilstein shocks, front suspension skid plate, BF Goodrich all-terrain 31×10.5 tires, and front and rear tow hooks.

In handling, refinement and overall quality, the Ranger doesn’t stack up to competitors such as the Dodge Dakota, Chevrolet Colorado or Toyota Tacoma, but it does have its merits. For one thing, it’s cheap, which is a prime consideration for young, first-time buyers or those who just want a utility vehicle they’re going to bang up on the job site (the Dakota, for example, only comes with a carpeted floor). It’s small, bucking the current trend of bulking up compact pickups; not everyone wants a mid-size. And unlike Dodge Dakota, it comes in a regular cab.

The Supercab becomes a five-passenger when its two rear jump seats are folded down, but they’re a very tight and uncomfortable ride for adults. They’re fine for older children, but cannot be used with infant or child booster seats. When not in use, they fold up for extra cargo space.

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