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Ranger and Kuga are winter kings 

PAGE 23 Ford Ranger

I BROUGHT in the New Year enjoying the Tenerife sunshine. The cold weather back home in Scotland was far from my mind as we celebrated the start of the year in Golf del Sur.

I know there can be icy roads in this sunshine island – but not for the length of time we are hit by wintry weather.

So before flying out for my break I was delighted that my previous two test models were both four-wheel drive.

The first of these was a Ford Ranger – Europe’s top-selling pick-up.

It’s a go-anywhere vehicle and with its rugged good looks won’t look out of place in a builder’s yard or at the beach.

It comes with regular, super or double cab and there’s a choice of 2.2 or 3-2-litre diesel engines.

My test model was a top-of-the-range Wildtrak double cab 4×4.

I didn’t need to use the loading area during my time with the Ranger but a useful option at £1,380 on this was the roll top lockable cover.

There is ample room in the double cab for driver and four passengers with great all-round vision thanks to its raised height.

This tough Ranger is capable of tackling all sorts of off-road conditions with the four-wheel drive switching easily from high to low level.

Its performance on the road matched that of large SUVs and moving into four-wheel drive on a frosty morning brought even more grip and safer handling.

The 3.2-litre TDCi 200ps engine has plenty of power for carrying heavy loads and sat fairly quietly moving along the motorway.

It’s a big vehicle to park but this is assisted by the rear-view camera and rear parking distance sensors.

Hit the accelerator pedal hard and the engine will be a bit noisy but it does move smoothly up and down the six-speed manual gearbox.

The pick-up reaches 62mph in 10.9 seconds and has a top speed of 109mph.

This Wildtrak is more of a leisure vehicle than a workhorse so it gets an upmarket finish inside and out to match its £33,404 price.

Top features included 18-inch machined alloys, titanium effect painted front grille and rear step bumper, plastic moulded side steps with brushed-finish metallic inserts, alumi-nium finish roof rails and wing grille with Wildtrak logo.

There are more Wild-trak logos inside as well as satnav with eight-inch touchscreen, Ford SYNC3 with voice control, bluetooth and high quality trim finish.

This Ranger pick-up is well worth considering as an alternative to a large SUV – especially if you need that extra load area.

But if your heart is set on an SUV then Ford also has the ideal model.

The Kuga is proving to be a popular choice and I finished the year off driving an ST-Line X version, costing £34,295.

I’ve sampled other versions of the Kuga before but this is the stylish top-of-range model crammed with all sorts of goodies – including all-wheel drive.

It has the full ST body styling kit, 19-inch black alloy wheels, black roof rails, active park assist with front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and a powered tailgate that can be operated by waving your foot under the bumper.

The ST-Line theme continues inside on seats, gear knob, steering wheel and floor mats with contrast stitching.

There’s also a power-opening panorama roof, heated front seats – very handy while I was waiting on the car de-icing on Boxing Day morning – and 10-way adjustable driver’s seat.

And this model also benefits from Ford’s SYNC3 connectivity system that was in the Ranger.

Under the bonnet was what proved to be a powerful 2.0-litre TDCi engine that comes with Powershift – Ford’s six-speed auto gear-box.

The sports suspension on this model isn’t too firm and overall ride comfort was excellent for a big SUV.

The top quality interior is big up front and in the rear making the Kuga ideal for long journeys.

And there was always plenty of power from the 180ps diesel engine as the power-shift worked smoothly and instantly going up and down the gears.

Moving from standstill to 62mph in 10 seconds, it is quickly up to pace and has a top speed of 124mph.

There is lots of road grip and when heavy snow fo-llowed ice on December 29 I was happy to be sitting behind the wheel of this sure-footed 4×4 Kuga.

When the going got tough it certainly got going – as I did the following day for my flight to the sunshine.