Ford Ranger 2020 xlt 3.2 hi-rider (4x2)

2020 Ford Ranger XLT Hi-Rider 4x2 review

Rating: 8.4
$44,680 $53,130 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
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It looks the same. It feels the same. But despite the Ford Ranger XLT 4x2 Hi-Rider being cheaper, lighter and less complex than its 4x4 sibling, no-one is buying it. James finds out why...
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We’ve all heard enough about the one per cent, but what about a group that is slightly broader yet still alarmingly unique – say, the 7.5 per cent?

In this instance, I’m referring to someone who makes a decision that more than 92 per cent of like-minded people, or in this case, specific car buyers, do not. I’m not talking about obscure Eastern Bloc machinery either, well, at least not today. No, think of something far more mainstream, at least in the way it looks.

The 2020 Ford Ranger XLT Hi-Rider 4x2 is, in nearly every way, a complete doppelganger of its far more popular 4WD stablemate, but at just 2263 sales so far this year (all 2WD variants) against 30,185 for the 4WD, which is around one in every 13, it is something of a unicorn in a field of horses.

And I’m going to suggest that it really shouldn’t be.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT Hi-Rider 4x2
Engine configuration3.2-litre turbo diesel five-cylinder
Displacement3.2L (3198cc)
Power147kW @ 3000rpm
Torque470Nm @ 1750–2500rpm
TransmissionSix-speed automatic
Drive typeRear-wheel drive
Kerb weight2131kg
Fuel claim, combined8.2L/100km
Fuel use on test9.2L/100km
Turning circle12.7m
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)Five stars (2015)
Warranty (years / km)5 years / unlimited km
Main competitorsToyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max, Ford Ranger 4x4
Options as tested$2520

Priced from $51,540 (before options and on-road costs), the XLT Hi-Rider is available only with an automatic transmission, but as on the broader Ranger range, is offered with a choice of 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel with a six-speed automatic, or for an extra $1500 ($53,040) as a 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo diesel with the 10-speed.

This places it a massive $7900, or more than 13 per cent, lower than the equivalent 4x4 Ranger.

Plus, given the lack of a front differential, transfer case and high-low-range selection dial on the console, it weighs 99kg less. Ironically, if you kept your near-on $8000 saving in $1 coins and loaded them in the tub, you would still be about 28kg lighter than a 4x4 XLT.

Also, given all other metrics of the car are the same, including the Ranger’s GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass), the hardware weight reduction translates directly into a greater payload rating (1069kg against 970kg).

So now, since it doesn’t have the naff ‘Hi-Rider’ decal of previous incarnations and as such looks identical to the 4WD version, you have to ask, do you really need the 4WD?

The big chrome grille, LED running lamps and colour choices are the same as found on the 4x4. Our car is Meteor Grey ($650 option – one of seven choices) and features the matte-black bonnet protector ($225) and soft tonneau cover ($845), which of course are also the same as on the four-wheel-drive XLT.

Even the typically dull design of the standard 17-inch wheels is identical.

Inside, from the steering wheel to the seats to the SYNC 3 infotainment system, the Hi-Rider (you think that name feels stupid to read, try writing it a dozen times…) is just like any other XLT Ranger you’ll see on the road.

Equipment levels are high, with keyless entry, LED headlamps, tow bar, sports bars, tub-liner and dual-zone climate control all standard. Our car has the optional tech pack ($800) that adds adaptive cruise control and automatic parking to the already broad suite of driver assistance and safety gear you’ll find on, yep, you guessed it, any other XLT regardless of drivetrain.

That said, there is still no blind-spot detection (despite being offered on some rivals) nor is there a rear cross-traffic alert function. A rear camera and parking sensors on both ends are standard, though.

The 8.0-inch SYNC 3 infotainment system continues to be one of the most well-featured on the market, and offers DAB digital radio, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an integrated navigation system.

Usability is largely good, although I do find the DAB tuner difficult to use, but there’s still a CD-player if that’s more in line with your jam, or jams.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT Hi-Rider 4x2
Width1867mm (2163mm incl. mirrors)
Ground clearance237mm
Tub dimensions (L/W/H)1549mm x 1560mm x 511mm – 1139mm between arches
Weight (Kerb)2131kg
Wheels/tyres17-inch – 265/65R17 Bridgestone H/T

For the MY20.75 (yes, really) update, the XLT features an onboard modem and support for Ford’s telemetry software, FordPass Connect.

It's worth noting that I couldn’t get the app to work due to a login authentication issue (related to the app rather than the car), but when it does operate, FordPass allows you to trigger remote actions and monitor your car’s vitals from your phone.

Considering this type of technology has been recently limited to BMW, Mini, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, it’s pretty impressive to see it filter across to the Ford line-up (fellow mainstreamer, Hyundai, has also given similar tech a go). As soon as I can get it working on my phone, I’ll provide more insight into how it works.

By now, though, I think you get the idea.

Choosing to save nearly $8K and opting for a rear-drive Ranger doesn’t cut you off from technology, comfort or even boring wheels (come on Ford, please do something better for the MY21 car), so where are the differences?

I’ll be honest and say that despite the weight differential, I didn’t specifically notice any extra spring in the XLT’s step. It should be there, though, the Hi-Rider offering a 69kW/t power-to-weight ratio (against 65.9kW/t on the 4x4) from the 3.2-litre engine.

Outputs from the familiar penta-cylinder haven’t changed for 2020, with 147kW available at 3000rpm and 470Nm between 1750 and 2500rpm. It remains a tractable engine around town, strong when you need it, nice and low in the rev range.

Ford claims a combined-cycle fuel consumption of 8.2L/100km (against 8.9L/100km in the 4WD), and from our experiences with Rangers over the years this is largely accurate.

While 0.7L/100km might sound like a minor difference, think of it as two free tanks of fuel each year if you are travelling around 20,000km annually.

My urban running of the Hi-Rider sat around 10.9L/100km, which is bang on the claim, and brief highway stints saw it drop into the mid 6L/100km range, for an overall average of 9.2L/100km.

Towing has always been a strong point with this engine, and the 3500kg rating continues across the Hi-Rider’s spec sheet as it does the 4WD. Which leads me to where this car makes a lot of sense. Towing and touring.

2020 Ford Ranger XLT Hi-Rider 4x2
ColourMeteor Grey
Price (MSRP)$51,540
Options as tested$2520
Servicing 3yr$897
Servicing 5yr$1591
ANCAP safety rating5-star
Warranty5 years / unlimited km

Let’s face it, many of those 30,000-odd Rangers bought this year will never see a dirt road, let alone a rutted track. But even if you do need to venture off the highway from time to time, do you really go far enough to warrant the capability of the four-wheeler?

As an urban workhorse, the Hi-Rider makes infinitely more sense. Lighter, cheaper and less complicated, the extra payload and reduced fuel consumption have to help those running around town.

It's comfortable, and an easy place to spend time.

Eating up big distances on tarmac or gravel, whether you are towing or not, again makes the rear-driver a highly workable and arguably smarter solution.

And even if you are using the car for some light-duty adventuring, the entry and departure angles, ride height and even the wading depth haven’t changed.

Plus, it's worth noting that even if you find yourself on some slick mud or in need of a little extra traction, the rear differential lock is still fitted, which should be enough to get you out of wherever you got in.

So why isn’t this car more popular?

I assume the word at the front of your mind right now is ‘resale’, but a quick scroll of the classifieds puts second-hand Hi-Rider prices in line with where 4x4 cars are in context of their purchase price. There's just a lot less of them.

No, it seems we are a nation with a terminal case of the s'posedas.

We’re s'poseda hook up a big caravan or boat at some point, so specify an expensive tow package when buying new cars, even if we don’t own a trailer.

And we’re s'poseda spend our long weekends traversing the many and varied trails of this wide brown land, so elect to spend more on a 4WD, even if we’ve never left a graded gravel road in the past decade or more of driving.

We buy our cars for the maybe, rather than the reality.

You do. I do. And 30,000 Ford Ranger buyers do.

But, if 2021 is going to be a global year of resetting attitudes and behaviours, and you know you are going to tow and tour to anywhere but the most extreme locations, then perhaps the 2020 Ford Ranger XLT Hi-Rider 4x2 is what would make more sense in your driveway?

It’s all the Ranger you know, in a more simplistic and cost-effective package. A way to still do everything you want, while saving weight, fuel and money in the process – an underrated option if ever there were one!

Thanks to Bayford Ford in Epping for the loan of the Ranger XLT 4x2 used for this review. They use the car as a demonstrator, but also as a parts and service delivery vehicle because you don't need a 4WD for that!

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