AA DRIVEN COTY 2022 overall winner: Ford Ranger is the best new vehicle of the year

David Linklater
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The Ford Ranger is the overall winner of the 2022 AA DRIVEN New Zealand Car of the Year. It’s a potentially controversial decision in an increasingly complex new-vehicle market, and it was a very close decision between our top three vehicles – the closest-ever in the history of our COTY competition.

And yet, the case for Ranger is also very clear: the key thing any COTY must do is move its segment forward in design, technology and quality. Ford’s new ute does that better than any other COTY contender and that’s why it wins. Simple. The Ranger has redefined the one-tonne ute segment for Kiwi buyers.

Ford workshopped the design and engineering of the new Ranger with more than 5000 customers around the world before the big decisions were made, and it shows.

It looks sensational inside and out. It’s packed with active safety equipment and brilliant to drive thanks a broader range of engines and wider tracks: the biturbo 2.0-litre has been mainstreamed, bringing improved power and better economy to more of the lineup, but there are also exciting new V6 options (turbo diesel for the Sport, twin-turbo petrol for Raptor) and a full-time AWD system that gives a real boost to Ranger’s on-road credentials. Off-road, it’s better than ever.

Real-world customer input is also evident in smart features like the large portrait infotainment screen, the “box step” to help with tray access and a tailgate-integrated workbench.

Watch the whole COTY show on Zooming with DRIVEN

The elephant in the room is the Government’s Clean Car programme, which aims to push electrified vehicles to the fore. It continues to be a focus for DRIVEN, too: we have three dedicated Clean Car COTY categories and of the other eight, if you exclude Ranger (the LCV winner, naturally) all but two of the winning models are electrified.

Is the Ford out of step with modern priorities? Honestly, no. Ranger and its ilk are still relevant to more new-vehicle buyers than ever. At the time of writing, the Ford remains NZ’s top-selling new vehicle (followed by another ute, the Toyota Hilux), a position it has held since 2015. Even in a world of Clean Car feebates, Kiwis want and need pickup trucks more than ever.

Globally, it’s well known that Ford is working on an electrified Ranger. But in an international media conference earlier this year, the company also emphasised that the internal combustion engine (ICE) is still key to its international media group (IMG) markets outside the US, Europe and China – which includes NZ. Diesel/petrol for Ranger isn’t going away; if anything, it will expand.

Food for thought from Trevor Worthington, vice president of ICE programmes for Ford: “[These] customers have unique requirements, whether that’s off-road, whether it’s family travel over long distances, [or] whether it’s commercial vehicles that need to tow at higher speeds.”

Ranger raises the bar on everything a ute is supposed to do - work or lifestyle - and so much more besides. Note that while we’ve driven the hero Raptor model in Australia, this award is based mainly on the mainstream turbo-diesel Ranger lineup because that’s what we’ve tested here in NZ. We’ll get to local evaluation of the Raptor in 2023… and we can’t wait.

ENGINES: 2.0-litre single or biturbo diesel, 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6
POWER: 125kW/405Nm, 154kW/500Nm, 184kW/600Nm, 292kW/583Nm
GEARBOX: 6-speed or 10-speed automatic, 2WD, part-time 4WD or full-time AWD
CONSUMPTION: 7.6l/100km-11.5l/100km
PRICE: $47,490-$92,990


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