I'll be completely honest here! I have a bare bones 2007 ford Ranger no AC, no CD, no tilt, no power anything, and 5 speed. I love it! I commuted about 50-60 km a day each way so roughly 100- 120 a day km and I still only fuel up about every 5-6 days! I'm not talking babying it down the road, I'm talking about putting my foot down and opening it up.I do my regular oil changes and tire rotation and one year and about 25,000 kms later is has yet to fail me! Again I'll be honest, you want power and size in a small truck? Get a Dakota. If you want reliablity and wicked MPG definitely get a Ranger.
Far and away the manual 5 speed feature! I just love dropping gears in this little unit and blowing by people. Comfortable ride as well.
I put mud flaps on myself and i think it made a nice improvement so maybe that. Also full size spare would be nice