I have the 4 cylinder engine with a 5 speed manual transmission. Take off is slow, but once in 3rd gear it will start moving out. I use this as a daily driver as well as "work" truck around the farm. For what it sacrifices in power it more thenm makes up with gas mileage. I don't abuse it, but like a Timex, it takes a beating and keeps on ticking.
I loved my ranger, but the previous owner didn't take good care of it. That being said, it was quite reliable for the year and was a great commute vehicle. It's a great trick for someone who wants both a trick and halfway decent gas mileage. I would definitely buy another one, but if want a six cylinder in a newer year.
I almost didn't buy this truck, as it had a lot of miles on it. After a lengthy test drive, the truck felt solid, shifted nice, and drove very well, so I did buy. I've had it for some time now (a few months - actually it's my winter beater/rainy day driver), and it's just passed over 250,000 miles. The 2.3 liter engine uses no oil between oil changes, and makes no funny noises. It's a little short on power, but it's more than made up for that with it's relentless reliability. I see these trucks everywhere, and they are, figuratively speaking, a dime a dozen. I looked at Toyota, but they resale they hold is insane, which I'm told is due to the longevity of their engines. I know I haven't owned it for an extended amount of time (years), but I would say, money spent, the four cylinder Ranger is as good, or better than the, incredibly overpriced Toyota's out there.
I bought this truck 2 years ago. I knew it needed a slave cylinder just didn't realize it was inside the tranny. So I had a mechanic buddy do it and replace the clutch and rear main seal while he was at it. Has run great since. Only problem is the A/C. It wasn't working when I got it. Found a big hole in the condenser and then it worked for a couple days but then sprung a new leak in another line with the new found pressure. This seems to be a pretty common problem. Engine runs great for its age. I see a ton of these on the road
I purchased my 1997 Ranger XLT Flareside in 2003 with about 60,000 miles. 5 speed manual. It now has 198,000 miles.
The only time I had any trouble that prevented me from running was around 120,000 when the alternator went out. That was an easy repair.
Other issues: Replaced original clutch two years ago around 175,000 miles. Instrument cluster lights started going out around 150,000 and are all out now. I haven't seen a way to get to them besides taking apart the dash. Door chime issue hasnt' been solved, but I haven't spent time on it. I believe now the fuel injectors need to be replaced.
Manual transmission, good low end.
Even I can change the oil myself.
Handles good enough even in the snow (add extra wt. over rear axle and slow down).
Runs well on highway.
So far has always started and run with one exception above.
If Ford could produce this exact model again (I wish they would), chase away the electrical ghosts.
Figure out a way to keep the radiator support panel from rusting out.