I bought my truck to serve as a "chore" vehicle so I could quit carrying things back from Home Depot in the car. I bought it from one of the Ford special sales for $10,950. 4 cylinder/5 speed stick A/C and radio. Very much a base XL. As it turned out I use it everyday and it is my primary work truck/transportation. I drive from Dallas to Austin every Monday and after working my contract for the week, I drive back Friday night. I have grown to like this truck very much. I get between 26 and 30 mpg week in and week out doing 70 to 80 mph hwy. It does all I ask and when I spill a coke or knock over the fries I just hose it out when I get home. And I still haul stuff for my wife from Home Depot weekends.
I put a shell on the back and that made a big difference. Economy. General handling, once you get used to the darty steering. Reliability.
Find a way to add a little more padding in the base model seats. Slow down the steering response. A red line on the tach would be nice. Some storage space in the center arm rest would be good too.
If you need a full-size pick-up to haul big loads, then the Ford Ranger isn't for you. But if you want a fun, fuel efficient little pickup with moderate hauling ability then look no further. My Ranger gets about 24-26 mpg, in mixed highway/city driving. Being in a warm climate, I run the AC quite a bit and of course that reduces mpg. I have automatic transmission on mine and I enjoy driving this truck a lot. I would recommend this truck to a friend if they were looking for a truck that's inexpensive, looks good and is fuel efficient. This is my first Ford vehicle, but I suspect it's not going to be my last, or my last Ranger either.
True crewcab configuration and the option of a small-block V-8 would be nice. They offer a real 4-door in Mexico and South America, why not here at home?
"Minimal at best". Most irritating is that for 2005/6 Ford removed the rear wheel well splash shields to save a buck and now on wet roads the wheels throw water, road oil, spilled chemicals etc. up through the seam under the lip of the bed rail and into the bed - with a shell on the back everything inside still gets wet. Once again Ford has found it acceptable to lower the overall quality to save about three dollars in plastic. I have to wonder what other corners were cut. I remember when car makers would make improvements every year. Shifting linkage is clunky and the 4 cylinder engine vibrates more than most. Also the bed does not 'fit' the width of the 2 door cab and looks awkward.
The price was right - but you get what you pay for.
Focus on providing an economical quality product and stop 'cheapening' existing ones by de-engineering them to save a buck. My personal improvement will be to buy Japanese again.