Though often overlooked in favor of its competitors and overshadowed by its bigger brother, the Ford Ranger enjoys its share of the compact-pickup-truck segment. Still in its fourth generation, having been introduced in 1998, the Ranger has received minor updates and changes every few years. The 2008 Ford Ranger's story stays much the same.

The Ranger is available in four models -- XL, XLT, Sport, and FX4 -- and in two- or four-door configurations. Engine choices remain the same, with a 2.3L four producing 143 hp, and 3.0L and 4.0L V-6s making 148 and 207 hp, respectively. Four-wheel-drive is an option on all trim lines, but available only with the V-6 engines. And if you can't fit all your toys in the available 7-ft bed -- the only one that long in the segment -- chances are you can tow them, as capacity is a maximum of 6000 lb.

Options, though varying by trim, include a limited-slip Torsen differential, a payload package that includes rear springs with increased rates and heavy-duty gas shocks, a Class III hitch, and a Pioneer 290-watt MP3 stereo system. The topline FX4 trim comes equipped already with heavy-duty Ranchero shocks, skidplates, and bucket seats, which are new to the model as standard items.

Ford claims that a newly revised front bumper makes the 2008 model more fuel-efficient than last year's model, however, research on, a Web site of the Environmental Protection Agency, shows that this change only affects 2WD Rangers equipped with the 2.3L engine and a manual transmission. In 2007, this combination was good for 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. According to the EPA, a similarly equipped 2008 Ranger will get 21 and 26 mpg, respectively. Still, the Ranger is the most fuel-efficient truck in its class.

Following an industry-wide requirement from the U.S. Government and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all Ranger models for 2008 are equipped with tire-pressure-monitoring systems. Ford has also extended service intervals to 7500 miles in an attempt to lower the Ranger's cost of ownership.

We recently reported that the Ranger, which was thought to be on the way out in 2009, may now hang on until 2011, when an as-yet unnamed replacement arrives. So expect the little Ford that could to soldier on for the foreseeable future, especially now that Ford will no doubt push its title as the most fuel-efficient truck on the market.

2008 Ford Ranger
Base Price $14,490-$23,080
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD and AWD, 2-5-pass, 2-4-door truck
Engine 2.3L/143-hp/154-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.0L/148-hp/180-lb-ft OHV 12-valve V-6; 4.0L/207-hp/238-lb-ft SOHC 12-valve V-6
Transmission 5-speed manual; 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 3030-3668 lbs (mfr)
Wheelbase 111.5 - 125.9 in
Length x width x height 188.9-203.6 x 69.3-71.3 x 66.2-67.7 in
Headroom, f/r 39.2-39.7/33.3 in
Legroom, f/r 42.4/39.3 in
Shoulder room, f/r 52.7/19.4 in
Towing capacity 1580-5860 lbs
EPA City/Hwy Econ 14-21/17-26 mpg
CO2 Emissions 0.84-1.28 lb/mile