In the middle of last year, Ford decided to extend production of the Ranger beyond its expected 2009 sunset to help meet fuel efficiency targets. This year, the Ranger gets a range of upgrades to help it carry on until hopefully a redesigned model can take its place around 2011.

The upgrades focus maintaining the Ranger's strong suit (efficiency) and shoring up its weakness (safety). Safety is enhanced with a new complement of standard airbags, including combination side airbags that cover head and chest protection. A number of electronic safety aids are added as well, including AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control.

“The 2010 Ranger’s Roll Stability Control and combination side air bag technologies will help occupants stay out of harm’s way,” said Steve Kozak, chief engineer of safety systems, Ford Motor Company. “The Ranger has been America’s most fuel-efficient pickup, and now it features a combination of safety features not offered in any other small pickup.”

Other passive safety systems, such as tire pressure monitoring, and anti-theft systems, help enhance the Ranger's feature list.

With its 2.3L inline-four rated at 21mpg city and 26mpg highway, the Ranger is ass efficient as most mid-size sedans, yet it offers the functionality of the pickup - a perfect compromise for many.

Whether these relatively minor updates will be enough to entice buyers to continue choosing the Ranger or not, they are likely to help keep the truck positioned well as a value proposition.