First Drive: Ford Transit

Date: Monday, July 07, 2014   |  

Ford’s mass product overhaul continues with the new two-tonne Transit, the company’s biggest light commercial both in terms of size and sales volumes.
It’s fair to say this is the product in the brand’s new line-up that visually takes the most getting used to, although it’ll be such a common sight on UK roads that any initial shock will soon dissipate.
The good news is that Ford’s recent interior improvements continue, as the dashboard and key controls are all straight out of the rest of the line-up, from the Fiesta to Transit Custom. There are still a few areas of cheaper plastics, but the Transit continues the industry’s progression towards closing off the gulf between car and light commercial interiors.
While it is clearly a hefty vehicle, the Transit still handles tidily and keeps Ford’s reputation intact when it comes to having the best LCVs to drive. The mid-spec 125hp engine, sitting between 100hp and 155hp versions of the same 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel engine, is fine without being especially punchy, and those carrying heavier loads, doing higher mileage or towing will want the 155hp version, which doesn’t carry any emissions or economy deficit compared with the 125hp.
Employees and owner-
drivers who spend plenty of time in the cabin will appreciate the value in moving up from the basic spec to Trend, the higher of the two levels, although there is also the specific low-emission Econetic version. For an extra £1000 over base spec, Trend, driven here, adds a huge amount of equipment including auto lights and wipers, a heated windscreen, powered and heated folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, metallic paint, cruise control, a lockable glove box, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear lever. The front and rear parking sensors alone could be worth half the upgrade price in saved dents and scratches, and while people simply looking for a working tool will go for the cheapest option, upgrading doesn’t cost much considering the extra comfort, convenience and appeal on offer. There is a big gap between base and Trend spec, although the entry model does come with Bluetooth and USB and iPod connectivity.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox shifts nicely, and refinement is decent, and while the cabin offers various storage spots, it can’t match the Vauxhall Movano for the quantity and quality of places to put items. But the steering now adjusts for reach and rake, and there is a welcome extra 30mm of seat travel and 20mm more height adjustment to help find the most comfortable driving position.
Efficiency is improved for the current model, although the low-emission Econetic we’ll hopefully be sampling in a future issue provides the best economy thanks to a range of features designed to help efficiency, including the acceleration control system that’s standard on the Econetic and optional on the rest of the range. It stops the driver accelerating hard in an empty van, restricting the vehicle to the level of acceleration available when it’s heavily laden. Stop-start is, unfortunately, also only an option on all models apart from the Econetic, and depending on the amount of urban use and length of service a vehicle will be employed for, it may or may not be worth paying the £200 plus VAT for the fuel saving that in town-based use can amount to 5% of fuel cost.
The new Transit is a big
step forward for a light commercial that was already above the class average. Extended service intervals to two years or 20,000 miles will help running costs, as will moves to keep repair and insurance expense down,
such as high-mounted front and rear lights to avoid damage
and a multi-piece rear bumper that won’t need replacing
in its entirety if one piece requires repairs.
Ford has certainly done enough to keep drivers and operators happy, and the new two-tonne Transit is good enough to hound the Mercedes Sprinter, What Van?’s reigning Large Van of the Year.

Verdict
Excellent new Transit is up among the very best in class, but maybe doesn’t lead it the way the Transit Custom does and suffers from more divisive styling.



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