James Dallas says goodbye to our small but finely-formed long-termer having spent half a year assessing its many strengths and few weaknesses
Having spent six months on our long-term fleet the Kombi version of the Ford Transit Courier did much to justify the model’s position as the 2015 What Van? of the Year.
The compact van completed the renewal of Ford’s light commercial vehicle line-up and saw the UK’s dominant van maker enter a new market segment.
The Courier fits into Ford’s LCV range between the car-derived Fiesta Van and the Transit Connect light van. It gives the brand a product to compete against the compact cubed vans created by PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat Professional, namely the Bipper, Nemo and Fiorino.
Stylish and classy in appearance, the blue oval’s baby van is the best looking of the bunch. It also boasts the widest choice of engines; While the little Peugeot and Citroen vans only have a 75hp diesel engine option, and the Fiat, as well as Mercedes’ Citan Compact – the only other small van in the segment – have 75hp or 95hp diesels, the Ford can match those two with 1.5 and 1.6-litre diesels, and also offer the 1.0-litre 100hp petrol Ecoboost alternative that’s aimed at the urban operators most likely to be employing this sort of van anyway - although Ford says this version will only take about 5% of sales.
We opted for the 1.5 75hp, five-speed manual Kombi Base model. One gripe we did have is that Ford only offers the Kombi in Base specification, which seems odd for a van that is often required to carry people as well as loads.
Another drawback for a city van was that stop/start was not fitted - it is available as a £150 option.
This less powerful diesel engine is actually also less efficient than its 95hp stablemate, returning an official 68.9mpg on the combined cycle compared to the larger unit’s 70.6mpg.
With our Kombi serving most of its time in the city, we got nowhere near this figure, averaging 45.6mpg over about 4500 miles – itself well short of the 60mpg cited by Ford for urban driving.
But the Courier excels as a versatile and dexterous load lugger – able to access the sort of nooks and crannies off limits to larger vans, even if requiring more trips to get the job done, whether taking household and garden waste to recycling centres or assisting in a house move. Having both near- and offside side-loading doors proved to be very handy too. With the seats flattened the load space increases to 1.9m3, which falls short of the 2.5m3 claimed by Fiat Professional for its rival Fiorino but still proved adequate on one occasion to seemingly defy logic by squeezing in a dismantled double bed followed by its unwieldy mattress on the return journey.
The Courier also proved its worth as a family vehicle with the rear seats back in place. There was plenty of room for the kids, the most frequent occupants, and no complaints from adults about lack of legroom either, and enough space in the load bay for all the paraphernalia such as scooters, footballs and a dog.
Comfort and ride quality is not an issue, the Courier is truly ‘car-like’ in its performance – many claim to be, most are not. Handling, like in the rest of the blue oval’s line-up, is exemplary for a light commercial vehicle.
The little van is able to weave its way nimbly through urban traffic, making light of the challenges presented by narrowed lanes, road works and temporary roundabouts, and once let off the leash on B-roads and country lanes it is a pleasure to be behind the wheel.
Ride quality is also good, meaning that driver and passengers alike arrive at the destination relaxed and fresh even after long journeys, although having six rather than five gears to choose from would have been better still. Also, with five occupants in the cab and luggage in the back our 75hp Kombi could struggle to make it up steep hills while we learnt to negotiate roundabouts in low gears to ensure we could accelerate smartly away from oncoming traffic if required. Nevertheless, the Courier is a versatile and competent all-rounder and in its natural city environment, it is pretty much the ideal compact van.
|Ford Transit Courier Kombi Base 1.5 75hp|
|Claimed combined consumption 68.9mpg|
|Our average consumption 45.6mpg|
|Price (ex VAT or options) £12,513|
|Price range (ex VAT) £11,045 - £12,445|
|Gross payload 565kg|
|Load length 1620mm|
|Load width (min/max) 1012mm/1488mm|
|Load bay height 1244mm|
|Load volume 1.9m3|
|Braked trailer towing weight 500kg|
|Loading height 547mm|
|Engine size/power 1496cc/75hp|
|Service intervals 1yr/20,000mls|
|Insurance group 3E|
|Options (ex VAT)|
|Metallic paint £360|
|Ice Pack £420|
|Auto headlamps and rain sensitive wipers £90|