Determined to cover all the bases, Ford is busy slotting a new model into its range that fills the gap between the Fiesta Van and the bottom end of the Transit Connect line-up.
By introducing the new, front-wheel drive Transit Courier, based on the B-max car platform, it is primarily throwing down a challenge to Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat, which have colonised this territory with the Bipper (one of the silliest names ever for a van), Nemo (nearly as silly) and Fiorino respectively. All three share the same basic design and are the fruits of a joint venture between PSA – Peugeot and Citroen’s parent – and Fiat.
At the same time, Ford is taking a sideswipe at Mercedes and the compact version of the Citan, which is, of course, based on Renault’s Kangoo, although poor sales prompted the French manufacturer to drop its compact Kangoo sometime back.
Maybe, too, Ford has an eye on the possible resurgence of the microvan. With China’s DFSK the sole manufacturer offering one in Britain, such a revival admittedly seems somewhat unlikely and sales of its Loadhopper are by no means huge. However, it cannot be ruled out given China’s continued desire to conquer Western export markets.
We opted to sample a Courier in Trend trim – entry-level Base is the alternative – powered by the 95hp 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine. Also available are a 75hp 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel and the award-winning 100hp 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine. It is worth noting that Ford’s newcomer is also sold as a Kombi with a second row of seats and rear glazing.
Ford has managed to pack a lot into a modest – though by no means uncomfortable – space that mirrors the styling of the bigger Transits.
Oddment storage facilities include a capacious lockable glove box, a bin in each door with a cup-holder apiece, a deep tray between the two front seats that will hold an A4 clipboard with two more cup-holders close by and (on Trend models) a full-width shelf above the windscreen. Look under the Trend passenger seat and you will find a useful drawer, while a slot for small change is positioned just ahead of the gear stick.
The steering column is rake- and reach-adjustable and the driver’s seat in Trend variants is fitted with a nearside armrest, a lumbar support and can be altered for height.
Rear access to the 2.3m3 load bay is by means of twin asymmetric doors – the narrower of the two is on the offside – with easy-to-release stays should you wish to push them through their maximum 158º. Trend trim gives you a sliding nearside door too. A full-height steel bulkhead should stop cargo with a mind of its own sliding forwards into the cab, but the way in which it bulges backwards into the load compartment slightly obscures the side door aperture.
Half-a-dozen cargo tie-down points are fitted, but a few sound-deadening panels represent the only protection against minor scratches and scrapes. Prospective purchasers may have to give serious consideration to ply-lining the entire load area or protecting the floor with a tailored rubber mat at the very least.
With a wheelbase of just under 2.5m, maximum load length is 1620mm. Maximum height is 1244mm while maximum width is 1488mm narrowing to 1012mm between the wheel boxes. Maximum loading height is 547mm.
The rear door aperture is 1100mm high and 1103mm wide. Dimensions for the side door aperture are 1044mm and 453mm respectively.
Grossing at 1795kg, our test van could handle a gross payload of 660kg and haul a trailer – braked or unbraked – grossing at 500kg.
The Courier’s four-cylinder eight-valve common-rail direct-injection 1.6-litre engine comes with an alloy cylinder head and is turbocharged and intercooled. Maximum power makes its presence felt at 3750rpm while top torque of 215Nm bites at 1750rpm.
You get a five-speed manual gearbox as standard whichever engine you opt for, and there were times on the motorway when we longed for a six-speed, but five was just fine when we were on urban and rural runs.
Chassis and steering
Independent suspension with MacPherson struts helps support the Courier’s nose while the rear of the vehicle is equipped with a semi-independent twisting axle, dampers and dual-rate springs. Our test van’s 15-inch alloy wheels – a £300 option, and all prices quoted here exclude VAT – were shod with 195/60R15 Conti Premium Contact 2 tyres.
Electric power-assisted steering offers a 10.5m kerb-to-kerb turning circle, expanding to 10.9m wall-to-wall.
If you’re after a nippy urban runabout, then look no further. With aggressive acceleration and a high degree of manoeuvrability, the Transit Courier can easily cope with big city traffic, and a slick gearshift means Ford’s latest offering can be halfway down the road before other drivers have realised that the traffic lights have turned green. To those virtues can be added sharp and predictable handling.
On the downside, the ride can be a bit choppy, although no worse than that of similarly sized vans, and wind noise and road roar can be intrusive; so can engine noise if the van is allowed to idle.
Our Trend demonstrator boasted electric windows, electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, a DAB radio/CD player with Bluetooth connectivity and voice control, aux-in and USB sockets and a 12V power point in the cargo bay. We additionally benefited from air-conditioning for an extra £400 and an ultra-bright LED load area light for a somewhat less wallet-busting £40.
Buying and running
Service intervals are set at one-year/20,000 miles and the vehicle is protected by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty, including roadside assistance in the first year, plus a 12-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty.
Ford cites an ultra-frugal official combined fuel consumption figure of 70.6mpg. We didn’t do quite that well, but we were certainly averaging upwards of 60mpg, a respectable figure for a brand-new van. CO2 emissions are set at 105g/km. Regenerative braking is included in the deal, which helps keep diesel usage down, but auto stop-start is a cost option Side rubbing strips helped protect our Courier’s £300 metallic paint finish.
A minor point but a nonetheless important one is the fact that the release catch beneath the bonnet is conspicuously marked, which makes opening easy once you have pulled the lever in the cab. As a consequence, there is no fumbling about under the bonnet’s edge trying to find it and trapping your fingers in the process.
Disc brakes are fitted at the front with drums installed at the back, and electronic stability control is standard. So are ABS, roll-over mitigation, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, emergency brake warning, traction control and hill-start assist. And if it all goes wrong then the driver’s airbag will hopefully come to the rescue.
The doors can be locked and unlocked by hitting a button on the dashboard or by employing remote central locking
Opt for Trend trim and you get front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers and Ford Sync with Emergency Assist, which will help alert the emergency services if you are in a serious collision. Sync additionally includes Ford’s Eco Mode driver information system.
Reversing sensors will set you back a further £150.
A well thought-out and well-built little package, the launch of which means that Ford has almost all the bases covered