The WhatVan? Road Test: Ford Fiesta Van
Thursday, July 25, 2013
It could be seen as difficult to build a business case in favour of Ford’s Fiesta Van. Offering far easier access to a cargo area that is more sensibly shaped, competitively priced light vans such as Citroen's Nemo and Peugeot's Bipper are much more practical load carriers. The fact that Ford plans to market a Nemo/Bipper rival in the shape of the new Transit Courier – on display at the British Commercial Vehicle Show earlier this year – shows that it too has at long last recognised the potential of this design of LCV for the 21st century.
Yet the three-door hatchback- based Fiesta Van still has an appeal: and at the heart of it is the fact that it doesn't look all that much like a van. Spot it out of the corner of your eye on the next-door neighbour’s drive and you’ll assume they’ve bought a new car. Furthermore, it fits easily into a domestic garage, slots neatly into tight urban parking spaces and will not cause any difficulties when driving into a multi-storey car park.
Many other larger light commercials can do all this too, of course, but almost all have the drawback that they look like what they are. The Fiesta Van does not.
Ford launched the latest version of the smallest commercial vehicle in its range at the start of this year. Sharing the most recent changes made to the Fiesta car on which it is based, the handsome-looking, stylish newcomer features the new 75hp 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel. The other TDCi diesel on offer is a 95hp 1.6-litre with an 82hp 1.25-litre Duratec petrol engine completing the line-up. Three levels of trim are available: Base, Trend and top-of- the-range Sport. We went for a 1.6-litre Trend in low-CO2 Econetic guise.
For such a small vehicle the Fiesta Van comes with a remarkably spacious cockpit featuring impressive legroom, a trait it shares with its Vauxhall Corsavan rival.
Big doors allow easy access – most shapes and sizes can be accommodated – and the comfortable driver’s seat is height-adjustable as is the steering column. The latter can be adjusted for reach too.
The controls for the heating and ventilation system are chunky and simple to use in typical Ford van style. Oddment stowage facilities include bins in each of the doors, a glove box, a shelf in the dashboard and a deep tray between the seats, while the standard of fit and finish throughout is impressive.
Like the cab, the cargo bay is roomier than you might expect despite the fact that it only encompasses 1.0m3.
A steel bulkhead topped off by a full-height mesh grille is fitted to protect the driver and passenger from wayward loads. Thanks to four tie-down points, however, it may be possible to lash down items that might shift about.
Access to the cargo area is solely by means of a rear hatch-type door that comes with a wash/wipe system for the heated window. The load bed is protected by a tailored rubber mat while the sides are protected by a mixture of carpet and plastic mouldings.
The maximum load length is 1296mm, and maximum width is 1270mm narrowing to 1004mm between the wheel boxes. Maximum height is 806mm. Loading height is 762mm and the rear door aperture is 737mm high and 972mm wide.
Gross payload capacity is 505kg while gross weight is 1570kg. Our demonstrator was not permitted to haul a trailer, although there are other models in the Fiesta Van line-up that are.
Equipped with a fixed-geometry turbocharger, the Fiesta Van Econetic's four-cylinder common-rail engine comes with a cast aluminium cylinder head and block. Top power is delivered at 3800rpm while maximum torque of 205Nm makes its presence felt at 1750rpm. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard on all models.
Chassis and steering
The light commercial’s front suspension employs MacPherson struts while the rear is supported by a torsion beam set-up. Decorated with aerodynamic plastic trims, our test van’s 14-inch steel wheels were fitted with 175/65 R14 Michelin Energy low rolling-resistance tyres.
Electric power steering is fitted, offering a 10.2m turning circle between kerbs.
With 95hp on offer, performance is scarcely going to be an issue in a van of this size. The vehicle scoots away from rest, surges through the gears and will happily sit on the motorway at the maximum permitted speed for hours at a stretch.
It does so quietly, too – in-cab noise levels are well-suppressed – and its suspension seems well up to the task of coping with the potholes.
On the downside the gear change is not as slick as it might be and it’s a shame it’s a five- rather than six-speed ’box. The steering also feels a touch over-assisted and lacking in feedback, which spoils what we suspect would otherwise be top-notch handling. It does, however, help to make the little vehicle highly manoeuvrable and easy to park.
The Fiesta Van also feels well put together and the brakes pull you up quickly on dry surfaces.
Entertainment comes courtesy of an MP3-compatible radio/CD player with remote controls on the leather-trimmed steering wheel. It features DAB digital radio, and also fitted is the Ford Sync system. Bluetooth- enabled, it embraces Voice Control System for a hands-free phone plus Emergency Assistance, which immediately connects the driver to the emergency services if the vehicle is in a sufficiently serious collision to trigger an airbag.
Not fitted to this vehicle, but an option potentially worth considering, is Active City Stop. It automatically applies the brakes if a low-speed collision looks imminent. Another handy option is MyKey, which among other functions enables the van’s speed to be restricted.
Aux-in sockets are located between the seats and there’s a 12V power point in the same location. Electric windows and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors with a wide-angle section are included in the deal, while opting for Trend trim gets you manual air-conditioning. The heated windscreen is sure to be a boon on frosty days.
Buying and running
The van is covered by a three- year/60,000-mile warranty with roadside assistance included for the first 12 months. It is also protected by a 12-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty. Service intervals are set at one year/12,500 miles, while stop-start, a key feature of the Econetic trim, is designed to help keep fuel costs down. As is the regenerative braking package and the little light on the dashboard that indicates when to change gear. The suspension has been lowered to help make the vehicle more aerodynamic and an aerodynamic rear under-tray has been installed as well.
Ford quotes an eye-opening official combined fuel economy figure of 85.6mpg, but we were averaging much closer to a – still respectable – 60mpg. The quoted CO2 figure is 87g/km.
At least Ford's Easy Fuel system means you won't run the risk of losing the fuel cap because it is cap-less, although most fuel caps are tethered to the vehicle these days anyway. More importantly, it ensures you also won’t put in the wrong fuel.
The lack of exterior side-rubbing strips on our test van, thanks to its car roots, increases the chances of picking up minor scratches and dings.
All new light commercials offer a remarkably high standard of safety these days and the Fiesta Van is no exception. It comes with an all-embracing package that includes ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Stability Programme, Hill-Start Assist and Traction Assist. If things do go badly wrong, however, then the driver and passenger airbags will provide some protection.
Front fog lamps, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and automatic headlamps are all included.
Hitting a button on the dashboard automatically locks all the doors, while remote central locking from the key fob gives you the choice of locking and unlocking every door on the vehicle or just the rear hatch. The doors also lock themselves again should you unlock them then wander away from your van to do something else.
The van is also equipped with Ford's PATS (Passive Anti-Theft System) engine immobiliser, and a highly visible VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
Fuel-efficient, well-equipped and not lacking in performance. Not the cheapest model in its sector, but a great little light commercial van that’s a lot of fun.
It’s been around as long as the car version
The three-door Fiesta Van has been around as long as the first Fiesta car, which made its debut in 1976. Back in 1999 the van took 65.5% of its sector of the market, but in recent times it has come under pressure from purpose-built light vans such as the Citroen Nemo and Fiat Fiorino. Interestingly, in 1991 Ford introduced just such a vehicle called the Courier – a name that is to grace a new van designed along similar lines – but that disappeared in 2002 with the arrival of the beefier Transit Connect.
The Fiesta Van disappeared from the Ford line-up for two years a decade ago but came back strongly with customers offered the choice of a 70hp 1.3-litre petrol engine or a 68hp 1.4-litre common-rail diesel. The 1.4-litre continued in the new Fiesta Van, the predecessor of the current model. Although the 1.4-litre has been replaced by a 1.5-litre, many of the features to be found on the 2008 van – the EasyFuel cap-less refuelling system, for instance – have been carried over.