Another year, another Ford winning our Van of the Year title, but this time it’s the Transit Courier succeeding the Transit Custom as recipient of our top prize.
The Courier is the final instalment of Ford’s new product push that saw the Ranger arrive in early 2012, then the Transit Custom at the end of that year, and the Transit Connect, 2.0- tonne large Transit and the Transit courier in 2014.
And it’s the Courier that has impressed us most. The little van is, contradictorily, a re-entry into new territory for Ford because although it hasn’t previously competed in the baby van segment, it has used the Courier name before, on car-derived delivery vehicles dating back to the 1950s and most recently on the Fiesta-based box van discontinued in 2002.
This Courier is designed to tap into the market operated in by the jointly developed Citroen Nemo, Fiat Fiorino and Peugeot Bipper triplets launched in 2007.
A good-looking, stylish and classy little van, the Transit Courier is a different proposition to the car- derived Fiesta Van that continues in the range. The Courier is targeted at downsizers in a climate where users are ever more conscious of the loads they carry, and their volume and payload requirements. Fewer companies are now taking on vehicles bigger than they need, and that emphasis has seen firms plump for smaller van that can adequately serve their business. Still a boxy, cube design, the Courier offers 2.4m3 of load area, compared with the 2.5m3
of the rival triplets and 0.6m3 shy of the Transit Connect that sits above it in the range. But Ford is claiming best-in-class loadspace, and while it refuses to outright question the accuracy of its rivals’ space figures, it cryptically says it found some “interesting” results when comparing them with the Courier’s, and is comfortable with its class-leading claims.
Payloads are in the same ballpark as the Franco-Italian rivals’ 660kg, with the 75hp diesel Courier matching that figure, the 95hp diesel 5kg shy, and the Ecoboost petrol model a further 10kg below. a full-height, full-width steel bulkhead is standard, either glazed or unglazed, and a handy option is the folding mesh variety that, for £200, includes a folding passenger seat and bulkhead that folds around the driver to extend load length by nearly a metre to 2591mm. Six tie-down points, including four wall-mounted ones to keep the load floor clear, are included in the load area, and that load space will take a Europallet. LED lighting, as seen on the larger Ford commercial vehicles, is also a handy £40 optional extra for anyone intent on working within their vehicle. a single sliding side- load door is standard on the higher Trend trim level, and a second can be added for £175.
The engine line-up is one area that helps the Courier stand out against its rivals. While the Peugeot and Citroen baby vans only have a 75hp diesel engine option, and the Fiat plus Mercedes’ Citan Compact – the only other small van in the segment – have 75hp or 95hp diesels, the Ford can match those two, and also offer a 100hp petrol alternative that’s aimed at the urban operators most likely to be employing this sort of van anyway. There’s been a recent backlash against diesels in cities because of the increased local air pollution, plus the inconvenient and potentially costly characteristic of diesel particulate filters becoming blocked if the vehicle doesn’t get frequent higher-speed runs to clear the soot from the filter. Given that the Ecoboost petrol model is also the most powerful of the three engines, the £400 saving over the lower- powered 75hp diesel will pay for a lot of fuel, even if it is 16.6mpg less efficient. For lower-mileage users, the Ecoboost petrol really is the one to consider, especially as it’s a great little engine that, in the car range it originated in, has won numerous engine of the year awards.
In another move that should have users thinking carefully about how to use the vehicle, the 95hp model is actually more efficient than its less powerful colleague, so higher-mileage users may consider the extra £400 to get an additional 20hp well worth it, considering
it brings an extra 1.7mpg on the official figures. That takes it to 70.6mpg, well clear of its tiny van rivals. The power difference is also noticeable, and will be appreciated by any user carrying maximum payload or making inter-urban trips.
These fuel figures don’t take into account the stop-start system that’s disappointingly not standard- fit, but for £150 increases the official fuel economy figures by 2.0mpg on the Ecoboost petrol engine, by 3.5mpg on the 75hp 1.5 diesel, and by 3.7mpg on the 95hp diesel engine. a 62mph speed limiter is also available on the top diesel engine, adding another official 2.0mpg for £60, although other speed limiters are available and set for 70 or 56 miles per hour.
The range is logically laid out, with £400 steps from Ecoboost petrol to 75hp 1.5-litre diesel engine, and, in the higher trim level only, from the lower-powered diesel to the 95hp 1.6 alternative. There’s also a £600 step from Base to Trend specification, with that extra cost adding, among other things, wheel covers for the 15-inch steel wheels, front fog lights, body- coloured wing mirrors and door handles, single side-load door, auto lights and wipers, electric heated door mirrors, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumber support, an admittedly flimsy overhead stowage shelf, trip computer, and stowage drawer under the driver’s seat. There’s a lot of kit for the extra £600, and it’s well worth the upgrade for owner- drivers in particular, as well as any larger business that has concerns about staff welfare and happiness, particularly drivers spending large amounts of time behind the wheel. The Base model does, though, come with Bluetooth, DAB radio, central locking, four-way adjustable driver’s seat and manual windows.
Notable items from the options list include rear parking sensors (£150), a load floor cover (£30), air-conditioning (£400) and 15-inch alloy wheels for £300.
The interior across Ford’s new LCV range has proven to be a big strength, and the Transit Courier is no exception. From behind the wheel there’s no reason not to mistake it for a Fiesta car, and the quality and user-friendliness is a step above rival vehicles. It’s also practical, with a large centre console designed to take A4 documents or laptops and tablets, and the device dock feature designed to centrally mount and charge smartphones or navigation systems within easy reach and view of the driver.
The same quality is true of the driving experience. although not the characteristic that is most likely to cement a buying decision, it’s nice to see that Ford’s reputation and pedigree for fine-handling vehicles does follow through to its smallest light commercial.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a Kombi version with a second row of seats, as well as
a courier Tourneo model not sold in the UK that’s a proper passenger vehicle. The Kombi Courier costs £968 more than the regular courier van, and is only available in the entry Base spec and the 75hp diesel engine.
The Transit Courier is basically the complete package. admittedly slightly more expensive than the Citroen/Fiat/ Peugeot competition, that price difference is made up in terms of running costs and future residual value, and the courier’s efficiency, interior quality, style and practicality makes it a worthy What Van? 2015 Van of the Year.
Did you know?
Ford has forecast that the Transit courier powered by the 1.0-litre ecoboost petrol engine will account for 5% of sales.
Small Van of the Year: Ford Transit Courier
It’ll be no surprise to hear that our Van of the Year has also scooped the Small Van of the Year title, bumping down the Fiesta Van that was victorious in 2014.
The Small Van of the Year category is unusual as it combines both car-derived vans such as the Fiesta Van, Vauxhall Corsavan and Fiat Punto Van, as well as baby box vans such as the Courier, Citroen Nemo, Fiat Fiorino, Peugeot Boxer and Mercedes-Benz Citan Compact.
The Courier has breathed new life into the segment, offering a combination of practicality, quality, efficiency and style not before offered, and it’s easy to recommend as our Small Van of the Year
Highly Commended: Ford Fiesta Van
The Fiesta Van’s strengths lie along with those of the passenger car version it is based on. Good-looking, efficient, great to drive and with, in van terms, an attractive interior, the Fiesta Van offers something appealing to users that don’t necessarily want a commercial vehicle parked in front of their house or office.
Available with a choice of Base or Trend trim levels, each offered with 82hp petrol or 75hp diesel engines, or the 95hp 1.6 diesel in ultra-efficient 85.6mpg Econetic or styling Sport forms, the Fiesta Van is the most efficient light commercial vehicle on the market in Econetic form, adding another strength to a cracking all-round package.