Ford Transit van review
The Ford Transit features efficient engines, top notch safety tech, and a vast range of styles from panel vans to pickups
The Ford Transit celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and after five decades of successful sales the iconic panel van is still a name to be reckoned with. From its launch in 1965 the Transit van was groundbreaking, offering a more car-like driving experience than the forward control Ford Thames van it replaced. A wide range of variants was introduced too, which quickly helped Ford to corner the market for panel vans, tippers, minibuses and luton vans.
Skip forward 50 plus years and the latest Ford Transit faces tougher competition than ever before, from direct rivals like the Vauxhall Movano, Mercedes Sprinter and Citroen Relay. However Ford’s on-going investment in the model has ensured it continues to offer a huge choice of sizes, formats and configurations, helping to keep the Transit at the head of the pack. Sadly it’s not built in Britain any more, as Ford closed its Southampton factory when the last model expired and the Transit is now built in Turkey.
Ford’s complete Transit range is now up to four models, and includes the Transit Courier and Transit Connect compact vans plus the Transit Custom mid-sized panel van. Those models leave the Ford Transit free to compete in the large panel van segment, and it does so with the traditionally baffling range of bodystyles. According to Ford, there are now over 450 variants from panel vans to minibuses. Somewhere in that gargantuan line-up there should be a Transit van for everyone.
Image 3 of 14
The current Transit model was introduced in 2013, when Ford improved panel van load volumes by 10% across the range, added a raft of new technology features and made the van easier to drive. The biggest Transit Jumbo models still aren’t quite on the scale of its largest rivals, many of which offer more powerful engine options too, but the Transit’s efficiency is a match for anything out there.
MPG and Running Costs
The price of fuel being what it is, every business is keen to use as little as possible and the Transit is well up to the task. The latest range adds super-efficient ECOnetic versions that emit as little as 169g/km of CO2 and return 44mpg.
Features like Ford’s Auto-Start-Stop, regenerative braking, a gear shift indicator and acceleration control contribute to that efficiency performance but so does the latest 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel found in all Transit models. The engine brings a 6% economy improvement across the range with even the most powerful 153hp version managing 36.2mpg in the long wheelbase/high roof Jumbo model.
The drive to cut costs in this Transit wasn’t limited to the engine bay. The high-mounted lights, all-round body protection and multi-piece rear bumper were designed to minimise the chance of damage and cut the cost of repair should any mishaps occur.
Image 14 of 14
Service intervals of two years or 30,000 miles will go down well with operators as will a cut in the maintenance time needed over the first 93,000 miles from 5.4hrs in the old Transit to 4.2hrs in the new one.
Insurance costs should be competitive too, and Ford has done its bit to keep your loads and personal items safe too. Remote central locking and anti-tamper shielded locks are standards, as are doors that lock as you drive off. There are two optional alarm systems, including a basic perimeter alarm and a more sophisticated Thatcham Category 1 system.
Load Space and Practicality
The Transit range is vast. There are panel vans, chassis cabs, drop-side trucks and minibuses. The vans offer gross vehicle weights from 2.9 tonnes to 4.7 tonnes in the Transit Jumbo and load volumes from 9.6 cubic metres to 15.1 cubic metres. Some of the Transit’s rivals go up as far as 17 cubic metres so that’s one area where the Ford falls slightly short.
Ford has worked to increase the usability of the Transit’s load area too. Little features like the bright LED lighting and the tough plastic load floor covers that extend up the walls of the van help, as does the wide step cut into the rear bumper.
Image 8 of 14
The load space is more uniformly shaped than in the previous Transit so getting larger items inside should be easier. The doors open wide and there’s a handy catch inside the rear doors that releases them to open the full 180 degrees.
Reliability and Safety
Ford subjected this Transit to a rigorous testing programme that took in 680,000 miles of driving in the full range of conditions this global panel van is likely to encounter. Of that, 310,000 miles were undertaken in the hands of actual Transit customers who used the vehicle day to day and reported any issues. After all that, it certainly should be durable.
It should be safe too. Ford has fitted one of the most advanced ESC stability control systems ever seen on a van with a variety of add-on features specifically designed for commercial vehicles. Curve Control technology can brake individual wheels to keep the Transit under control if it detects the driver entering a corner too fast, Load Adaptive Roll Stability Control negates the destabilising effect of a heavy load in the back and Trailer Sway Control helps keep a wayward trailer in check.
Image 7 of 14
In addition to that high-tech safety net, all Transits also get front, side and curtain airbags. Tyre pressure monitoring, lane-keeping assist, cornering headlights and a neat reversing camera that displays a colour image in the rear-view mirror are also available.
Driving and Performance
There are three engine power options available with the Transit., all derivatives of the 2.2-litre Duratorq common-rail diesel engine. Then customers have the choice of front, rear or all-wheel-drive.
The range-topping 153hp version delivers strong performance and flexibility aided by 385Nm of torque from just 1,600rpm. But it’s worth noting that the Transit’s rivals offer more powerful engines than this. If you regularly approach your van’s payload capacity, this may be a factor.
The next rung down the ladder is the 123hp unit that delivers its maximum 350Nm at an even lower 1,450rpm. It needs to be worked harder to shift a moderately laiden Transit and there’s an increase in engine noise as a result but it should prove adequate for most users. The final power option offers 99hp and 310Nm of torque.
Refinement is generally a Transit strong point with all the engines staying very much in the background below the 3,000rpm mark. It’s the wind noise that comes through most at motorway speeds and even this is hardly intrusive.
The Transit’s suspension displays that well-oiled suppleness we’ve come to expect from Ford passenger cars. It irons out minor blemishes expertly and cushions the big jolts well too.
The driver is presented with one of the jazziest steering wheels we’ve yet seen in a panel van. It’s small, tactile, features chrome inserts on the spokes and produces similarly polished responses from the Transit.
The electrically-assisted rack and pinion helm’s light weight and accuracy work with the tight 11.9m turning circle and the impressive forward visibility to make this a very easy van to drive, even in its larger guises. The dash-mounted gearshifter is a little notchy but its slots positively into each ratio after the initial reluctance.
Cab and Interior
The Transit cab borrows heavily from Ford passenger cars in terms of design with lots of familiar switchgear dropped in. In the interests of durability Ford has upped the toughness of the plastics and the result is a very solid-feeling environment that seems built to last.
The central display screen that marshals the infotainment functions is on the small side by modern standards and the cluster of buttons below it on the dash take some mastering before simple tasks become intuitive. Bluetooth is included as standard though and the generous equipment list is evidence of how far vans have come in the user-friendliness stakes.
Image 10 of 14
Storage is pretty good with lots of options for stowing small to mid-size items but the Transit may be found lacking in areas to plonk larger stuff. It’ll have to go in the bin concealed under the passenger seat.
More importantly, the driving position seemed very comfortable and roomy, while the passenger seat too seemed a good place to sit out a long journey.
- Power: 99bhp - 153bhp
- Gross vehicle weight: 2.9 to 4.7 tonnes
- Load volume: up to 15.1m3
- Turning circle: 11.9m