The Ford Transit is one of those vehicles that sell in huge numbers, but they never really catch your attention when you’re going about your day. Until, that is, you have one within an inch of your rear bumper on the highway. Apart from its ability to draft on other cars like a NASCAR racer, its versatility is what has made the Transit one of the most popular commercial vehicles in Europe for nearly 50 years, and having spent two weeks with the new one, it looks set to continue being just that.
Price and carrying capacity
The Transit panel van model comes in several combinations, coming in three different lengths, and two different roof heights – with carrying capacity starting at 932kg to 2,272kg. The Transit can be had with front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive. All models come with a 2.2-litre diesel engine, with power ranging from 100hp to 155hp. This test van is the 350 L3H2 model with front-wheel drive and the 155hp engine (385Nm of torque). The 350 stands for the 3,500kg total weight rating (2,026kg is the van's weight, 1,474kg is the van’s payload), L3 standing for the total length of the car (5,981mm), while H2 stands for the height (2,547mm when empty). Cargo space for this van is at 11.5 cubic metres. The cheapest Transit van is CHF 35,748, while this 350 L3H2 with the Trend trim starts at CHF 46,332, with other options bringing its total price to CHF 51,642.
For anyone who has never driven a van as big as this before, you might think that it will be heavy and cumbersome to drive. The contrary is true, the steering is actually quite light – with the steering wheel itself being a small car-sized item rather than the big bus-style steering wheels of vans from not so long ago. The clutch action is light too, and the gear lever (lifted from smaller Ford models) is within close reach, allowing for slick gear-changes. The ride quality is mostly quite good too, but can feel a bit unsettled when there are small imperfections on the road.
While the main controls of the Transit are just as easy to operate as in a small car, it is obviously still a big car, so you are still aware of its size when you’re navigating through narrow city streets. When you get it on more open roads or on the highway, there is so much torque from the engine that it can easily keep up with traffic. In fact, those stereotypical van drivers will find it a lot easier to be right on your tail when you’re on the highway, as it will blow past the national speed limit of 120km/h with no problem. Being tall and flat-sided, crosswinds do affect the Transit’s composure on the highway, but otherwise it’s perfectly suited to cover the many highway miles that commercial vehicles are used for.
Forward visibility is great as you’re sat high up, but rear visibility is non-existent thanks to the panels and rear bulkhead – making the rearview mirror rather redundant. The side mirrors are quite big, and the wide-angle mirrors underneath them help a lot with blind spots. You can also get parking sensors and a rearview camera, which will definitely be appreciated by drivers who had to rely on cues and good judgment to park their vans.
Service intervals and fuel economy
Commercial vehicles are mostly bought by people or businesses that have them in constant use, so the least amount of time they spend in the garage the better. With that said, they’ll probably be happy to find that the new Transit’s service intervals are set for every 50,000km or every two years – roughly three times the mileage of small petrol-powered passenger cars. Ford claims this particular transit will use 8.7l/100km in the city, 6.9l/100km on the highway, and 7.6l/100km combined.
A little comparison
Having driven a Mercedes Benz Sprinter 313 CDI on a number of occasions, it’s easier to point out some of the strong and weak points on the Transit. The Sprinter comes with the options of more powerful engines, and it can also be had with an automatic transmission whereas the Transit can’t. Also, the Sprinter has a slightly better ride quality than the Transit. But, the Sprinter only comes in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, meaning that its load floor is rather high, where as a front-wheel drive Transit allows for easier loading thanks to a lower floor. As for handling characteristics, they are both unmistakably trucks when it comes to cornering, but I would be more inclined to say that the Transit feels slightly more alert with what the driver asks from it, especially with the steering.
Just because the Transit is meant to be a workhorse, it doesn’t mean that it cant be had with several comfort features. As mentioned before, this particular van has the Trend trim package, with optional equipment including metallic paint, heated seats, parking sensors, a reverse camera, Bluetooth, USB port, cruise control, air conditioning, as well as a collision warning system.
A Transit for everyone
Millions of Transits have been sold worldwide in the half-century it’s been with us, and the new one looks set to deservingly be sold in high numbers as well. With this said, Ford has used this success and expanded its van range to four models, all of which carry the Transit name in some form. The smallest model is the Transit Courier, followed by the Transit Connect, then the Transit Custom, with the Transit being the biggest van of the range. The Transit is an easy and comfortable van to drive, and with the availability of different drivetrains, body types, and several available options, you can definitely get a Transit to fit your specific needs.
Written by Alex Kisiri