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Face of the future

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First things first, let’s get some facts out there… Despite its appearance and the American manufacturer’s badge, this van isn’t actually American at all.

It has, however, been designed with the American buyer in mind – just look at that brash grille if you are in doubt – but it comes with an engine that has been designed, engineered and manufactured at the Ford’s increasingly prosperous Dagenham factory and a body penned by designers working for Ford in the UK and Europe. Admittedly the Transit is no longer made in the

UK, a bitter pill to swallow for some, but our loss is Turkey’s gain and the net result is a van the working man can still afford.

While this is the next generation of Transit van for the UK, this Transit is also replacing the Ford E-Series, a vehicle as every bit as iconic on the star spangled side of the Atlantic as the half century old van is here – and in a market far greater than our own. That makes it a massively important vehicle for Ford, and every effort has gone in to making it as best as they can.

One thing still in keeping with the Transit of old is its versatility, which has long been the key to the Transit’s success, and the new model line-up has no less than 450 variants. There are an impressive seven different nominal gross vehicle weights between 2.9 tonnes and 4.7 tonnes, giving a payload range of 898kg to 2,281kg. The four body lengths and three roof heights offer load volumes from 9.6m³ up to 15.1m³. Expect a payload of between 1,100kg and 1,300kg on the core 3.5 tonne GVW models.

A single engine powers all these permutation, the reputable 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Driveline variety comes in the shape of three different configurations (FWD, RWD, AWD) and three power ratings.

The Transit is available from the factory as a panel van, kombi, minibus or chassis cab, and Ford also offers conversions as part of the One Stop range with tipper, curtainsider and dropside models produced by VFS in Southampton.

Driveline

The good news for patriotic van drivers dismayed by closure of the Transit plant in Southampton in 2013 is that at least the engine is made at Ford’s Dagenham factory.

The 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi engine is offered in three power ratings in this Transit,  referenced by Ford in PS as 100PS, 125PS and 155PS (99hp, 123hp, 153hp). Peak power arrives at 3,500rpm in each case. 

The 100PS rating gives maximum torque of 310Nm across a broad speed range, stretching from just 1,300rpm right up to 2,100rpm. Torque output steps up to 350Nm in the 125PS rating but the peak plateau is rather narrower, from 1,450rpm to 2,000rpm. The 155PS rating offers 385Nm but higher up the engine-speed range, between 1,600rpm and 2,300rpm. All three ratings meet the Euro-5b+ emissions standard, rather than the forthcoming Euro-6.

The most fuel-efficient Econetic models have integrated start-stop technology, low rolling resistance tyres and gear-shift indicators as standard. The best official combined fuel economy figure is 44.1mpg – marginally less than equivalent current batch of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter BlueEfficiency models. The best Econetic’s official official CO2 rating is 169g/km. Fuel efficiency for the standard models (non-Econetic) is claimed to be 6% better than the previous generation of Transit.

Although the engine does get a little noisy – for a quieter driving experience the Sprinter is a better bet – engine-speed at 70mph in sixth gear is moderate at around 1,900rpm, so it never gets tiresome.

Steel wheels are fitted as standard across all Transit models, with the predominant wheel size being 16-inches. A range of summer and winter tyres can also be specified from the factory.

 

 

Productivity

There are three load lengths (ranging from 3,083mm to 4,256mm), spread across two wheelbases, and two roof heights (1,886mm to 2,025mm). Load volumes have increased by around 10% model-on-model, but with the Transit maxing out at 15.1m³, even the biggest van is still around 2m³ smaller than key competitors and over 4m³ down on the Iveco’s biggest new Daily. Comparisons in term of loadbed length are better, with up to 4.2m available on the longest model. There is 1,392mm between the wheelarches of the single-wheel models and 1,154mm in twin rear wheel variants. Two height options give internal heights of 1.89m and 2.13m.

Measuring in at 5.5m in length, our test vehicle a L2H2 Transit in Trend trim, is the smallest of the new large Transits and as such, only permits a 10m3 load volume. With a maximum load length of 3,044mm, internal width of 1,784mm and a loadspace height of 1,886mm it is only slightly bigger than the largest L2H2 Transit Custom (2,922mm x 1775mm x 1778mm) but dwarfs the medium-sector van with its overall size and stature.

A single side loading door comes as standard on all Transit models and its 1,300mm aperture is the best on the market. Rear doors open to 180-degrees, but 270-degree hinges can also be specified on long-wheelbase and jumbo models. A step, which is integrated into the rear bumper as standard, will make loading into the already low cargo area (695mm unladen) much easier. Tie down points are located along the floor, with two above the wheel arches, providing a total of eight lashing points in the van. Most notably in the loadspace of Trend vehicles there is half height plywood panelling (full height is a further option) and PVC protective floor lining. Ultra-bright LED lights can be specified as an option over standard lights.

Model Wheelbase (mm) Length (mm) Width (mm) Height (mm) Loadspace Length (mm) Loadspace Width (mm) Loadspace Height (mm) Volume (m3) Payload (kg)
L1H1 3,300 5,531 2,474 2,550 3,044 1,392 1,886 9.5 920-1,335
L1H2 3,300 5,531 2,474 2,789 3,044 1,392 2,125 11.2 898-1,313
L2H1 3,750 5,981 2,474 2,550 3,494 1,392 1,886 11.5 1,071-1,482
L2H2 3,750 5,981 2,474 2,789 3,494 1,392 2,125 13.0 1,045-1,455
L3H2 3,750 6,704 2,474 2,789 4,217 1,392 2,125 15.1 1,115-2,281

 

Cab Comfort

The first thing you notice in the cab is the great visibility and spaciousness that the Transit has to offer. There is ample legroom for not only the driver but also nearside and centre-seat passengers. One notable omission is the lack of a rest for the driver’s left foot but at least there is plenty of space under and around the foot pedals for large, booted feet. It is easy to get comfortable thanks to an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support. The steering column too is adjustable for both reach and height.  

The dashboard, which mimics Ford’s car range, is very neat and stylish with gadgets such as steering wheel-mounted controls and Bluetooth standard across the range. Other standard features on all models include electric windows, a full steel bulkhead and DAB digital radio with USB/auxiliary ports for playing music from an external source. Satellite navigation and air conditioning are both available as optional extras.. Automatic light sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, heated front windscreen and parking sensors are all included over the Base entry level model as part of the higher specification Trend level trim.

There is certainly no shortage of storage space throughout the cabin, with a full-width overhead shelf and even a hidden compartment within the passenger bench – which can also be specified as a single seat.  There are cup-holders for both driver and passenger, as well as two large pockets suitable for 2-litre water bottles. The usual small trays and cubby-holes for coins and pens have been kept to a minimum, with just one rubber-lined compartment to the left of the steering controls. The driver has a large covered storage box in the area above the dials. There are two 12volt sockets;  one in the centre of the dash, the other niftily placed in the covered storage box so that valuable electrical items can be re-charged out of sight.

The glovebox, which is large enough for a number of A4-sized folders, comes without a lock as standard on Base specification models, but a lockable compartment is available as an option and standard on Trend vans.As with each of the new Ford vans, the Transit is very well put together. Seat materials are smart and appear reassuringly durable, while plastics seem sturdy and relatively scratch resistant. There is a tasteful variety in their colour and texture. Trend specification vans get a covering of leather around the steering wheel and gearshift knob.

The Transit interior looks a lot more modern than the previous model. The display has clearer digital readouts, switching from black text to a brighter blue, while the instruments are back light at night with a more eye-friendly blue light. Steering wheels have been re-sculpted for improved ergonomics and controls are both better placed and of a higher quality.

On The Road

The steering is now more direct and responsive

The new chassis is slightly lower and stiffer than the older one, which means the vehicle demonstrates very little in the way of body roll. Ride comfort is smooth and certainly above average for a vehicle of this size, while the steering has been improved measurably to make it more direct and responsive. Smaller Transit vans have always felt agile and in tune with the road, but the larger models, which this Transit replaces, were more cumbersome and harder work to drive. That has been changed, and the large Transit now matches the dynamism of the smaller, mid-sized Transit Custom.

The six-speed transmission may not get full marks for usability and smoothness – it is a little notchy and requires a firm hand to find each gear – the high overall gearing makes light work of motorway driving, reducing cab noise and improving  fuel efficiency.

The 125PS and 155PS engines perform similarly in terms of their ability to pull away cleanly from a standstill, with both ratings pulling a fully laden van easily and quickly between gear changes.  The 100PS version obviously has less to offer but the broad spread of torque gives good flexibility. Although its peak power is at 3,500rpm, you get almost 90% of that – and all the torque – at 2,000rpm so there is little point straying above that. In contrast, the 155PS engine encourages more liberal use of the throttle because at 2,000rpm you have only around 70% of the maximum power. Upping engine speed to 2,300rpm gives you 82% of the available power and is at the top end of the torque plateau.

 

Safety

In addition to all round disc brakes, the new Transit offers a whole range of safety systems like ESP, ABS, Hill Start Assist, Emergency Brake Warning, and Electronic Dynamic Cornering Control to name a few. Load Adaptive Control also some as standard, and adjusts the Electronic Stability Control according to the overall weight of your van to ensure control and stability whether your vehicle is empty or fully loaded. A driver airbag is standard, but passenger and pillar airbags are also available as a cost option.

An Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) system is standard, working in tandem with ABS to achieve maximum braking effort in an emergency situation. The system senses how much pressure has been applied to the brakes and automatically increases it if necessary. In addition, new Hydraulic Rear Boost provides additional brake pressure on the rear brakes during an emergency stop, when the ABS system is activated to reduce stopping distances.

Following on from its passenger cars, Ford has fitted capless refuelling to the Transit,  claimed to make filling easier and cleaner and reducing the chance of misfuelling.

The new model has also undergone a series of extreme strength tests to ensure the vehicle would behave safely and in a predictable manner after severe impacts. Real world tests were conducted on the new Transit for the first time, with one particular test involving striking a 150mm high kerb at 30mph.

Cost of Ownership

Ford has revamped its commercial dealer network with 110 specialist Transit Centres being rolled out across the UK. The move coincided with the launch of its new range of Transit vehicles, but also the Transit24 aftercare service, using dedicated light commercial vehicle technicians to carry out servicing.

Transit gets a 36 month warranty over 100,000 miles and requires servicing every two years or 30,000 miles, with a reduction in the average servicing time of more than 25% – that’s around 30 minutes quicker. In an effort to banish any negatives from the past, Ford also covers the Transit with a 12-year anti-perforation warranty – that’s rust to you and me.
Whole vehicle life cost should be significantly reduced with much improved residual values. Glass’s Guide estimates that a 125PS, RWD, 3.5 tonne Transit long wheelbase high roof will be worth £11,925 after three years and 60,000 miles, up £2,575 on the Transit model it replaces.

Replacement parts prices must also be considered when purchasing, as vans are likely to be subjected to regular and sustained abuse. The Transit’s top spec heated electric door mirrors will, for example, cost over £200 to replace, whereas a standard mirror found on a base model is priced at under £90. The new larger headlight units will also cost in excess of £200 to replace – a significant increase over the £120 cost for the same part in the older Transit. Nevertheless, Ford’s claims that  a basket of 23 regular repair items shows that the new model is class-leading for non-scheduled maintenance times, and quotes the the labour required for a rear brake disc repair, which has been cut in half to 1.3 hours of vehicle downtime.

Out of warranty costs should also be considered – a replacement turbocharger will cost more than £720 to replace without labour costs. This is however, nearly 50% cheaper than in the older generation vans, thanks largely to the global reach of the new Transit.

Purchase prices remain broadly similar to the previous generation, with entry-level SWB, medium roof Base vans starting from £20,795 + VAT, while at the other end of the scale the heavy-duty, jumbo van in Trend trim will set you back £33,915 before VAT is added.

Summary

Replacing the Transit with a radical new look was always going to cause a stir, but the numbers speak volumes in its favour. The Transit is cheaper to run, cheaper to repair and can carry more. Using a dedicated heavy duty van chassis, as opposed to an enlarged medium van chassis, increases its durability and ruggedness but at the expense of the vehicle weight carrying capacity. If payload is a priority over volume, buyers should consider the larger medium-sized vans on the market as an alternative to this particular Transit, but for larger load volumes the Transit range is on average 10% more voluminous than its predecessor.

Serious improvements have been made to the cabin, with a spacious and high quality interior which now easily accommodates three adults in comfort. While some may question the sanity of those who say they enjoy driving their van, the Transit is as enjoyable a drive as you will find in the large van sector.
The lack of an automatic or semi-automatic transmission may cost Ford a few sales, but choice in the driveline package, with its three power ratings from the 2.2-litre diesel engine, is first rate.

Safety and total cost of ownership have both been improved in the Transit, and owners can expect a small reduction in incidental costs alongside significant savings in fuel consumption. It’s not a British Bulldog any longer, but it’s far from being an angry pitbull without a clue. Coupled with an increase in load volume and respectable payloads in larger vans, the Transit (thankfully) remains a sensible and practical choice for any job requiring a van.

 

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