Final Mile: Ford Transit
The term ‘transit van’ is almost generic these days and conjures up images of rock band roadies and soft serve ice cream vendors, but it was Ford who first used it. Now the sixth generation of the iconic vehicle has hit the road.
Typically British when it was first launched during the 1960s, then with a heavy but underpowered V4 petrol engine, the sixth incarnation of the Ford Transit is now manufactured in Turkey and a much more ‘cosmopolitan’ vehicle.
First, there is the internationally competitive 2.2-litre engine of the latest Transit Custom VN, which produces 92kW of power at 3,500rpm and an impressive torque of 350Nm that is delivered from 1,450rpm. Ford claims the fuel burn on a combined cycle will be a worldly 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres from the diesel. The 95-litre fuel tank may cost a king’s ransom to fill at current prices, but the economical engine will mean that it’s at least 1,000km before you need to refuel - at least in theory.
The gearbox is a six-speed all-synchro with the lever mounted out of the dash. An automatic is expected later in 2015, which should enable Ford to compete for some of the more globally minded fleets that insist on automatics or at least automated two-pedal manuals to seal a deal.
An easy sell will be the heated seats, which will please early starters in the more southern areas of Australia.
Regardless of where you are, though, all drivers will appreciate the comfort and material quality of the seats and the fact that they include a full lap/sash seatbelt and headrest for the centre passenger, which is a big advantage over some of the competition.
The instrument layout is much the same as the Ford Focus passenger car and has an innovative flip top storage unit above the gauges that is great for holding keys, phones and wallets and is also the site of a USB input for the audio system as well as a power socket for the phone charger. Plus, there are two other lighter-style power outlets to accommodate the increasing number of electronic gadgets in today’s world, such as portable satellite navigation units.
The short wheelbase van (2,930mm) has a cargo capacity of just under six cubic metres, while the longer 3,300mm version can hold 6.83 cubic metres. The cargo area floor is covered with a one-piece vinyl mat that extends 100mm up at the sides to contain any unfortunate liquid or powder spills, which can be easily hosed out. Eight tie-down loops are fitted and can be relocated to suit a particular load.
As far as electronic safety features go, the Transit Custom ticks just about every box – ESC and Traction Control augment anti-sway and roll over avoidance systems, which also take the weight of the load into account during their calculations and rapid application of the brakes on various wheels to keep things ‘shiny side up’. Should all of that still not prevent an accident, there are six standard airbags to protect the occupants – again a plus for many a purchasing manager out there.
The combination of the electronics and the air bags contributes to the Transit Custom being awarded a five-star ANCAP rating. Driving is made easier with hill start assist and cruise control as standard equipment. An adjustable speed limiter is perfect for drivers who have to negotiate varying speed and school zones and want to keep all of their licence points. On top of that, a system which Ford calls “vectoring control” continually optimises engine torque distributed to each front wheel. The rear doors open 180 degrees and have a detent position at 90 degrees.
The kerb side slider is easy and light to operate, but unfortunately no right hand slider is offered. A bonus is a set of integrated roof racks rated at 130 kilograms that fold flat when not in use to reduce wind noise and not affect fuel economy, as well as keep the overall height to less than two metres.
The steel bulkhead between the cab and the cargo bay has a nifty opening under the passenger seat that allows items as long as three metres to be carried. The bulkhead, in addition to being a safety factor, isolates the passenger area from noise and contributes to the sporty passenger car feel for the driver.
All up, the new, internationally versed Transit Custom is sleek in design and drives very much like a car. Its aerodynamic front section and raked windscreen make it stand out from the crowd and help with reducing fuel use, while the solid freight compartment and a host of electronic helpers complete the picture of a global player who has been there and done that.