Car reviews - Ford - Transit - Custom range
Integrated roof racks, creative storage solutions, impressive safety systems, car-like handling and feel, customisation
Room for improvement
Cabin storage not as impressive as some rivals, hard interior plastics, expensive
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20 Jun 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN
IN AUSTRALIA, it can be argued that Ford’s Transit van has always lived under the shadow of the much more tradie-friendly Falcon Ute – which ceased production last year – and now, the fan-favourite Ranger pick-up.
While not as attractive as either of the two aforementioned utility vehicles, the Transit certainly has more than a few things going for it.
Cavernous and secure storage, striking styling, impressive safety standards and, according to Ford, car-like handling and dynamics.
With the introduction of the brand’s new 2.0-litre EcoBlue turbo-diesel engine for improved performance and efficiency, a six-speed automatic option, increased equipment levels and more customisation options, Ford is hoping to steal sales away from the dominant Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad.
While the looks of the Transit have not changed since the local inception of the fourth-generation model in 2014, new EcoBlue-equipped versions gain a chrome insert in the front grille to denote the use of the new poweplant.
Ford claims it has made huge improvements to the new 2.0-litre donk, and from what we can tell, the engine is huge leap forward in refinement compared to the older 2.2-litre unit, as well as what is on offer from its competitors.
Producing 96kW of power at 3500rpm and 385Nm of torque between 1500 and 2000rpm, the EcoBlue engine easily outperforms the older 92kW/350Nm 2.2-litre unit.
However, it’s the improvements in engine noise and efficiency that will likely be more welcome than the nearly-unnoticeable bump in power.
Ford says the new engine is four decibels quieter while idling, while also being about 13 per cent more efficient in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Although those figures don’t sound like much, every little bit helps in a commercial vehicle that drivers will likely spend hours and hours in, commuting from one job to the next.
We also like the fact that Ford have made the engine more reliable too, doubling servicing intervals from 15,000km to 30,000km and also warranty from 100,000km to 200,000km, giving buyers a little more peace of mind.
Inside the cabin, surfaces and touchpoints feel a little hard and plasticy, but that’s largely expected of a utilitarian vehicle such as the Transit.
While the seating position is high by default for maximum visibility, drivers on the shorter side can take comfort in the fact that seat height adjustment is nearly endless, allowing even the vertically challenged a clear view of their surrounds.
Although we liked the clean and simple dashboard and instrumentation layout, we did feel the Transit was let down by the lack of storage solutions on offer compared to rivals.
With only a passenger-side glovebox, storage cubby atop the dashboard and door pockets to stow medium-sized belongings, we only wish Ford could add a few more pockets and places for our things.
Ford is touting the fact that the Transit features a car-like feel in the driver’s seat and it is certainly impressive how much the brand has managed to make the roughly five-metre-long van feel smaller than it is.
A large part is thanks to the steering wheel lifted straight from a Fiesta light car and an infotainment system that wouldn’t look out of place in the city runabout.
While the satellite navigation and audio controls are not all that easy to intuit, especially while cruising along at speeds, we appreciate that Ford has included easy-to-use voice commands accessible from a button on the steering wheel controls.
Behind the wheel, steering is light and communicative while the ride can, expectedly for a vehicle in this class, become unsettled over road imperfections – with or without a load in the rear.
We enjoyed the new six-speed automatic unit too, with quick shifts both up and down when required during hard driving and smooth transitions during slow traffic situations.
To Ford’s credit, the selected drive route encompassed both twisty country B-roads and long stretches of smooth highway to really get a feel for the Transit’s driving behaviour.
During our day with the car, we never once felt out of control in the two-tonne van, even in quick changing corners and hard braking.
We also liked the clever storage solution employed throughout the Transit, including integrated roof racks which can be folded down to reduce wind noise and a clever opening flap behind the passenger seat which opens up to allow the stowage of longer items which may not fit completely in the rear.
However, it all does come at a cost. The new EcoBlue engine opens at $39,690 before on-roads for the manual, while an automatic will raise the price to $42,440.
Customisation options are on offer too, including liftback tailgate, sliding doors left and right and a Driver Assist Tech pack that adds satellite navigation and a reversing camera – which could really blow the price of the Transit out.
Overall though Ford has delivered a terrifically capable van with engaging performance from a new engine and accessible automatic transmission option which should appeal to small business owners and tradies alike, just be prepared to fork over a bit more cash for the added goodies and customisation.
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