CAUGHT IN TRANSIT | Van Review – Ford Transit Van

Ford’s new-generation large van boasts a heritage of over half a century – Words and images by Ed Higginson.

When you talk of vans, the Transit is a probably at the head of the list for product recognition. The first model set radical new standards for van design, comfort and performance, also gaining the rather dubious accolade that it was the first choice for any self-respecting bank robber.  These days there’s definitely more competition (from other manufacturers, not bank robbers), but with the latest Transit bringing with it a plethora of major updates any prospective buyer in the large van segment needs to take a serious look at what Ford has on offer.

The Transit name has been running for 55 years, and with over eight-million vans sold across the world it enables Ford to claim that a new Transit is purchased every 180 seconds.

On the back of Delivery Magazine test driving the new-generation Ford Transit Custom, we were also handed the keys to its bigger sibling at the Ford factory in Victory, so that we could take it for a week in order to compare abilities across a broader spectrum.

Like the Custom, there’s a long list of updates with the new bigger Transit. From the more aggressive styling on the outside, to the interior that boasts a fresh dash design, new infotainment system, Ford’s Driver Assist Technology including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection that is all standard across the range.

The entire range has also received a powertrain upgrade with the new 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine to meet Euro6.2 emission levels using Adblue.

Ford’s advanced new-generation engine features a high-pressure, direct fuel-injection system, producing 125 kW of power and 390 Nm of torque. With its high-performance variable geometry turbo, matched with the new six-speed automatic transmission that changes gears smoothly and quickly, the new-generation Transit now claims a 30 percent increase in power. The engine also gets an automatic stop/start feature to help with fuel economy in the city.

The Transit model range starts with the 350L LWB van in rear-wheel drive (RWD) with a six-speed manual transmission. The 350 denotes a GVM of 3500 kg and starts at $50,490 plus on-roads. The 350L has a 11 cu.m load space with a 1251 kg payload and can tow a braked trailer with an overall weight up to 2750 kg. If you opt for the high roof version, you add an additional 1.4 cu.m to the load capacity.

The 350L LWB van also comes in with a six-speed automatic transmission for $52,990 which is the specification feature in this review. Mirroring the GVM of 3500 kg, the payload increases slightly to 1295 kg and the cargo are volume rises to 11.5 cu.m. However, the trade off with the automatic is that the towing capacity drops significantly to just 1700 kg braked. If you go for the high roof option, the cargo volume increases to 13 cu.m.

If you need a bit more room again, then the 350E RWD Jumbo van with the six-speed manual may be the one you go for at $53,990. Here you get 15.1 cu.m of load space, a 1100 kg payload and maximum braked towing of 2750 kg.

The 470E RWD Jumbo van is actually the largest of the Transits, with dual wheels at the rear. On offer with the 470 is a GVM of 4700 kg, a load space of 15.1 cu.m, a payload of 1872 kg plus allows for a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500 kg. The largest Transit sells for $56,990 and is competitively priced against its rivals.

Throughout the interior there are lots of storage options for water bottles and coffee cups, including a space for paperwork in a shelf over the windscreen. The driver gets to reap all the benefits of the look and feel of what is essentially a completely new dash design matched by the high quality of the interior trim levels.

USB power slots are mounted on the dash itself in front of the windscreen. The only issue I found with these were that the cables gave an annoying reflection in the centre of the windscreen as they run to the mobile phone or sat-nav unit. Ford has also updated the instruments, added new control panels and a full-colour 8.0-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen which replaces the previous 6.5-inch display.

The new infotainment system is now voice-activated and the driver can opt for the voice-activated sat-nav for improved safety. Features such as these reduce the chance of driver distraction and one familiarised they are a feature that I found worked easily.

Ford’s SYNC 3 system also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility too if you want even more options during your day pounding the bitumen.

Ford globally is one of the leading manufacturers when it comes to built-in safety systems, and there’s a long list of features now fitted as standard on the Transit range. Up for grabs is the Driver Assist Technology (DAT) that groups together features such as AEB with pedestrian detection, adaptive-cruise control, blind-spot information system (BLIS) with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping aid, lane-departure warning with driver alert, traffic-sign recognition, automatic high-beam control and front and rear parking sensors along with a coloured reversing camera.

With the larger Ford Transit, the reversing camera is mounted in a plastic housing over the rear doors which gives a great wide-angle view. This works extremely well especially when reversing out of driveways with a 180-degree view. However, you need to keep a careful eye on forklift drivers when loading pallets into the rear because they can easily hit the camera with their mast.

In terms of the load space, Ford has used its experience to make it easy to load and secure items whilst protecting the inside of the van. It’s well thought out with plastic floor liners and MDF protection on the internal walls. There is also a clever design in the bulkhead, where a hatch can be opened to push longer items forwards, sliding them under the passenger seat into the foot well.

The rear doors open 90-degrees in the first instance and lock in position for quick and easy access. When the driver wants to open the doors wider, a simple latch can be pulled to allow each door to swing 270-degrees, with a bump stop to protect the van’s paint work.

When driving the new Transit, like the smaller Custom, the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel is a surprise package. Don’t be fooled by thinking a 2.0-litre isn’t up the job because it never feels that way. The ability of the engine comes from using the new-generation technology which makes the entire drivetrain highly functional and effective. Packaged together, the engine and transmission do a fantastic job of getting the van moving swiftly with minimum effort whilst keeping the van as fuel efficient as possible.

The new dash and factory bulkhead also helps to minimise any interior noise or vibration so that you can actually enjoy the music from the infotainment system, rather than cope with distortion and crackling.

The bonnet needs to be lifted by your mechanic or service outlet once a year or at 30,000 km intervals, which is better than most of its competitors, so you have less time off the road. Combined with Ford’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty it offers a great package for small businesses.

During a week of driving the new Transit and covering over 1000 km across Victoria, I walked away truly impressed. With such a strong heritage, Ford has refined the Transit into a truly great work horse. Many may have questioned the move to a 2.0-litre engine but with new technology size doesn’t matter, the power, smooth transmission and turbo work together extremely well to give great performance.

The build quality is also much better than Transit vans of old, and with the long warranties you can be confident of a commercial vehicle that will serve you well. The high level of safety features, together with a long list of options, make the new-generation Ford Transit a winner on many levels. It might not be the highest-selling van in Australia, but it certainly deserves consideration.

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