- FIRST DRIVE – FORD TRANSIT CUSTOM
JUST get yourself a Transit and we’ll shift that stuff in no time.
Those words have been uttered by countless odd-job men, happy helpers and dads needing to move everything from lawnmowers and bikes to furniture and cartons.
The point though is that rather than suggesting a van they have actually specified a Ford Transit.
It’s a case of the product being identified by the brand name – in much the same way that people have talked about ‘hoovering’ the floor, ‘sellotaping’ a parcel and ‘googling’ a site on the internet.
The story goes that the model was originally due to be called the V-Series, but when a prototype was shipped to Ford HQ in Essex for review by senior management it had a large ‘Transit’ label affixed to it.
That word was seized upon and the new name was adopted in time for the pan-European launch in 1965.
The rest is history – and what a history it has been as Ford enters its 48th year of commercial vehicle leadership with more than 2,300,000 Transits sold in Britain, 700,000 of which are still on the road.
Now, as part of an ongoing process that will see the entire Ford commercial vehicle range replaced, comes the new generation Transit Custom that’s designed and engineered in Britain and launched exclusively with a Dagenham-built 2.2-litre TDCi diesel engine.
With the accolade of International Van of the Year 2013 already in the bag, the newcomer has also become the first vehicle in its area of the market to achieve a maximum five-star rating from independent vehicle safety outfit Euro NCAP.
And the Ford Tourneo Custom, the company’s luxury people mover, has been handed the same safety score.
What Ford has managed with the latest Transit is to produce a tough, practical one-tonne van that’s smart to look at and with driving dynamics very close to those of a passenger car.
The features White Van Man needs are in place, like a vast load-carrying ability plus a load-through hatch in the bulkhead for extra-long items, while the integrated roof rack can be folded away when not in use.
The driver also benefits from new technologies like Lane Keeping Alert and the Ford SYNC connectivity system with Emergency Assistance.
I sampled several new Transit versions on a route that took in four different counties, the longest drive being in the classic short wheelbase panel van that starts at £18,316.
That 100PS version is strong, flexible and well adequate for all but those regularly carrying heavy loads over an extended distance and has 61mm more useable load length than the previous Transit.
The interiors are well equipped and durable, and upmarket on the higher spec models to the point that drivers could be forgiven for thinking they’re in the cabin of a Mondeo or Galaxy.
And those wanting more style or extra economy need only wait until April when SportVan versions with 155PS engine, body kit, 18-inch alloys and bonnet stripes hit the scene along with a Transit Custom ECOnetic boasting 46.3mpg.
Ford has also launched a new nine-seat Transit Custom Kombi with lots of style, easily removable seats and prices from £26,485 and a stylish new Tourneo Custom model ideal for executive or corporate travel and airport journeys. Prices are from £28,285.
Also just launched is a new Fiesta van range in which every diesel engine boasts sub-100g/km emissions and at least 76.4mpg, while the ECOnetic version goes even further with figures of 87g/km and 85.6mpg – a feat no other manufacturer in the class matches.
With a practical 1.0 cubic metre load space, the Fiesta Van’s load compartment features a secure steel bulkhead and four cargo tie-down hooks plus a tough rubber floor mat and durable sidewall trim.
The powertrain choice includes the new 75PS 1.5-litre and 95PS 1.6-litre TDCi engines and the 82PS 1.25-litre petrol unit, while the ECOnetic offers the specially developed 95PS 1.6-litre TDCi powertrain with standard Auto-Start-Stop, lowered suspension, aerodynamic rear undertray and wheel trims and low rolling resistance tyres. Prices are from £11,746.
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