Final Mile: Ford Transit

Since the introduction of the Transit in 1965, Ford has produced more than eight million of the iconic van, making it one of the longest-serving models in what is a highly contested and unforgiving market segment. But, does history warrant the assertion that Ford’s light-duty flagship is still up to the task?

If sales are anything to go by, the answer must be ‘yes’. Ford says the Transit’s reputation for reliability may what’s behind the model’s on-going success, with rigorous testing going in to every generation of the 51-year-old product line. For example, Ford tests the robustness of the Transit’s side sliding doors by slamming them shut 250,000 times in a dedicated test lab – just to make sure it can stand up to the harshness of the parcel delivery market. It certainly seems to be working as Ford calculates that, on average, a new Transit is now purchased every three minutes.

The Transit line-up for the Australian market includes the VN front-wheel-drive models and six larger rear-wheel-drive models in the so-called VO range, which our test drive team focused on. All VO models are equally versatile as they share the same 3750mm wheelbase, giving them a kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 13.3m. The front suspension, a MacPherson strut system, makes for good handling in and outside the city – even though the rear suspension consists of single leaf buggy springs only.

Capacity volumes on the VO range vary between the models and are determined by roof height and rear overhang. The smallest model offers 11m3, while the largest model, the dual rear wheel 470E, can boast 15.1m3 of cargo space that equate to some 1,946kg of payload – which can be further expanded by adding a braked trailer to make use of the 470E’s towing capacity of 3,500kg.

Ford’s load-adaptive Dynamic Stability Control system offers a trailer sway control function for these kind of scenarios, with the company’s torque vectoring cornering control – a feature that reduces engine power and selectively applies the disc brakes if the driver attempts to exceed the vehicle’s capabilities – offering further peace of mind.

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) measures for the Transit VO models range from 3,500kg to 4,490kg, meaning that even the 470E sits comfortably in the passenger car licence bracket.

Regardless of the specific model, a 1300mm-wide sliding kerbside door makes loading of a standard pallet easy – both from the side as well as via the rear barn doors, which open to 270° and feature magnetic retainers to keep them in place. Load lengths vary between models, offering from 3494mm to 4217mm, and up to 2025mm load height is available with the high-roof versions.

The 100-litre fuel tank provides plenty of range for Ford’s standard 2.2-litre Duratorque engine, which produces 114kW (153hp) at 3,300rpm and 385Nm of torque between 1,600 to 2,300rpm. All models come with a six-speed manual transmission – no automatic or automated manual transmissions are available – and a clutch-activated engine stop-start system that is said to contribute “significantly” to reduced fuel consumption when driving in traffic. The hill-start hold technology prevents rollbacks and makes life easier for the driver and the clutch components.

The optional City Pack comes with front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera display, located within the interior mirror. The rear view appears when reverse gear is selected, with guidelines overlaid to enhance the driver’s spatial awareness. Also part of the package is the power fold function on the external mirrors, something that is becoming increasingly common on upmarket passenger cars and will prove a useful addition to the light commercial vehicle market.

The driver’s seat in the VO Transit is four-way adjustable with cushion tilt and, combined with the height and reach adjustment for the leather steering wheel, will allow drivers of all dimensions to find the optimum seating position. Heated cloth seats and an adjustable armrest for the driver further add to the comfort of the ride.

A steel bulkhead with a small central window separates the cargo compartment from the driver’s cab, but that doesn’t mean the list of smart features would end here: For example, a tough rubber-like material covers the cargo floor and extends 100mm up the walls to make cleaning quicker and easier. What’s more, sturdy plywood is covering to the full height of the sidewalls, with the load restraint anchors fixed low to the walls in order to provide a perfectly smooth floor. To protect the paint finish from knocks, wide full-length body-side mouldings made of soft material are also fitted.

The list of features goes on – indicating that the Ford Transit’s sales success in a market populated by equally well-designed European and Asian vans is no coincidence. By repeatedly demonstrating its commitment to robust engineering and innovation, Ford has kept the iconic Transit as relevant as it’s ever been.

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