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Ford Transit 2014 Review

EXPERT RATING
8
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the new Ford Transit van, with specs fuel economy and verdict.

The guy who mans the desk in Ford’s media office usually only hears from journalists wanting to test a Transit van when they have something to move. But I have an unusual confession to make: I booked the new Ford Transit simply because I wanted to drive it.

It’s the first all-new Transit in 14 years and the latest vehicle on Ford’s global “to do” list. Word on the street is that it drives pretty good. For a van.

It might look like a white box on wheels (albeit with a sleek and stylish nose) but it is in fact the latest weapon in Ford’s fight against Toyota. With the Ford Ranger ute closing in on the top-selling Toyota HiLux (it’s now second in the ute sales race), Ford has declared war in the other big part of the commercial vehicle market.

Ford is king of the road in Europe but, in Australia, only four out of every 100 delivery vans are a Transit. The Toyota Hiace dominates van sales in Australia (6600 sold last year alone) closely followed by the Hyundai iLoad (4000 sold), the Volkswagen Transporter (1700) and the Renault Trafic (1100). Ford’s paltry sum: fewer than 500 Transit delivery vans sold in 2013. So it’s safe to say there is a lot riding on the new model, both literally and metaphorically.

PRICE / FEATURES

The new Ford Transit is a diesel-only proposition, which instantly puts it at the dearer end of the van market. One other dampener, especially for city drivers: there is no automatic transmission available for at least another year.

Petrol versions of the Hyundai iLoad and Toyota Hiace start from $30,990 and $32,990 respectively, while the diesel versions start at $36,490 and $36,990 respectively.

But the starting price for the Ford Transit is $37,490 plus on-road costs (which should equate to a smidge over $40,000 drive-away) for the standard wheelbase model (total length: 4972mm) and $39,490 for the long wheelbase model (total length: 5339mm). Even the Volkswagen Transporter is cheaper, starting at $36,490.

But what has knocked everyone for six, at least this month, is the Renault Trafic for $29,990 drive-away (add $2000 for auto) and the mega-sized Renault Master for $37,990 drive-away.

Which likely explains why Ford has so quickly come back to earth, with promotional pricing in June of $38,990 drive-away including a five year/200,000km warranty.

At that price, and with the reassurance of a two-year factory-backed extended warranty (European vans don’t have the best reputation for quality and clockwork reliability) the new Ford Transit is a compelling proposition. Especially when you consider its long list of standard equipment.

Standard fare includes a class-leading six airbags (two front, two side and two head-protecting curtain airbags), seat heaters, a sturdy sealed wall between the cabin and the load area, and so much cabin storage space you may never find the delivery slip.

There’s a clever covered cubby on top of the instrument cluster that also has a power socket, a USB port, and 3.5mm audio socket. There’s also a large storage area under the passenger’s seat, a massive glovebox, deep door pockets and plenty of space for water bottles. Three built-in roof racks are standard, as are rear wipers for the van doors and ultra wide-view mirrors.

DESIGN

It’s a challenge to make a white box on wheels look the business, but Ford designers have done a good job at creating the perception that this blunt device can slip through the air by giving it a pointy nose.

Practicality rules, however, and the cabin is a clever combination of form and function. Especially the stowage area under the two passenger seats.

The rear “barn” doors can be locked open at 90 degrees (so they don’t swing out into the traffic) or be unhinged to open at 270 degrees so you can back up close to a delivery dock.

SAFETY

The Ford Transit is a van that could save your life. Apart from having the most advanced safety equipment in a delivery van to date, the Transit also comes with an emergency phone function.

If the airbags are deployed in a crash and you’re knocked unconscious or unable to call for help, the van will automatically send the co-ordinates to 000 operators if a phone has been connected. It’s the same system recently introduced on some Ford passenger cars.

The new Ford Transit is yet to be tested but it is likely to earn a five-star safety rating given the standard fitment of six airbags and the new-from-the-ground-up design.

By way of comparison, the previous generation Ford Transit only scored a “marginal” three-star safety rating according to the Australian NCAP crash tests, while the Volkswagen Transporter, Hyundai iLoad and Toyota Hiace were given an “acceptable” four-star score.

The bargain priced Renault Trafic, however, scores a “poor” two star rating according to European NCAP crash test results published in 2012. A new Renault Trafic is due next year.

Meanwhile, Ford should also be given kudos for at least making front and rear sensors and a rear view camera as part of a $1500 option pack (which also includes an auto dimming rear view mirror and fog lights).

But we reckon Ford should take the high road when and complete its safety story by fitting front and rear sensors and the rear view camera as standard. The sensors and camera were fitted to the Transit on test and we couldn’t live (or park) without them.

One more thing: the low beam headlights are ok, but the high-beams are superb.

DRIVING

It’s a cliché to say that a van drives like a car. But that’s the best way to describe the way the Transit drives compared to its peers. 

It is head and shoulders above the competition in the way it handles bumps, steers around corners and generally copes with the daily grind.

It shouldn’t be a great surprise that the Ford Transit is a big improvement over its peers. Vans typically run for at least 10 years between model updates and the Transit is the newest of its type among a fleet of aging vans about to be superseded.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine is one of the most efficient in its class. With a 95-litre tank the new Transit has a driving range of more 1000km between refills in ideal conditions.

The diesel engine does have noticeable delay in power until you reach at least 2000rpm. It takes a few false starts before you get used to it. But once the engine’s on the boil it’s a dream.

Tall gearing means that the engine is barely ticking over at about 1500rpm at highway speeds in sixth gear, which is great for long distance economy, but you may have to grab fifth for any hills, especially with a load on board. At least the six-speed manual shifter is much smoother than the one in the Ford Ranger ute.

Steering is light and easy and the turning circle is 10.9 metres. There are plenty of cars and SUVs that can’t make a U-turn in as tight a space as this.

Anyone upgrading from another van would likely find the Transit a revelation. And, given the creature comforts, anyone switching from a car to the Transit would feel at home.

Whatever you do, don’t accidentally bump the switch for the driver’s heated seat when you grab the handbrake. The seat heating is so effective I thought the engine was on fire.

Pricing Guides

$28,789
Based on 15 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$25,990
Highest Price
$35,980

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $23,210 – 28,710 2014 Ford Transit 2014 (base) Pricing and Specs
350E LWB Jumbo (SRW) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $26,510 – 32,670 2014 Ford Transit 2014 350E LWB Jumbo (SRW) Pricing and Specs
350L LWB High Roof 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $29,650 – 35,980 2014 Ford Transit 2014 350L LWB High Roof Pricing and Specs
350L LWB Mid Roof 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $25,990 – 28,789 2014 Ford Transit 2014 350L LWB Mid Roof Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Pricing Guide

$17,977

Lowest price, based on 19 car listings in the last 6 months

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