Having sold two million-plus examples since its 1965 debut, and endured life at the hands of builders, rock bands and even the police, the Ford Transit has proven itself as one of the most versatile vehicles on the market – so it’s about time it was put through its paces on the Auto Express fleet.
And it’s with pleasure that I’m able to welcome our latest arrival, aCustom. Flexibility is the Transit’s forte, and to prove the point it’s available in long and short wheelbases, as a minibus, or even a double-cab pick-up, offering something to suit every need. The 2.2-litre diesel comes with 99bhp, 123bhp or 153bhp, while fuel-sipping ECOnetic tech is on offer to help minimise fuel bills.
Our Transit van is a long-wheelbase, double-cab model powered by the most potent version of the 2.2-litre TDCi – and it’ll set you back £31,314. Within days of its arrival at our central London offices, the keys were in hot demand. Luckily, I managed to grab them first – and it was to be a baptism of fire for the Ford, with a house move as its first gruelling task.
Thankfully, the long-wheelbase model has an extra 370mm between the axles compared to the standard Custom, although the double-cab layout does mean rear space is divided between the load bay and the second row of seats. Still, with 5.9 cubic metres on offer, the LWB model can still swallow far more stuff than even the biggest van-based MPV. And so it proved, as the Transit managed to comfortably take a dozen suitcases, countless boxes and an unnecessary number of TVs. Handy floor lashing points kept more fragile items in place, while the low lip meant loading bulky items such as armchairs and tables wasn’t an issue; my flatmates’ lack of muscle was a bigger stumbling block.
Once everything was loaded up we were off, and because the Transit comes packed with creature comforts usually associated with Ford’s road cars, I soon forgot I was at the wheel of a huge van. Its six seats meant all my housemates could come along for the ride, too.
The cabin and dash wouldn’t look out of place in a Focus or Fiesta, so to find such familiar design in a commercial vehicle is a bonus. And that’s highlighted again when you look at some of the kit fitted to our model, including sat-nav, a reversing camera, Bluetooth phone connection and DAB radio, plus cruise control, alloys and auto lights and wipers.
It’s also exceedingly comfortable behind the wheel. The Transit Custom was Ford’s first van to be fitted with an adjustable steering column, and the eight-way seat ensures an ideal position for everyone. Being a van, it’s not the most refined driving experience around town, though. The engine note is coarse, but a bulkhead between the cabin and load area keeps noise to a minimum.
It packs a punch, too, with plenty of low-down torque from a standstill, while the steering is light but responsive and the six-speed box is Focus-slick. The Transit Custom has to be one of the most car-like vans around, so it’s little surprise that Ford has sold so many. Moving house has never been so much fun.
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