Ford Transit Van – 45 Years Old and Still the Best
We supply hundreds of vans from across all of the major manufacturers and we test quite a few, unfortunately, they don’t all get to press, however we recently tried the latest Ford Transit and were so impressed that we decided we would take the time and tell you what we thought and why, the Ford Transit is still the best van of its class 45 years on.
The statistics for Transit are astounding. Over 6 million Transits have been sold and it’s been the market leader for every year since it was first produced in 1965 and we can’t think of any type of product in any market place that can say that. You can buy over 600 different entities of Transit, so there is a van that’s going to fit your business what ever it is.
Transit is the best known commercial vehicle in the world, it’s a household name. People say “Hoover” when they mean vacuum cleaner and Transit when they describe a van and everyone knows exactly what they mean. The Ford Transit is a legend pure and simple.
The fact the Transit has kept the same name for 45 years, also speaks volumes about how good the van has been, because if just one of its incarnations had picked up a bad reputation at any point in that time, Ford would simply have junked the Transit name and the model that replaced it would have been called something different, but they haven’t.
So let’s tell you about today’s Transit. We could have tested any model, but we figured that the limited edition model “Sapphire” which celebrates the vans 45th birthday was the most appropriate as it’s effectively, the standard van with some nice extras such as Air Conditioning, Cruise Control, Quickclear Windscreen, Electrically operated and Heated Door Mirrors, Bluetooth Voice Control System, Front Fog Lights, Full Width Steel Bulkhead and a nice RDS Stereo Radio CD Player with column mounted controls and an auxiliary MP3 connector for your music player.
On the outside the Transit Sapphire has got some special touches that make it stand out, such as silver painted grille and colour coded bumper, silver painted mirror caps, silver painted rear light guards and full wheel covers and its available in Sapphire Blue Metallic, Panther Black Metallic, Sea Grey Metallic, or of course, Frozen White.
Our van was a short wheelbase low roof version, powered by the 2.2TDCi Euro 4 engine which chucked out a healthy 115ps (remember when Transits used to be 76ps) and is coupled to a six speed gearbox and front wheel drive.
If you haven’t looked at Transit recently, you can’t help to notice how nice they look and how well everything is put together, more like you would expect on a car rather than a van and getting in, the surprises still keep coming, as the Transits interior is well appointed, “car like” and well thought out, using nice materials and with loads of useful toys and to be fair, it’s a pretty nice place to be and you almost want someone to ask you to deliver something 200 miles for them so you get to spend some time getting to know the van.
The load area of Transit, I guess is the ‘business end’ of the van and as our van was a front wheel drive, the loading height was just 537cm and the 2582cm load length meant we could load 8×4 sheets, either horizontally or vertically (and don’t forget we are talking about the smallest of the Transit range here), yet it can still carry 3 Euro pallets and a very healthy 1092kg payload. All Transits have full height 180 degree opening rear doors (with 256 degree doors an option) a passengers side sliding side load door and of course, tie-down eyes to secure your load are standard.
Safety hasn’t been ignored either, as all Transits come with Hill Launch Assist, to prevent you rolling back when pulling away on a slope and when you’re moving, the Transits Electronic Stability Programme does loads of trick stuff to keep you going in the right direction. Brake Assist automatically detects emergency braking and applies maximum breaking effort to get you stopped as quickly as possible, whilst even pulling away is taken care of as the Transits Brake Traction Control System ensures you get maximum traction when starting from rest.
We said the Transit was car like in its build and interior, well that extends to the way it drives as well and indeed, a few years ago, not all cars would have driven as well as a modern Ford Transit as it’s a relaxing experience and so I kind of wonder if grumpy white van man might become a thing of the past as more and more van drivers get to experience new Transit.
Transit is available in 3 different trim levels, Standard, Trend or the highest specification Limited version, but as the vehicle we tested was the Sapphire, below are the prices and model availability on the limited edition Sapphire;
- Transit 280 Sapphire SWB Low Roof 2.2 TDCi (115PS) £14,995
- Transit 280 Sapphire SWB Medium Roof 2.2 TDCi (115PS) £15,245
- Transit 280 Sapphire MWB Medium Roof 2.2 TCDi (115PS) £15,695
- Transit 280 Sapphire MWB High Roof 2.2 TCDi (115PS) £16,195
- Transit 350 Sapphire LWB Medium Roof 2.4 TDCi (115PS) £19,195
- Transit 350 Sapphire LWB Medium Roof 2.4 TDCi (115PS) £19,695
For us as a company, we run 100’s of vans of all makes on our leasing fleet, so we have some experience about how they behave, how reliable they are and just what they cost to run. From that experience, I can tell you that it’s not all about ticket price, as what you pay for a van is just a small part of what its whole life costs are going to be and a van that may have a slightly higher cost price, can often be the cheaper option when you take everything else into consideration.
The Costs of servicing and repairing your vehicle in perhaps the 3 years you have it can differ hugely, often meaning a van with a cheap or low ticket price ends up costing you more than had you chosen a proper van originally (and Transit is a proper van). Being broken down by the side of the road, even if your van maker or leasing company offers you support, is going to cause you inconvenience and probably mean that your load does not get delivered on time, or you can’t get to the job you’ve got to do and as we all know, customers don’t like that and it costs you money and can lose you business. I am not saying by any means that Transit can’t go wrong, of course it can, but we have £80,000 cars on our fleet that break down. I do however think its wrong to base you’re van buying decision on the price you pay for you’re vehicle alone as vans are working for your business and you earn your living from them, so maybe its an area where you really shouldn’t be trying to save a few hundred quid, as the chances are its often going to be a false economy.
Out of interest, in an authoritative annual reliability survey in 2010 of over 1,000,000 vehicles run by UK Leasing Companies and carried out by Fleet News magazine, Ford have been named as the most reliable van manufacturer, whilst the Ford Transit has been named as Britain’s most reliable van for the third year running (impressed eh!)
If you need any more convincing, here are just some of the other awards the Ford Transit has won in recent years.
- Best Security Panel Van 2010, voted by What Van? Magazine for the 6th consecutive year
- Best Fleet Panel Van, voted by the Association of Car Fleet Operators 2008 (ACFO) for the 14th successive year.
- Transit named Best Medium Panel Van (2007 & 2008) and Best Minibus (2007) by Professional Van and Light Truck magazine
- Best Minibus 2010, voted by What Van? Magazine for the 4th consecutive year
- Highly commended Small Panel Van of the Year 2010, voted by What Van? Magazine
- Medium Van over 2.2 and up to 2.8 tonnes at the Fleet News Awards Fleets News 2008
- Best Security Van 2008, voted by Fleet World magazine
- Winner MPG Marathon Fleet News 2008
- Most reliable Van – Fleet News 2007
- What Van? Fleet Panel Van of the Year 2007 and 2008
- From Fleet World: Van Manufacturer of the Year, Best New Van and Best Security on Transit (2007)
- International Van of the Year 2007
- What Van? Best One-Stop Shop Conversions 2007
- Ford named as Most Reliable (van) Manufacturer Overall by Fleet News in 2007 and 2008
- Ford Transit awarded first place for Most Reliable Model by Fleet News in 2008
- Transit was judged the best base vehicle by Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly (MMM) magazine (2008 & 2009)
So, based on what we know and what other professionals say as well, we recommend Transit whole heartedly and yes, I agree, there are cheaper vans about (as indeed are there more expensive ones) but we think Transit offers a happy medium. It’s a van you’re drivers are going to love and it supported by 100’s of Ford dealers across the UK, all working to keep you on the road, or should the worst happen, get you back there as quickly as possible.
Ford Transit is the benchmark in its class. It’s what every other van manufacturer aspires to and with 6 million vehicles sold, and the van picking up awards year after year, the Transit certainly must be very high on your list, as its certainly high on ours.
Serious bit over, before finish this review; we thought you might be interested in some pieces of Transit Trivia!
The Transit name originates from the Irish city of Cork where one of the local garages was called “The Transit Garage” and the guys at the garage were building a Ford Rally Car to be entered in a local rally which came to be known as the Ford Transit and this is where Ford, who had a plant in Northern Ireland, stole the name from.
According to “Top Gear”, British Police reported that in the 70’s, 95% of all robberies where the criminals used a vehicle, they used a Ford Transit!
The first Transit rolled off the production line on 6th August 1965 at Ford’s Langley facility in Berkshire (a former WW2 aircraft factory which produced the Hawker Hurricane fighter), with the cheapest van cost £542, whilst the most expensive (the 15 seat custom bus) costing just £997. Since then Transit vans have been built in 22 factories across the world. The six-millionth Transit rolled off the production line in April 2010 at the Ford-Otosan plant in Kocaeli, Turkey.
In 2005 German racing driver Sabine Schmitz took a standard diesel Transit van around the Nurburgring to try and beat Jeremy Clarkson’s time of just under 9 minutes and 59 seconds which he set in a Jaguar S Type and missed beating Clarkson only by a few seconds, recording 10 minutes and 9 seconds.
There have been a trio of special “racing” Transits over the years called “Supervan” dating back to 1971 when the first one was built and fitted with a 400bhp 302 cubic inch V8 as used in Ford’s GT40 Le-Mans cars. Supervan 2 followed in 1984 and this time had a Cosworth DFL 3.9 V8 engine out of a formula one car which produced 500bhp and was timed at 174mph at Silverstone. Supervan 3 arrived in 1995 and originally used a 650bhp Cosworth HB F1 engine, but itself was retired from duty in 2001, but has recently been rebuilt and the F1 engine has been replaced for reasons of practicality by a Ford-Cosworth Pro Sports 3000 (V6) engine, which it retains today.
At the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2010 an ordinary looking “G” registered Transit took on the hill, and recorded the 8th fastest time of the day beating serious racing cars in the process. Well the story behind this monster Transit is that it was built by TWR in the early 90’s as a rolling test bed or mule for the Jaguar XJ220 engine and running gear and was an important part of the development of the Jaguar XJ220 super-car. TWR wanted to build up mileage on the engine and whilst they had the Millbrook test track for the high speed stuff, it didn’t let them know how the car would behave in city traffic (which of course, the finished XJ220 would be expected to do) so they basically took an XJ220 and stuck a Transit body shell on top of it so that they could use it in everyday gridlock traffic conditions, without anyone knowing it was any different to any normal Transit and of course, if it broke down by the side of the road, there wasn’t a shiny Jaguar XJ220 with the RAC man under the bonnet, getting bad press for Jaguars new super-car. The Transit achieved 179mph at Millbrook. The van, or XJ220 mule as it was known, was to be scrapped when TWR was being liquidated; however, its present owner fortunately rescued it. This is probably the strangest of the fast Transits, because with the exception of the XJ220 wheels, it looks just like any other “G” registered twin-wheel Transit and its road registered.
When the Transit first arrived on the roads of the UK in 1965, England hadn’t even won the world cup yet. The average house price in the UK was £3,600 and the average wage was around £1250 a year. Muhammad Ali was World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, whilst Liverpool Football Club won the FA cup for the first time in their history The Beatles release the film “Help” and cigarette advertising was banned on TV while on the roads of the UK, a national 70mph speed limit was imposed and petrol was just 25p a gallon. ASDA supermarkets was formed by a group of Yorkshire farmers and across the other side of the world, the USA were becoming deeply embroiled in the war in Vietnam.
For a quotation on the Ford Transit, or any other vehicle, please contact us.