20 May 2014

Old Ford name, new Ford van

Ford will have every sector of the van market in Ireland covered when it brings in the new Transit Courier this summer, writes Brian Byrne from Frankfurt.

Built on a Fiesta platform, this one brings the brand into a pure van segment they've not been before, resurrecting a respected nameplate from the past in the process.

The competition where this is a segment worth being in has the likes of Fiat's Fiorino, Citroen's Nemo and Peugeot's Bipper as the competition. But the Transit Courier looks and is larger than those in most respects.

Indeed, it could well target customers from the larger Fiat Doblo and VW Caddy cohort, if they want to downsize a little without compromising capacity in real terms.

And there's no doubt that in build quality terms and reliability of engines, the blue oval brand has the legs to make a space for itself even in the very small urban delivery niche.

It might also piggyback on a fleet user who needs a range of van sizes to handle its general logistics, from inter-city to pedestrianised centre deliveries.

Transit Courier is without doubt a stylish offering, the smart new Fiesta-style front starting a line that goes neatly through to a functional and good looking rear. If a buyer opts for one with a sliding side door or a pair of them, it still looks good.

The operator's area is straight out of Ford's small cars of recent years, with finishes picked perhaps to stand up to a bit more tough treatment than the passenger vehicles. There's no compromise in comfort, though, and maybe the somewhat higher driving position is even nicer than the cars.

Van drivers have typically to carry more personal and business stuff than ordinary consumers, and space for this is offered by a mid-seats console which can hold coffee mugs and a standard laptop. Underseat and over-windscreen drawer and shelf spaces add to this. A 'device dock' designed to safely hold a range of phones and small tablets will be a standard fitting in versions sold in Ireland, as will Bluetooth connectivity. Ford's SYNC system will, or course, be an option. Trailer sway control and rollover mitigation will also be standard among the safety features.

Two grades will be offered, Base and Trend, the latter adding such details as fogs, leather wheel and gearknob covering, SYNC, that overhead storage and power windows (when was the last time you drove a car with manual wind windows?).

There are three bulkhead options across the specifications, including a mesh one which folds around the driver and allows longer loads to be carried over the flipped passenger seat. Behind, there's cargo space that Ford claims has up to 10 percent more capacity than the direct competitors.

The finish is good, with tough plastic floor coverings impervious to scratching and easily maintained.

The company is claiming low cost of ownership with 30,000km service intervals and bumper and side protection designed to cut down insurance costs.

The structure has a substantial amount of high-tensile steel in its makeup

Though there's a 1.0 EcoBoost petrol and a 1.6 diesel available in other markets, in Ireland the power will come from a 1.5 diesel, outputting 75hp and offering fuel consumption rates of 3.9L/100km (72.4mpg equivalent). The 1.6 diesel, slightly better in fuel consumption, is available to order and isn't likely to figure much in the sales mix. All transmissions are 5-speed manual.

There are important numbers in the van business, and with the Courier these incloude 1.62m of interior floor length, extendable to 2.59m with the folding mesh bulkhead. Maximum capacity is 2.6 cu m and 660kg of payload.

The other important numbers are the price points, kicking off at €13,990 for the Base grade, a €1,000 more for the Trend, and €15,490 for the one with the 1.6 diesel. All prices include VAT.

I had a quick introduction to the 1.6 diesel version today, with the Trend level specs. A nice drive around the countryside that encircles Frankfurt with a good mix of city, motorway and small roads experience.

It's a Ford. It's a Ford CV. It has the Transit name. It does what a Ford van should do, whatever its size and place in the hierarchy. So it will do well, without any doubt.