2012 FORD TRANSIT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Commercial van
Price: $35,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.2 l/100km | tested: 8.0 l/100km
The Ford Transit is, in the eyes of many, the original “White Van”. Its history stretches back to the mid-1960s, and the nameplate is still going strong today.
Curiously enough, it’s also the only vehicle that’s currently available in either front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, although only the first two configurations are available in Australia.
We tested the entrypoint to the range: the front-drive short-wheelbase low-roof van. After a week of relocating furniture, we found that the Transit has equal amounts of both strengths and weaknesses.
Quality: Like most commercial vans, hard plastics are the dominant material inside the Transit’s cabin. Unlike most commercial vans however, the Transit’s fit and finish is pretty sub-par.
This is most evident in the two hinged lids that cover the dash-top storage bins. In our tester, they were warped so much that the edges were no longer flush with the rest of the dashboard.
The ventilation switchgear is also nasty, and look as though they’ve been ripped out of a 1990s Mondeo.
There are pluses though: the cabin floor is covered with a thick rubberized mat, which is also quite soft underfoot. It’s a good surface for a commercial vehicle - comfortable, yet durable and easy to clean.
Comfort: The Transit’s high seating-position affords a good view out the front and to the sides, while the dual-mirror wing mirrors help eliminate blind spots.
The driver’s seat gets a fold-down armrest and is six-way adjustable, while the standard front seat is roomy enough for two passengers.
Grey cloth-upholstery is standard and feels durable, but the seat padding is a little too thin for long-distance comfort. The optional leather-wrapped steering wheel is another carryover part (this time from the last-gen Focus), but is at least comfortable to hold
There’s also two large bottle holders either side of the dashboard, as well as two regular cupholders.
Equipment: Standard features include power windows, power mirrors, air conditioning, electrically heated front and rear glass, an auxiliary audio input, Bluetooth phone integration and central locking.
Remote audio controls are located on a paddle behind the steering wheel, which can be a little frustrating to use at first.
Cruise control is optional, as is a reversing camera and daytime running lamps.
Storage: While cabin quality is a disappointment, the Transit’s load area is the polar opposite.
Pallets aren’t an issue thanks to a huge 1390mm gap between the rear wheelarches. The load area is 2582mm deep, 1740mm wide and 1430mm high.
Rear barn doors are standard too, and the dual-position hinges allow them to fold nearly 180 degrees for forklift loading.
But one of the standout features is the Transit’s floor. It’s perfectly flat, covered in a thick rubberized coating and features six flush-mounted tie-down points. No slippery exposed metal here, and no frustrating lumps and bumps either.
There’s also a rail that runs along both sides of the cargo bay around hip-height, and provides additional strap-down points.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Besides its commodious load area, low-down torque is the Transit’s best asset.
The FWD Transit’s 2.2 litre Duratorq turbodiesel might only produce 92kW and 330Nm (RWD models get 114kW/380Nm), but peak torque arrives at just 1350rpm and doesn’t tail off until after 2400rpm.
It’s a relaxed performer as a result. You don’t need to work the Transit’s engine hard to get moving, and it easily copes with heavy payloads.
One major downside is the unavailability of an automatic transmission. For all Transit models, a six-speed manual is the only choice of gearbox.
It’s got a good spread of ratios but some buyers will be turned off by the lack of a slushbox option.
Refinement: It’s a commercial van, so it’s unreasonable to expect much in the way of refinement.
Nevertheless, the rubber cargo flooring damps a lot of sound and reduces 'boominess' when the cargo area is empty. Vans with bare steel floors tend to be a lot noisier.
A steel bulkhead that separates the cabin from the cargo area can be optioned for the Transit, and would cut a lot of internal noise. Without it though, the Transit is still quite comfortable inside for a commercial van.
Suspension: The Transit uses a simple MacPherson Strut front and leaf-sprung rear beam axle, and is rated to take payloads of up to 1089kg.
Loaded up with about 300kg, the Transit is actually rather comfortable on urban streets. The springrates and dampers give it a softened ride without making it wallow, pitch or roll excessively, and the steering feels precise too.
Operators looking to carry heavier loads should probably look at the RWD Transit though. Not only do you get more power and torque, but the RWD SWB variant has a bigger max payload weight of 1388kg.
Need more? The Transit RWD LWB Jumbo van can carry a massive 2075kg payload - albeit at the expense of cargo bay wheelarch clearance due to the dual wheels.
Braking: Stopping performance is good. Ther are ventilated discs up front and solid discs rear; fully laden, the Transit's braking system proved up to the task.
ANCAP rating: Three stars
Safety features: Safety equipment is lacking, with only dual front airbags, ABS, EBD and three-point seatbelts for all three occupants as standard.
Side airbags are optional on all Transit variants bar the RWD LWB Jumbo, and stability control and reverse parking sensors are only available as part of an option package.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km.
Service costs: Service intervals are set for every 15,000km or 12 months, with routing maintenance prices capped at $360 per service. Capped pricing applies for the first six years or 105,000km of ownership, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai iLoad CRDi ($34,490) - Hyundai’s iLoad van has been a popular seller in recent years thanks to its low price, and attractive warranty, but it’s not quite as big inside as the Transit and doesn’t have as much clearance between the wheelarches.
On the plus side, dual sliding-doors are standard on the Hyundai, and an automatic is optional. It’s also the torquiest van in this line-up. (see iLoad reviews)
Toyota Hiace D4D LWB ($36,990) - The dominant Hiace has a lot going for it. Its load area is substantially longer than the Transit (2930mm in total) and scheduled servicing is cheaper.
The cargo floor is just painted steel though, and rear barn doors are not available on the Hiace. (see Hiace reviews)
Volkswagen Transporter SWB TDI 250 ($36,490) - The Transporter has the lowest power (75kW) and torque (250Nm) of this group, and although it’s one of the more expensive options, it also has the shortest cargo bay.
It’s more refined than the others, but outgunned for value. (see Transporter reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Transit is a middle-of-the-road offering from Ford. Not outstanding (no automatic, a poor safety score and ratty plastic quality harm its cause), but it's not without appeal.
Features like that flat rubbery floor, torque-laden engine and standard rear barn-doors make it an attractive buying proposition if you've got a big job ahead.
It’s worth looking at if you aren't fussed by below-par cabin quality and don’t mind a manual transmission. Parcel couriers in particular will find the Transit’s accessible load area to be most appealing of all current vans.
However those who need to carry heavy payloads may want to look at the diesel iLoad or Hiace options instead.