First Drive: Ford Transit Euro 6

For some jobs a simple and cost-effective vehicle is best, and for those looking for a minibus around the 17-passenger mark, the Ford Transit is proving popular. It’s straightforward and relatively versatile, and is very keenly priced.

A choice of pre-registered, delivery mileage examples are available from Colne, Lancashire-based supplier David Fishwick. With up to 20 in stock at any one time it can supply rapidly; buyers can “drive away tomorrow, subject to funding,” says Sales and Marketing Executive Matt Eames.

Although the Transit minibus is obviously based on the van of the same name, Ford has done a competent job of adapting it for passenger-carrying use. Pre-registered models at two specification levels are available from Fishwick: the no-frills Base, priced at 24,995, and the more upmarket Trend, which attracts a 2,000 premium that is more than made up for by additional equipment.

Matt reports strong interest in both, and it has sold a significant number of pre-registered examples so far, most of which have gone to PCV operators. The prices quoted are, he says, reasonably safe for the rest of the financial year, and David Fishwick was able to provide a pre-registered Transit Trend for a routeone First Drive.

 

First impressions

The door layout from the van is held over to the minibus, including rear barn doors and a large sliding nearside entrance and exit. The latter is manually operated and has a substantial mechanism, and under testing has been slammed 250,000 times, says the manufacturer. It slides easily, and an electrically-operated exterior step is present.

Operation of the step is governed by the dash computer. Set to automatic mode, it extends and retracts when the door is opened and closed without the driver’s input, while it can be extended as required when the door is closed via the computer. It can also be turned off completely. There are 15 seats in the passenger compartment and two, including the driver’s, in the cab. A no-cost option can see the single cab passenger seat replaced with a ‘crew cab’ bench that accommodates two people to give a maximum capacity of 18, including the driver.

Seats are finished in hard-wearing black fabric and have three-point belts and adjustable headrests. In the Trend they recline; in the Base, they do not. Retracting aisle armrests are also provided in the higher-specified model, and drinks holders are within the side walls on all rows.

Width and pitch is reasonable, and one position in the saloon’s front row is equipped with securing points for a child seat. The rear four are slightly narrower than the rest; of these, the centre two are removable to accommodate a moderate amount of luggage. Around four smaller cases and bags can also be stored behind the rear seats.

Headroom is very good at around two metres, and the ceiling includes four small lights which could perhaps be a little larger.

Two highly-conspicuous vertical yellow handrails are provided within the entrance, and it is necessary even for passengers over six feet tall to duck only slightly when boarding.

Separate air-conditioning units for the cab and saloon are provided in Trend models, with independent controls. Those for the passenger area unit are mounted above the driver, while those for his or her own area are in the conventional dash position.

The saloon air-conditioning unit is mounted within the nearside rear pillar, which is slightly more bulbous than that on the offside. It feeds to vents in the roofline and two foot-level openings for each pair of seats. Two opening windows are provided on each side of the saloon; the glass is highly tinted.

Seats are made of hard-wearing fabric; headroom very good
Seats are made of hard-wearing fabric; headroom very good

 

In the cab

In the Trend, a radio/CD player with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity is standard, while Ford’s SYNC and Emergency Assistance links to supported smartphones are also fitted.

These deliver too many benefits to list, but among the most significant are the ability to stream music to the Transit’s stereo, and audio delivery of text messages received by supported phones.

The Emergency Assistance function is configured to automatically call 999 via the connected smartphone when it detects that an airbag has been activated in an accident. It is standard on Trend, but not on Base.

Various other useful aspects from a driver’s point of view have been built into the Transit, such as copious storage provision. When the optional two-passenger front seat has been specified, part of the backrest closest to the driver can be lowered when not in use to give a reasonable-sized table which includes two cup holders, an elastic strap to hold documents and a pen slot.

Also useful is a small flap on the top of the dash immediately in front of the driver. This lifts via a button to give a storage compartment for smaller items, and access to 12v and USB charging outlets.

In an example of close attention to detail, there are two small cut-outs on each side of the flap. These mean that items such as sat-navs can be plugged in and the wire trailed through one of these cut-outs, and the flap left in the closed position. A second, dash-mounted 12v socket is also present.

Ford’s trademark heated front screen is fitted to Trend specification minibuses along with heated and folding mirrors, both very useful additions during cold and/or wet weather.

The rear windows are also heated, while mirrors are electrically adjustable. The steering wheel adjusts for height and rake.

 Cab is car-like and includes several well-considered design aspects
Cab is car-like and includes several well-considered design aspects

 

Under the bonnet

The Transit Trend minibus as tested is powered by Ford’s 2.2-litre DuraTorq engine, which develops 125bhp and 350Nm of torque. That proved to be more than adequate, but operators who require more power can upgrade to a 155bhp and 385Nm version of the same engine for an additional 1,000.

A six-speed manual transmission is fitted, and Ford’s driver information system delivers prompts via the dash display to change up or down at the best moment for optimum fuel economy.

The engine warms up rapidly and on a cold day the cab reached a comfortable temperature very quickly. Ford says it has validated the cooling pack’s performance by subjecting the Transit to prolonged hill climbing when towing a trailer in 50oC temperatures, so there should be no worries about excessive heat build-up at Euro 6.

The dash-mounted gear knob is leather trimmed in the Trend, as is the steering wheel, and easily reached.

Unusually the engine automatically revs to around 1,500rpm when the Transit is in either first or reverse gear and the clutch pedal is lifted. It becomes a useful aid when moving away despite feeling strange at first, and requires time for the driver to become fully accustomed to it. Maximum gross weight of the Transit is 4,680kg and it tips the scales at around 3,000kg unladen. With a trailer attached its maximum train weight is 5,350kg. David Fishwick can arrange for installation of a towbar and necessary connections via a local auto electrician prior to delivery.

Diesel and AdBlue fillers are behind two flaps immediately in front of the sliding door. Ford’s EasyFuel cap-less fitting is standard for the diesel opening.

 

On the road

The 125bhp of the test vehicle is moderate by some minibus standards, but it proved ample on a test route which included some challenging climbs between Colne and Skipton. It also gave car-like motorway cruising on the M65.

At times of low power demand, upshifts at surprisingly slow engine speeds are promoted via the dash indicator, but the software’s advice proved to be good and the DuraTorq engine took a higher gear easily. When more get up and go is needed – such as during acceleration on motorway slip roads – the driver is encouraged to rev the engine harder.

For a 2.2-litre engine, pulling power is excellent, and it digs in particularly well between 1,500-2,500rpm, which is where torque figures are highest. The 125bhp model’s torque curve is flat between 1,500-2,000rpm; in the 155bhp variant delivery is constant for longer, but doesn’t come in until a slightly higher engine speed, according to Ford’s literature.

On a route from Colne to Skipton and return, which included higher-speed A-road running, a slow trawl through Skipton town centre and several villages with 30mph speed limits, the Transit returned a respectable 32.8mpg.

On a return trip along the M65, most of which was covered at the 62mph limited speed and included a full-throttle climb on an uphill sliproad, the figure was 29.2mpg. In sixth gear, the engine is turning at 2,000rpm when cruising at 62mph, and noise levels are low.

The Trend’s variable cruise control and speed limiter are controlled by a number of buttons on a paddle to the eight o’clock position on the steering wheel, and the speed limiter in particular not only saves fuel but proves very useful in urban environments.

A hill-hold device, which can be deactivated via the on-board computer, is present on both Base and Trend models, while stop-start technology is also present as standard. This too can be turned off if required, as can the traction control.

Other safety elements are curve control, which applies ‘smart braking’ of all four wheels to different degrees to bring the Transit’s speed down when a bend is taken too fast, and electronic stability control; both are standard on Base and Trend. Front and rear parking sensors are fitted to Trend models.

Middle pair of seats removable for luggage storage space
Middle pair of seats removable for luggage storage space

 

The dealer’s view

The pre-registered Transits being sold by David Fishwick offer exceptional value for money, particularly in the case of Trend variants, where a high level of equipment is offered for a 2,000 premium over the Base model.

Benefits of buying a Trend specification minibus not already mentioned include metallic paint, rain sensing windscreen wipers, a more supportive driver’s seat and improved headlights. Trend has accounted for around two-thirds of Fishwick’s pre-registered Transit sales so far, says Matt.

Its stock vehicles include both 17- and 18-seaters to Base and Trend specification. All have the 125bhp engine rating, but examples of the 155bhp model are “on the way.” Trend is available from stock in either white or metallic silver, or can be factory ordered in many other colours, including metallic shades. Liveries or signwriting can be applied by David Fishwick prior to delivery if required.

Base-level Transits are available from stock in white, or can be factory ordered in a number of other non-metallic colours.

“We will also shortly offer a wheelchair-accessible option on our pre-registered Transits,” Matt continues. “We carry out the lift conversion work in-house; five wheelchairs is the absolute maximum a Transit can carry, but we retain one passenger seat per wheelchair position for accompanying carers.”

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a minibus which can handle school contracts, act as a local runabout, carry wheelchair users or turn its hand to longer-distance jobs as and when necessary, the Transit may tick the box. Its three-year warranty from the date of registration will also provide the peace of mind all operators need, and support is available at all Ford dealers nationwide.

 

Facts and figures

Vehicle:Pre-registered Ford Transit minibus
Supplied by:David Fishwick, Colne, Lancashire
Length:6.70m
Height:2.78m
Width:2.47m including mirrors
UVW:3,011kg
MGW:4,600kg
Seats:17 or 18, including driver
Engine:Ford DuraTorque TDCi, 2.2 litres, Euro 6
Power:125bhp (92kW) or 155bhp (114kW)
Torque:350Nm (259 lb ft) or 385Nm (284 lb ft)
Gearbox:Ford six-speed manual
Retail price:24,995 for Base model, 26,995 for Trend

 

www.davidfishwick.com