Product Type: Ford cars
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How the New Transit won me over
Member Name: r_welfare
Date: 25/03/03, updated on 25/03/03 (5319 review reads)
Advantages: Good loadspace, Acceptable performance, Easy to drive
Disadvantages: Not hugely economical, Inefficient ventilation, Dead-feeling clutch
What greeted me that day was a brand new (500 miles on the clock) Transit SWB T260, to give it it’s full name. “T260” sounds a bit reminiscent of an evil android from one of the Terminator films, but in reality means this is the baby of the New Transit range, introduced in 2001. For the first time, the Transit range has been split between front-wheel drive (for the SWB, or short-wheelbase versions) and traditional rear-wheel drive for the larger ones. There is the usual bewildering range of engine and body options on top of the choice of wheelbases, and they are made in a factory beside the M27 just outside Southampton. Note that I am ignoring the new Transit Connect here, which is apparently based on the Fiesta and, to be honest, looks like something Postman Pat would drive. The “standard” Transit, to the best of my knowledge, owes nothing to the Ford car range although it’s possible the engines are broadly similar in some way. If you wanted to buy one, I've seen them at Ford dealers in the South East for £9,995 + VAT.
Resplendent in white (although I’m assured they do come in other colours), even in it’s smallest form the Transit i
s quite a large and imposing vehicle, although from scrutinising the handbook it’s only as long as a Mondeo, about 15 feet. However it is over 6 feet wide and over 6 feet high (even with the standard, “low” roof model I had). It looks more box-like than the previous “fast front” model, but I am told the aerodynamics are still very good and the more boxy rear (plus the front-wheel drive, which lowers the floor due to there being no propshaft or rear differential) allows a standard-sized Europallet to fit, whatever one of those is (dashed European Union standardising everything again!).
My worldly belongings consisted of: one large two-seat sofabed, one bicycle, one 30” TV with stand, a large and small chest of drawers, two large hi-fis, a PC, printer and scanner, a flat-packed wardrobe, table and four chairs, 10 large boxes filled with various detritus, and three or four large bags and suitcases filled with clothes. I initially chose the smallest Transit with the low roof as it would make the ferry crossing to Guernsey cheaper (the larger high-roof would have been more than 5m long and 3m high, so would have incurred greater ferry costs), but once I had packed in the sofa, TV and chest of drawers (bought from a friend who was also emigrating) I began to panic that it would not all fit in. Luckily, some lateral thinking by my father and a couple of hours of trying various permutations got everything fitted in with very little room to spare. I will say that the loading area of the Transit is very thoughtfully-designed. My van was boarded out with plywood, I don’t know if this is a factory option but was impressively executed nonetheless.
Out on the road and, as a long-time car user (who has owned some powerful machinery before) I was actually quite impressed with it. When I picked it up I made allowances for the fact it was barely run-in and a diesel (I had never driven one before), but despite only having a 7
5hp engine (a 2-litre direct-injection turbocharged 16 valve lump called “Doratorq DI”) it got up to speed pretty well and was an excellent cruiser. In particular, it started without needing any time for the glowplugs to warm up – but then again do direct-injection diesels have glowplugs? The very short first gear amplified the fact that, as a typical diesel, it didn’t like to rev highly, but low-down torque was excellent. The characteristic whistle of the turbocharger was quite audible but hey, I’m a red-blooded male and I like these things.
One thing that a first-time van driver needs to acclimatise to when first driving a van like this is the size of everything in the cab. In particular, the steering wheel and gearlever especially are huge! As you sit up high the gearlever needs to be very long, but I found the angles it adopted in various gears quite disconcerting. Luckily I wasn’t carrying a central passenger (there are two passenger seats) so this wasn’t a problem. The gearshift action was fine, by the way, but sometimes difficult to get reverse. The driver’s seat has a whole range of adjustment so it’s quite easy to get comfortable, however I like a somewhat reclined driving position (I’ve got long arms and short legs for my height) which just wasn’t possible as the angle of recline was restricted by the bulkhead separating the cab from the loadspace. The dashboard follows the standard Ford “organic shapes” idiom, but is made of quite decent quality plastic and the controls are intuitive. The heating/ventilation was good, but you needed the fan on a (noisy) high setting to get the best out of it. The RDS stereo was of good quality, and the instruments were clear and concise. Due for particular praise are the huge door pockets, and the large mirrors – very important as you can’t see out of the back!
So with the van loaded up we took to the road. The big
surprise came with the performance when fully-loaded – there was no perceptible difference. Perhaps my “load” didn’t weigh very much (although the TV and sofabed were bl**dy heavy!), but as I have said rapid acceleration isn’t this van’s forte. It was easy to provoke wheelspin from a standing start when loaded, though. There was a touch of understeer through the bends, again this was probably due to the rear being well-loaded but we must be reminded that this is a 6-foot-something-high van and not a Golf GTI. The headlights were reasonably powerful and the noise level low enough to conduct a conversation with my dad in the far passenger seat at our cruising speed of 65-70mph. On the way back, with the van empty, we did manage to reach an indicated 105mph driving through the New Forest, which was very impressive, although I would like to point out there was no traffic and it was 2am – I’m fond of my license in it’s unblemished state and don’t make a habit of driving like this!
I had to unload the van in the middle of St Peter Port in Guernsey, a busy market town with very narrow roads. The Transit was very manouverable (a by-product of the large steering wheel and decent power steering) and the large rear door and side door made unloading a rapid business. The remote central locking allows you to unlock the rear doors separately from the cab.
In conclusion then, the Transit performed admirably and I was really impressed with it. It returned just over 25mpg in my hands, although I was driving relatively hard and using all the revs (plus, as I’ve pointed out, we weren’t hanging about on the return journey). I’ve heard that there have been some reliability issues but I would imagine that is due to the new technology used in this particular model. We did 500 miles in those two days and I didn’t get out of the cab feeling crippled like I’ve heard some other vans ca
n do to you! One day I’d like to try one with the larger TDI or petrol engines, they must be (relatively-speaking) real screamers – maybe when I return to the UK! Having said I’m moving again this week, and will be renting a Renault Master…so watch this space…