The new Ford Transit has been making quite a splash in the UK van fleet market since it was launched in 2014, picking up a raft of awards including best heavy panel van at last year’s Fleet Van Awards (now Commercial Fleet Awards).
Since the original launch, Ford has been rolling out more versions of the iconic vehicle – and the latest new kid on the Transit block is this heavyweight dropside truck, which is aimed firmly at the construction industry.
Trucks like this have increasingly encroached into the territory of more traditional options such as the Nissan NT400 Cabstar and Isuzu Grafter – and there’s a good reason why.
Older contenders are incredibly harsh to drive over anything more than a few miles. And nowadays, with fleet drivers having more and more say in which vehicles are chosen, these more comfortable vehicles are winning the day.
From a purely practical perspective, the Transit appears to lose out badly to the rival Cabstar, costing almost £7,000 more expensive to purchase (before discounts). The Nissan carries almost half as much again as the Transit in payload, too. But these figures only tell part of the story.
For starters, the longest Cabstar can only accommodate loads of 3.35 cubic metres against the Transit’s five. And while the Nissan is slated to return 29.1mpg on the combined cycle, the Transit’s figure is 36.2, meaning the blue oval will use 540 gallons of fuel less over an 80,000-mile lifecycle, a saving of almost £2,700 on current fuel prices.
The load bed is certainly an impressive piece of kit. Sitting on twin rear wheels, there’s a chunky, yet lightweight, aluminium and steel sub-frame, double-skinned aluminium sideboards, a replaceable resin-bonded 15mm load deck and a steel headboard that looks as though it would withstand a nuclear explosion.
There are also two handy steps so that operatives can hoist themselves up on to the deck without rupturing anything, and plenty of load-lashing eyes and rings all round. There are five load lengths available and the longest measures over five metres, giving our test vehicle almost eight metres in total.
The cab of the Transit belies the fact that it’s a basic builder’s truck. It’s a stylish affair with a dashboard of swirling blacks and silvers, while the seats are supportive and comfortable. There are coffee cup holders and cola bottle bins in all the right places, an overhead parcel shelf and a handy 12-volt take-off on top of the dash so that plug-in sat-nav wires aren’t left trailing all over the place.
It’s a shame to think that the pristine cab in our test van will probably soon be awash with dirt and grime, as happens with most construction vehicles. At least our truck has a wipe-clean floor.
The driving experience of this truck is much the same as that of any other Transit model – superb. There’s a quiet ambience in the cab and gearchanges are slick and sure. There are supportive seats, ride is comfortable and handling is light and accurate.
Even at the higher price over the Cabstar, we’d sooner have the Transit. It’s smoother, quieter and easier to drive – plus of course it offers an extra 1.6 metres of load length.