The arrival of the Euro 6 emissions standard on September 1 is undoubtedly the big news of the year as far as van manufacturers are concerned.
As the cut-off date approaches, they have been gradually launching their new engines and several are offering both Euro 5 and Euro 6 models side by side.
Ford has already launched Euro 6 powerplants for the Fiestavan, Transit Courier and Transit Connect and now it’s the turn of the top-selling Transit and Transit Custom to follow suit. But at a launch event in Munich we discovered that there is more to the Euro 6 Transits than upgraded engines. Ford has taken the opportunity to also introduce improvements to ride and handling, new safety technology and upgraded in-cab connectivity.
The only outwardly noticeable difference in the Euro 6 models is a discreet chrome strip at the bottom of the grille – but under the bonnet the changes are significant. There is also a price hike at around £1,100 per vehicle. Out go the old 2.2-litre turbodiesel powerplants and in comes a brand new 2.0-litre EcoBlue unit, part-developed at Dagenham – and to be produced there too.
To comply with Euro 6 restrictions, these engines all carry a 21-litre AdBlue tank which will have to be filled up every 6,000 miles or so. They are also up to 13% more fuel-efficient. For example, Transit now returns up to 42.2mpg on the combined cycle while Transit Custom manages up to 46.3mpg. The AdBlue tank weighs 40kg, so all gross vehicle weights except those at 3.5 tonnes have been raised by that amount in order that payloads will not be affected.
The engine also pumps out less CO2 – down from a minimum of 163g/km to 157g/km for both models – and there’s a 55% reduction in NOx emissions. Ford reckons that this new engine will save fleets £1,250 in fuel over 80,000 miles, helping to alleviate the rise in front-end price. Meanwhile, service intervals have been extended up to two years/36,000 miles. Three power outputs will be available – 105hp, 130hp and 170hp – and they offer up to 20% more torque at low revs, thus improving low-end pulling power.
All-wheel drive versions will be available later in the year. And, for the first time, Ford will be offering a six-speed auto box on Transit and Transit Custom. There will also be an air-suspension option for kombi versions.
The automatic gearbox versions are likely to cost around £1,000 extra but, at the launch, Sarah Haslam, Ford powertrain integration manager, told Commercial Fleet that this cost was likely to be recouped over the life of the van with less wear-and-tear. She said: “Drivers tend to abuse manual gearboxes and this leads to bigger repair bills.”
Tweaks under the metal now mean that the Transit and Transit Custom are quieter in the cab by 1.2 decibels, while there’s a revised steering set-up for sharper handling and a new rear damper design for better comfort and control.
On the safety front there are some big changes too. A sidewind assist system that stops the vehicle being blown across the road now comes as standard, while there’s an optional pre-collision assist and pedestrian detection system that automatically applies the brakes if the vehicle decides that the driver has not noticed an emergency situation ahead.
Adaptive cruise control uses the front-facing radar system to enable the driver to maintain a set distance from the vehicle ahead, while a traffic sign recognition system provides drivers with the latest detected speed limits.
Ford’s Sync2 voice-activated connectivity system has also been upgraded with a high-res six-inch colour screen in Transit and a four-inch screen in Transit Custom.
Climbing aboard the Transit Custom with the 170hp powerplant first, it was obvious as soon as we fired up the engine that here was something rather special, with engine noise hardly noticeable even at autobahn speeds. Such was the power output and the torque on offer – a chunky 298lb-ft at 1,750rpm-2,500rpm – that the van would pull in just about any of its six gears, even with a half-load on board.
Our next drive was in the long wheelbase Transit at 3.5-tonnes and sporting the lowest-powered 105hp engine.
With a half-load on board, we were expecting sluggish and lacklustre performance, but once again we were wrong. Despite its diminutive brake horsepower, this engine was very competent, pulling away confidently in just about any gear.