Ford Transit first drive reveals automatic gearbox enhances driver experience

"It’s responsive and performs well-judged shifts, keeping the vehicle in the necessary power band for as long as possible"

Ford Transit automatic gearbox road test


Built specifically for commercial use, the Ford Transit’s automatic gearbox enhances driver experience with refinement and power. 

Automatic transmissions are becoming more popular in the van sector as fleet operators increasingly consider issues relating to driver fatigue and comfort when choosing vehicles.

Ford added a six-speed SelectShift automatic gearbox to the Transit and Transit Connect ranges last year in a bid to appeal to those in the delivery and distribution sector.

The new transmission adds around £1,200 to the price of the vehicle, dependent on derivative.

It is available with front-wheel drive versions of Ford’s new 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, offering 130PS or 170PS. The new unit is 13% more fuel efficient than the 2.2-litre unit it replaced.

Two length configurations (L2/L3) and two height options (H2/H3) can be selected, offering a load space from 10 cubic metres up to 13 cu m. The SelectShift gearbox is not available with the largest L4 wheelbase.

Maximum permissible weight is reduced by 53kg on automatic models, giving a maximum loading range of 1,061kg to 1,393kg, dependent on model.

Our test vehicle was a high-roof long wheelbase L3H3 model with the more powerful 170PS motor. It has a base price of £34,171 (on the road ex-VAT).

In Trend trim, the higher of two available, it was well equipped with features including a heated windscreen, power-folding mirrors, automatic headlight and wiper activation, front fog lights and cruise control.

Air conditioning is a £600 option, while Sync3 sat-nav added another £1,175. The vehicle also featured a £600 visibility pack – a worthwhile addition which includes a rear view camera and lane departure warning.

Fuel consumption, according to Ford’s official figures, is expected to be between one and two miles per gallon less than the manual equivalent – achieving 37mpg for our test vehicle.

Although weight and driving technique need to be accounted for to suggest a true figure.

We managed to exceed the stated figure, averaging 44mpg on a trip. However, the vehicle was unloaded at the time.

Stop-start is fitted as standard and will be advantageous for those operating in a city.

All Transits are a pleasure to drive and the automatic gearbox helps to enhance the experience. It’s responsive and performs well-judged shifts, keeping the vehicle in the necessary power band for as long as possible.

Ford developed the gearbox specifically for commercial use, with a focus on both refinement and power. It can handle up to 415Nm of torque so operators anddrivers should feel confident in the van’s capability.

A manual override switch on the gear lever gives full control of the six ratios. This is useful if the driver wants to utilise engine braking for a descent or hold onto a gear for longer when towing.

Performance is strong and the seamless shifts deliver a relaxing and comfortable driving environment.

Model tested: Ford Transit automatic 350 2.0tdci 170 trend l3h3

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.