Four weeks into this six-month appraisal of the Ford Transit Courier, life is proving very pleasant with the perky contender.
Climbing aboard, the first thing you’ll notice is that the cab seems as though it should be affixed to a much bigger van – there is headroom aplenty and, thanks to the windscreen being pushed forward, it almost feels as though there is room for a sizeable pool table on top of the dash.
Unlike some small vans, the Courier also has plenty of leg-room for the driver and passenger – an important point for me, as I stand 6ft 3in in my bare feet.
Ford has rather cleverly designed the dashboards of the four Transits on offer – Courier, Connect, Custom and Transit itself – for uniformity, so drivers will immediately feel at home when they first climb into any of them, with the various knobs and switches immediately falling to hand without having to hunt for them.
For a small van, the Courier is very well-specced. For example, a full steel bulkhead comes as part of the package – you have to pay for this little life-saver with most of the other vans in this sector. A bulkhead not only stops loads flying forward and injuring the occupants in the event of a crash, but also stops thieves from breaking in the front and stealing valuable cargo from the back.
There’s also an overhead parcel shelf, under-seat stowage compartment, front foglights, adjustable steering wheel, adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support and various safety and driver aids such as the now-legal requirements electronic stability control and ABS, plus hill launch assist, which we haven’t been able to try out yet as it is totally flat here in Essex.
Our test model also has a rubber load mat in the rear at £30, which should really be standard, plus metallic paint at £300, which makes this van look really shiny but probably won’t make it on to many fleets.
There’s also a Quickclear windscreen, which will be a Godsend in the winter as the van will remain parked on my driveway. Once again, fleets probably won’t choose this option as, while it is a wonderful safety extra, these windscreens cost considerably more to replace than their ordinary counterparts when they get damaged (as they may well do in the course of a busy fleet life).
The seats in the Courier are worthy of mention as they are more like something you’d find in a sports car than a van, with lots of figure-hugging side support. While they are fine for me and my partner – both fairly slim – I feel they might prove a tad tight for anyone of more generous proportions.
My only complaint so far is that the 12-volt take-off on the dash is right next to the gearstick, which means that when I plug in my mobile phone or sat-nav unit, my hand gets tangled up with the plug and wire when changing gear. The bigger Transits have an additional take-off on top of the dash especially for sat-navs.
Out on the road, despite being a commercial vehicle, the Courier drives very much like a car, with nice smooth gearchanges and well-sorted handling.
With just 75hp on offer it would be easy to assume that the van would be rather sluggish. But that power is given freely and, so far, I have never felt it really needed any more. Next month I will be visiting my holiday home in Devon, where there are lots of nice steep hills, so there will be a chance to see how the Courier behaves on the inclines.
I will also be bringing you the first fuel economy test figures to see whether this perky little contender can indeed reach the 68.9mpg figure stated on the tin.