Just two weeks after its arrival at Fleet Towers, I put the Transit to its first big test.
This involved driving from my home in Peterborough to Brighton, picking up some furniture and boxes from my cousin’s house and taking them to her daughter’s new home in Bournemouth – then home again.
This round trip of 500 miles would not only help loosen up the engine but would show up any shortcomings in the ergonomics department.
Let’s first talk about all the little ‘extras’ on our Transit.
How many operators would choose them, for example, and how many are really necessary?
At the risk of being accused of advocating unnecessary expenditure, I would rate most of the ‘extras’ as not extra at all, but all features that a modern van driver should be entitled to have.
Who could baulk at providing a CD player? Air conditioning will make the driver not only cooler but safer too and that Quickclear windscreen will really come into its own in winter.
How many van drivers do you see hammering down the road with just a little island of clear space in their screens amid a sea of frost?
That can’t be safe, can it?
Sadly, many vans will be bought by fleets in their bog standard format so it is full marks to Ford for at least offering as standard a driver’s airbag and ABS brakes.
One item I am not too impressed with is the driver’s seat, which is the six-way adjustable variety with an arm on the left.
The squab isn’t long enough for my spindly legs and the rear section pushes into my shoulder blades, while there is no lumbar support at all. I felt no back twinges at all after my 500-mile sojourn but I tended to sit hunched over the wheel rather than with my back straight and that can’t be a good position to be in day in, day out.
This problem apart, the Transit has performed like a star.
You might expect the engine to be tight as a drum with so few miles under its belt, but it already feels wonderfully free-revving and offers huge amounts of grunt right up the rev range.
Several times while flying down the A1M toward the Dartford Tunnel, I had to check my speed as it crept up towards the: ‘Who do you think you are, sonny – Stirling Moss?’ zone.
To tell the truth, I believe I came a cropper on the A23 just outside Brighton when I thrashed past a mobile speed camera at 70mph. I was forgetting that vans over 2.0 tonnes can only legally drive 10mph lower than the car speed limit except on motorways, so I am half expecting to hear from East Sussex police.
Once at my cousin’s house, the loading proved a doddle.
The van has a rubber floor (an optional extra at £150), which means the six load-lashing eyes are sunk into the floor.
This means items of furniture can be slid in and out without catching on the lugs.
My bits of carboard, rope and blanket all came in useful to protect the larger pieces of furniture, while my cousin’s boxes of detritus were wedged all round to make a secure load.
I’d say the van was well over half loaded for the final 100-mile leg of the journey to Bournemouth but it made not a jot of difference to the handling.
Despite its size, the Transit happily threw itself into corners with gusto and even some
high winds on the coast road didn’t worry it unduly.
The following day, it was a relatively quick blast up the M3, round the M25, up the A1 and I was home again.
A quick check on the fuel economy figures showed that so far the Transit is returning a creditable 28.61 miles per gallon, which is not at all bad considering most of the miles so far have been fast motorway ones.
We’ll be reporting how the Transit is faring in each issue of Fleet Van. So far, we are more