Van fleet operators are a notoriously stingy bunch.
Tell them they can save ten quid in a year’s time by spending a pound now and they’ll like as not prefer to keep the said pound under a mattress and not ‘risk it’.
This is the problem Ford faces when it comes to explaining why customers should cough up £1,000 extra for the Durashift automatic gearbox option on Transit.
The reason, says Ford, is that for fleets which deal mainly with city pick-ups and drops, the Durashift offers greater fuel efficiency which will obviously lead to cost savings.
The thousand pounds should be easily saved – and more – over the fleet life of the vehicle.
And as a by-product, of course, the autobox offers a much more relaxed drive, which will leave staff feeling cool, calm, collected and stress-free at the end of the working day.
But so far, the Transit Durashift has remained a niche model.
This is a shame, as after a week behind the wheel of a medium wheelbase, medium high roof double cab model, I quite got to appreciate this laid-back driving experience.
But first a word of warning – if you decide to provide your drivers with Durashift Transits, be aware that they might not immediately take to them.
When I first climbed aboard our test model, it was a strange experience indeed. I am fully used to driving cars with automatic gearboxes, but Durashift is something different again.
There is no stick at all, but simply three buttons on the dashboard for neutral, drive and reverse, with three modes for economy, bad weather and full load. And that’s all there is to it.
Once on the road, there is a noticeable gap between gearchanges which seems to get worse the faster you push this van.
It’s frustrating at first but after a day or two drivers will get used to the Durashift’s little peccadilloes and will perfect a smooth-ish driving style.
If I was a driver whose day consisted entirely of city drops, I would certainly relish having a van like this – it would save a great deal of wear and tear on the left leg and arm.
However, if my main runs were along motorways, there hardly seems any point paying the extra for a Durashift. It’s a matter of horses for courses.
Our test vehicle was a half-and-half Transit with an extra row of seats.
There is a large sliding door on each side with a window in each and plenty of leg room in the second row of seats.
Behind these seats is a full bulkhead and a load area which allows for 1,503kg of cargo.
It’s surprisingly voluminous bearing in mind all the seats in the front.
With a model like this, a crew of six can be catered for, along with a reasonable amount of gear.
And of course being a Transit, a driver’s airbag and ABS brakes come as standard.
The main problem with the Durashift is that it is only available with the old TDdi engine, which is not common rail and is noticeably lower tech – and thirstier – than the fabulous TDCi unit.
The Durashift option won’t be for everyone and a fleet would have to do its sums carefully before making the decision to fork out the extra cash.
But for certain uses, this van will be a Godsend.