The Ford Transit has been the undisputed king of the LCV castle since its launch back in 1965.
It’s an enviable position to be in, but one that causes its own set of problems.
For example, everyone wants to take a pop at you, knock you off your pedestal and pinch your crown.
In theory, the present Transit – the fifth incarnation – should have been good for another two or three years.
But 2006 sees the launch of a host of red-hot opposition models such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter, Citroen Relay, Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato.
Ford is not renowned for sitting back and letting the opposition steal its market share and has hit back with a vengeance.
Enter the sixth generation Transit, featuring a fresh look, a new set of engines and hugely improved road manners.
Ford decided to launch the vehicle to the press in Frankfurt on the second day of the CV Show, one of the busiest days of the year in the LCV journalists’ calendar.
But such is the might of the Transit name that the whole bunch of us decamped from the NEC and flew, notebooks in hand, to Germany ready to drive what Ford promised to be the world’s best van.
In the words of Gary Whittam, Ford’s then director of commercial vehicles: ‘The best van by a mile just got better by a mile.’
First thing of note about the new model is its smart new front end, which takes its cue from its smaller brother, the Transit Connect.
The wide grille and slash-cut headlights manage to look stylish and macho at the same time, while the blue oval on the front is the biggest you’ll find anywhere in the world (apart from on the side of Ford’s headquarters in Dagenham!)
The rear end of the Transit hasn’t changed. It’s a big square box that did the job very nicely before thankyou, so Ford decided to keep it.
In the panel van range, there will be short, medium and long wheelbases, plus the option of an extended frame and low roof, medium roof and high roof vans and minibuses.
Both front and rear-wheel drive options are on offer and there will also be the usual chassis-cab variants.
In the cab, a wondrous transformation has taken place.
Gone is the chunky old dash board and gone too is that old floor-mounted gearstick that resembled a furled umbrella.
A great deal of thought has gone into creature comforts, so white van man will now be treated to such delights as two-litre cola bottle bins in each side of the cab, more cup holders that you can shake a stick at, a compartment on the top of the dash featuring a 12-volt phone charger socket and a glovebox with hanging rails for A4 files.
The dash has been totally reworked with a new instrument cluster and there are a number of new paid-for options including satellite navigation, leather seats (for fleets? I don’t think so), cruise control, a visibility pack (featuring heated front windscreen, rain sensing wipers auto headlights and an auto rear wipe), Bluetooth capability and rear parking sensors.