The result is a cab that is a joy to be in, although I did note that the seat from the old model is carried over – and it’s a seat I find a tad uncomfortable, with an awkward lump sticking into my upper back.
I quizzed some of the other hacks on the trip and they didn’t have a problem, however, so maybe it’s just my weird shape.
Also on the gripes front, the steering column doesn’t adjust for rake or reach.
I didn’t have a problem fitting in as the seat moves in all directions, but the steering wheel wasn’t really where I wanted it.
The business end of the Transit hardly needs a mention. It was A-grade in the old model and A-grade in this one.
Two versions were available for testing in Frankfurt – a front-wheel drive short wheelbase low roof with the 130bhp engine and a rear-wheel drive long wheelbase high roof with 115bhp, both containing a half load in the back.
First off I tried the small van and on firing up the powerplant it became immediately obvious that Ford’s boast of reduced noise was no idle one.
No rattling, no roaring – just a quiet thrum which appeared to emanate from somewhere a long way off.
My co-pilot and I never had to raise our voices once, even at motorway speeds.
Once under way, the true glory of the new Transit soon becomes apparent – with power steering weighted just right, a super slick gearchange and a nimbleness that the old model just never had.
Many heavy panel van manufacturers boast of car-like driving qualities but I believe Ford is the first to actually build a large van that truly is just like a car on the road.
As we wound our way into the mountains, the rain started falling and on two occasions on sharpish bends I noticed the orange ESP light winking on.
It’s a shame Ford hasn’t followed the lead of Mercedes-Benz and made this feature a standard option.
But then again, some would argue that traction control systems simply encourage drivers to take more risks.
Bear in mind also that Mercedes has raised its prices by 3% and Ford hasn’t.
The 130bhp model is no slouch. Even with a half-load on board I soon my found myself having to check my speed as the needle crept past 120kph and even carrying out an overtaking manoeuvre on a hill, I didn’t have to change down from fifth.
For most fleet purposes, however, this van is probably too powerful and I looked forward to trying the 115bhp to see how it compared.
Next morning we got our chance. The rear wheel drive van seemed a tad more noisy than the one we had driven the previous day and the six-speed gearchange was a little notchier too.
But for fleets, this is likely to be the big seller. Just enough power without being too outrageous, yet with that same pin-sharp handling.
Sprinter, Crafter and Transit vying for position along with the new Sevel-built trio – the Citroen Relay, Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato – in a heavy van sector that is becoming ever more sophisticated. What a year 2006 is proving to be.
It’s a tough job separating the merits of the offerings from Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Ford and in the end it may just come down to price.
And that’s where Ford will win. While the Germans have upped their prices, equivalent models of the old and new Transit remain the same.