Dan Gilkes reports
Just weeks after the European launch of the latest Ford Transit, we’ve managed to bag a few days on UK roads with the new van. Yes, you may have to look closely to spot many external differences, but under the skin, there have been some big changes to Ford’s largest van.
The 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine has been updated, with new pistons, a variable flow oil pump and higher fuel injection pressures. All of which are said to contribute to a 7% fuel saving on average across the range.
There are now four power ratings, starting with 105hp, then 130hp, 170hp and a new 185hp output. The range-topping motor, that we have here, delivers 415Nm of torque across a wider rpm band, making it easy to keep the engine in its most economical sweet spot. Auto Start-Stop is now also standard across the line-up.
Six-speed manual gearboxes are fitted to both front and rear-wheel drive models, with a six-speed automatic transmission offered as an option on the front-wheel drive vans. A new 10-speed automatic box will be available on rear-wheel drive Transits next spring.
As well as improving the driveline, Ford has been working hard to cut weight from the van. This includes an aluminium bonnet, that removes 5.4kg versus steel, a redesigned rear axle saving 14.7kg and a lightweight bulkhead made from composite, saving 4.4kg. In total Ford claims to have cut around 48kg from front-wheel drive models, with this rear-drive 350 L3H2 model said to be up to 80kg lighter than before. That results in a more than competitive 1,281kg payload for this 11m3 model.
Despite the lower weight, the big Ford boasts an improved specification, even in this range-topping Limited trim. This includes Normal, Eco and Slippery driving modes on rear-drive vans, while the adoption of electronic power assisted steering brings with it the availability of lane-keeping assistance and Active Park Assist systems. You can also choose from a host of driver assistance systems including Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition and Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, making this by far the safest Transit yet.
Perhaps the biggest change for drivers is the interior of the cab, which now mimics the smaller Transit Custom, with its tablet-style 8-inch touchscreen, providing access to Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system. Limited trim also gets air conditioning, alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights and a body coloured front bumper. All Transits now also come with a FordPass Connect modem built-in, providing a link for a range of telematic and fleet management services.
Driving the new Transit is a familiar experience, despite the new interior. Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of power available from the 185hp engine and it is easy to get moving and keep pace with traffic. The EcoBlue engine does have a bit of a drone at cruising speeds, but it’s not overly intrusive and the revised Transit cab is a comfortable place to spend the day.
For such a large van, in L3H2 form, the Transit has remarkably direct handling, with light yet direct steering assistance. Many drivers might not be expecting the level of handling and road holding on offer either, with the big Ford offering that clever shrinking act that makes the van feel much smaller and manoeuvrable once on the move.
As one of the first of its kind in the UK, our test van was fresh from the factory, with very few miles on the clock. Yet, even so, it claimed to be delivering fuel consumption in the high 30s in general use.
As mentioned, Ford’s Transit update isn’t that noticeable from the outside, but the changes offer improved fuel consumption, lower emissions and a better drive. With the built-in modem, there are also better ways for fleet managers to keep control of their vehicles and drivers.
“Under the skin, there have been some big changes to Ford’s largest van”
Ford Transit Limited 350 L3H2
BASIC PRICE £37,765
ENGINE 4-cyl 1,996cc POWER 185bhp @ x,600 TORQUE 420Nm @ x,500-2,000
GVW 3,500 KERB WEIGHT 2,244 PAYLOAD 1,281 MAX TRAILER WEIGHT 3,500
LOAD SPACE LENGTH 3,350 LOAD SPACE WIDTH 1,560 LOAD SPACE HEIGHT 1,786 WIDTH BETWEEN W/ARCHES 1,392 LOAD HEIGHT (UNLADEN) 632 LOAD VOLUME 11
Fuel tank capacity 72 AdBlue tank capacity 21 Combined fuel consumption 41.5mpg (NEDC) CO2 emissions 177g/km (NEDC) Oil Change 2 year/36,000 miles WARRANTY 3 years/100,000 miles