The sixth-generation Ford Transit Minibus has proved to be a big step forward, but Ford has continued its efforts to try and improve it, primarily with the addition of more efficient EcoBlue diesel engine technology. There's also extra safety provision and the option of a slicker 6-speed automatic gearbox. All of which builds on this Turkish-built model's existing virtues of space, durability and driving enjoyment. It looks a strong package.
Buyers get the choice of three capacity levels - a 11/12 seat version based on the '350'-series Transit, a 14/15 seat version based on the '410'-series Transit and a 17/18 seat version based on the '450'-series Transit. There are two engine choices - 130 and 170PS versions of the same 2.0-litre TDCi EcoBlue diesel. And two trim levels - 'Base' and plusher 'Trend'. Prices range in the £32,000 to £40,000 bracket.
Under the bonnet, the new generation 2.0-litre Ford EcoBlue engine offers increased power and torque compared to the previous 2.2-litre unit. Improved low-end pulling power - with 20 per cent more torque at 1,250rpm - delivers more flexible and responsive performance in everyday driving. There's also now the option of a smoother, more efficient automatic gearbox, a 6-speed SelectShift auto transmission.
As previously, the Transit's body construction features high-strength and ultra-high-strength boron steels and in development, has covered the equivalent of nearly 3.4 million miles in testing in Europe and North America, with more than 250,000 miles of that total covered by actual Transit customers. Safety tests have been undertaken to ensure the vehicle would behave in a safe and predictable manner when subjected to the worst kinds of impacts experienced in real-world use, one test involving striking a 150mm kerb at 30mph. Ford didn't say how much damage the inevitable Pot Noodle in the cup holder did to the vehicle's interior.
Inside, the quality looks strong and there's been some budget devoted to actually making the dash look stylish rather than merely functional. The multi-adjustable steering wheel allows a decent driving position and the gear lever is located close at hand. There's a console that's loaded with buttons to control the various stereo and phone controls, helping you to take calls safely on the move. In fact, the biggest compliment you can pay is that it feels resolutely car-like.
Equipment levels are very reasonable. Upgrade to 'Trend' spec and you get features like cruise control and a lockable glove box, plus some leather for the steering wheel and gear knob. Transit Minibus customers can now also specify Ford's SYNC 2 voice-activated connectivity system with a new high-resolution 6-inch colour touch screen, featuring advanced voice control of audio, navigation and mobile phones. As for safety, all models get an upgraded ESC stability control system which includes 'Side Wind Stabilisation', 'Curve Control' and 'Roll Stability Control'. Plus customers can optionally specify Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition and a 'Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection' autonomous braking system.
On to cost of ownership, an area where this model's latest EcoBlue diesel engines really score. Ford claims that fuel efficiency has improved by 13% in comparison to the older 2.2-litre TDCi unit, and it talks of CO2 emissions starting from as little as 157g/km. This engine also delivers extended 2-year/37,000 mile service intervals. There's also a clever Acceleration Control system that helps to control the van's rate of acceleration according to whether it's unladen or part-laden. As a result, you can expect to lower your fuel consumption by up to 15 per cent, depending on your driving style. There's also a shift indicator for fuel-efficient gear changes.Click here to find out more about our Ford Transit Minibus range