While there’s a lot to be said for the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of this world, when it comes to being practical, you just can’t beat a van. Whether it’s a great minivan like our long-term Kia Sedona, a van to use for city deliveries like the Ram ProMaster City, or our latest test vehicle, the Ford Transit full-size hauler, there’s nothing that can get the job done easier and more efficiently.
We just wrote about the Ram ProMaster City, which helped tremendously in our escape from Los Angeles, but we would need the big daddy ProMaster to take the big load. We wanted to spread out the van love, so we opted for the Ford Transit, the all-new van that replaced the popular and successful Ford E-Series, a staple of businesses for over 60 years. The E-Series owed about 80 percent of the market, and the Transit is well on its way to being the number-one product for commercial buyers, with projected sales for 2015 of over 100,000 units. Because the Transit’s roots are European, global sales are off the charts. It’s been the best-selling light commercial vehicle in Europe for 40 years, and has reached icon status there: some countries use the word Transit as a generic term, like Kleenex for tissues, that can apply to any light commercial van. By comparison, Chevrolet Express van sales will be around 50,000, the full-size Ram ProMaster should finish close to 25,000 units and the Nissan NV sales will be lucky to go above 15,000 for this year. Ford is the dominant player, and as with its F-Series truck sales, will not back down from this profitable segment.
Why is this new Transit so popular? Ford knows the secret comes in the form of styling, utility, configurability, and power. For a base price of $37,835 for the Transit 350 high roof long wheelbase model, you’re getting a lot for your money. Our tester’s total MSRP was $44,985, and included options like the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, rearview camera, privacy glass, green exterior paint, long, power heated mirrors, reverse sensing system, SYNC, SiriusXM radio, and a few other goodies.
It would take about four pages to go through all the available configurations of the Transit: commercial truck use is all about options and configurability, and this is where Ford truly understands its customers. Need a 15-passenger setup for a shuttle van? Yes, you can do that. Need a chassis cab HD? Yes to that, also. Yes to a basic van, an XL trim or XLT trim, yes to 150, 250, and 350 HD, yes to three roof heights, and yes to three wheelbase options. Oh, and three frame lengths for the chassis cabs.
You want a 3.7 naturally aspirated engine? Or a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, or a diesel? You can have that, too. You can even opt for a CNG or LPG model. There are three different limited-slip rear-axle ratios, three regular ratios, and eight GVWR ratings. You can tow anywhere from between 3,500 to 7,500 pounds, and payload of 2,600 to 4,500 pounds. It’s a mix-and-match setup that would make Garanimals jealous. And don’t get us started on Ford’s reputation for durability and safety. There’s a reason why buyers come back to the Ford truck family every time for their fleet purchases.
During evaluation testing, few journalists put these vans to the test. Because of our move, we needed the Transit to haul all the big items the ProMaster City couldn’t fit, like the mattress and box springs, dining room table and chairs, and large artwork. We took four trips between Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, but we probably could have done it in two if we had used all the space. We moved in spurts because of how we were packing up the house.
The Transit high roof model is cavernous. Standing up inside made it so much easier to move items inside. And being able to load from the passenger side door and the rear was a breeze. The rear doors open 180 degrees, and have a magnetic bump stop that prevents the door from swinging around and slamming into the side panel. It’s a simple mechanism to unlock the door from the hinge.