Ford Transit Courier ST review: one-off 200bhp hot van tested Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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First Drive

Ford Transit Courier ST review: one-off 200bhp hot van tested

Published: 18 Oct 2019

That’s the worst A-Team tribute I’ve ever seen.

The paintwork is an accident. Ford UK had this black and bestriped Transit Courier sat in its workshop, minding its own business. Most of these things flit about the land powered by a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine producing around 100bhp.

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All of a sudden, someone had the bright idea of swapping the smallest Transit’s engine for another motor. Also a 1.5-litre, also turbocharged. But instead of being a diesel workhorse, it’s the fabulous 1.5-litre three-cylinder zinger from the Ford Fiesta ST. Top Gear’s 2018 Car of the Year and quite simply the best car of any type you can buy for less than twenty grand.

Is it fast?

It’s seriously quick, but the best bit is that it sounds even faster. Ford says it didn’t rip up a Mountune’d Fiesta ST donor car, so this van’s running the standard 197bhp / 214lb ft, not the upgraded 222bhp / 250lb ft. But with no weight whatsoever over the back wheels, and that giant echochamber of cargo bay right behind the driver’s head, the Transit Courier ST’s three-pot bark is riotous.

Louder and more outrageous than the Fiesta ST? Yep. Not sure that was the point Ford was working towards. Whoops.

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Bet the rest of it’s a bit of a shambles, though.

In many ways, it’s not. Where we’ve got to be kind is in the fit and finish. This thing is very much an out-of-hours, don’t-tell-the-boss project. We love sneaky skunkworks silliness like this. It’s folks who love cars and have a ‘what if we tried that?' attitude that gave us secret-squirrel legends like the Lamborghini Miura and VW Golf GTI.

And now that same impishness has given us a Transit van that can go from 0-62mph in six seconds.

Still, making the oily bits go round and round and up and down is the tricky and pricey bit, which hasn’t left much time for interior window-dressing. So, the FORD PERFORMANCE plaque under the (non-functioning) heater controls looks like it was cut out from plastic sheet with left-handed scissors.

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There’s some glue overspray around the dials. But this thing’s still a work in progress, and all the important bits are there. Proper ST Recaro bucket seats, and yes, the blast furnace-grade heated elements are still toasting. Lordy, they’re hot. The Normal, Sport and Track mode settings remain. And The ST’s quality gearchange has made it into its utilitarian new home unscathed.

Don’t tell me it handles…

It does, though you’ve got to be mindful of the fact that, despite sounding raucous and feeling very quick, this is a van. It’s tall, it’s hollow, and even with ST wheels, tyres, brakes and suspension acquired, you’ve got to respect the physics. Which is a kind way of saying it’s spectacular for a van, but it’s not the last word in finesse full stop.

So it doesn’t want to tripod around corners like the Fiesta ST and it doesn’t respond to the hyperfast steering with quite the same agility. Fine. But there are a fair few hot hatchbacks which can’t keep up with the Fiesta’s cornering tenacity, so that’s fine.

This handles more cheekily than it’s got any right to. And Ford hasn’t yet got around to changing the livery, or applying ST badges and grilles. So if it were to venture onto the public road – and it is indeed completely street legal – this thing would mug just about anything. Even an aggressively driven white van. And there’s no more sinister benchmark than that.

Can I buy one?

Nope, there’s no plan (or sense, really) to offer an ST-engined Transit for customer consumption. Too much money, too much CO2 on the company balance sheet. Pity, really. Think what the gig economy could do with one of these. Your Deliveroo would reach you faster than ever, and the driver might actually be in a happy mood for once.

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