As recognisable as four-wheeled transport gets, and as dependable, too
Ubiquity won't be everyone's cup of tea. Nor will Daily-Star-on-the-dashboard connotations
What is it?
Why, it’s only one of the biggest names in motoring. In more ways than one. We’d file the Transit in the same folder as the Mini, VW Beetle and original Land Rover – a shape that almost everyone, regardless of an existence of car knowledge, can identify in seconds.
It’s over 50 years old now, too, a feat not too many other vehicles can claim. While no longer made in Britain (as of 2013), it still feels like a British icon, and its name feels as synonymous with ‘van’ as Hoover does with ‘vacuum cleaner’. A world without a Transit would feel like a very discombobulated world indeed.
As you’d expect, it’s comfortably Europe’s best-selling van. But it’s also America’s too, having launched there in 2013 to replace the Ford E-series. No nation is impervious to the allure of a Tranny.
Now, we could probably fill the rest of the BBC’s server space listing the variants of Transit available. There’s the weeny Transit Courier and Transit Connect (think post van-size), the less weeny Transit Custom (ice cream van) and then the plain old traditional Transit, which we’ve focused on here.
It starts at a whisker under £27,000 and comes in all manner of wheelbases and heights or – should you wish – with a naked chassis out back in order to accommodate a flat bed, tipper section or whatever else takes your fancy. You can have single or double cabs or – of course – a minibus layout. If there isn’t a Transit to suit your job, do you even have a real job? Then there's the trim levels, including the new - lifestyle-friendly - Active and Trail variants.
In Europe, your engine choice is almost exclusively four-cylinder turbodiesels, ranging from 105bhp to 185bhp, and putting their power down through front, rear or all-wheel drive. A six-speed manual gearbox sits in most, but you can go automatic if you wish, with a sophisticated 10-speed transmission joining the options list in 2020.
You don’t get to the ripe old age of 54 without moving with the times, and so there’s a whole suite of active safety and clever cruise control systems on offer, as well as a mild-hybrid version that shaves a sliver from the fuel consumption without flinging loads of batteries where your load should be.
This is the Top Gear test of Pure Van, and if something wearing a Transit badge can no longer accomplish that, then we’re all screwed.
What's the verdict?
The Transit feels as British as bangers and mash or a pint of bitter and is just as iconic for many people. The fact it hasn’t been built in Britain for six years is almost beside the point. Here’s a pillar of the motoring world, one we really need to rely on in troubled times. Both to deliver our parcels and to generally make us feel alright about life.
Good news: it does both jobs with aplomb. It’s a marvellous thing, one only denied perfection by its utter ubiquity and some outdated clichés about the chosen reading matter of its drivers and its placement atop the dashboard.
Ignoring a Transit when you’re buying a van is like ignoring a Golf when you’re buying a car. Or a kebab when post-nightclub food shopping. Do so at your peril.