Vans are liberating things for motoring journalists to drive. We can become someone we’re not for a few days.
Craftsman? Engineer? Postman? It makes us live a parallel life for a while and we love it.
Particularly when the vans in question are as cool as the Ford Transit Custom. The firm’s latest big van, it’s been on our roads for a year now, after being launched at the NEC CV Show last year (yes! A new vehicle launch in the UK! Nice one, Ford).
You may already have spotted it. And not just because 10,000 have been sold since launch, but because it’s a damn good looking thing. Immediately smarter and more appealing than any other van on the market, it’s particularly smart in the Sport guise MR has out on test: big alloys, Escort XR3i red paint, stripes on the bonnet… oh yes, it’s distinctive.
I was showing it to my dad and he immediately started drawing comparisons with the Ford GT40 – and then asked if I’d seen the new Mustang, because that was fantastic, and how Ford are going to sell oodles of them in the UK and… well, Ford brand marketers, you should have been there. You’d have loved it.
Our mutual fascination continued as we explored it. My dad was wowed by the sheer engineering in the rear deck; the bright LED lighting, the fully lined floor, the neat bulkhead, the fact entering it is so low thanks to it being front-wheel drive.
Me, I clocked the electric seats, the leather interior, the Ford Focus-like dashboard, the wonderful leather steering wheel… sat nav, DAB, Bluetooth, lane departure warning, full colour display between the dials… OK, some of it’s optional but still, who’d have thought I’d have a van out on test better stocked than the last Mondeo I drove?
Quick on-road manners: the engine is unerringly smooth, the close-set six-speed box is snappy, the ride is surprisingly stiffly-sprung, the steering wheel is as good to hold as it is to look at and the overall feeling of engineering, of completeness, is remarkable. It feels like a Ford and so feels like a tightly-constructed supercar for the masses. Everything is measured, well weighted, tight and crisp: the McLaren 12C of vans.
Can you tell I like it? And that’s after just a few miles. As I got out back home, the old-gen-Transit-driving neighbour popped out. “Want to swap?” Oh, no. I‘m sticking with this one, and am going to rather enjoy it, I think…