For some years I owned an ageing Volkswagen microbus camper van which I aptly named my little money pit. However much money I poured into it, it still demanded more. I finally lost my rag with this wretched vehicle when it broke down on the side of the A14 last year as me, my partner, her daughter and a friend were on our way to the seaside one weekend loaded down to the rafters with people, bicycles and camping gear.
The camper was sold on – for a huge loss – and I was left with no vehicle big enough to sleep in.
So, when I bought tickets for the annual Cropedy music festival in Oxfordshire in August, our long-term Ford Transit was an obvious choice to take the place of my old camper – and it proved a damned sight more reliable. The mighty van sallied forth loaded down with beer, food, blankets, a mattress and the old awning which I had kept from the VeeDub.
My American ladyfriend who was staying with me at the time wasn’t happy. She desperately wanted to see the rock band Jethro Tull, who were headlining on the Friday night, but she wasn’t at all sure about dossing down in the back of a Transit afterwards.
In the event, she was mightily impressed. The awning measures 14 feet square and by the time I had finished hitching it to the side of the van (it didn’t quite fit as the van’s side door was too high, but it was close enough for a festival) and had added a groundsheet, table, chairs and a cooker, her face was looking brighter.
As a final flourish, I produced a bottle of good Champagne from the cool box and two tall glasses and my lady was won over completely.
So what comments can I make about the Transit after living in it for four days? I’d suggest that Ford adds some brighter lights in the back. The two that are provided as standard are hardly powerful enough to shine into the far corners of the cavernous rear end. That apart, our van proved a proper little home from home.
The Transit has been with us now for a matter of three months and not a single weekend has gone by without it being lent to one tester or another. In fact, since the festival, I have hardly seen it at all – and I am supposed to be in overall control of it. As for ergonomics, the jury is still out on the matter of the driver’s seat.
Personally, I find it uncomfortable with not enough lumbar support. The other testers are split 50/50, some saying it is fine and others agreeing with me.
The gearchanging, too, is by no means best in class. Most of the other large panel vans on the market today have dash-mounted gear levers but the Transit’s remains firmly planted on the floor. The stick is as tall as an umbrella and sometimes has to be yanked mercilessly, especially when attempting to engage reverse.
These two niggles apart, our Transit is proving itself by far the most useful vehicle at present on the long term test fleet. But there is a problem – what on Earth are we going to do without it when it goes back to Ford in January?
Price (OTR) £19,100 (ex-VAT)
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer) £9 per month
Insurance group 13T
Power (bhp/rpm) 125/3,800
Torque (lb-ft/rpm) 210/1,500-2,200
Combined mpg n/a
Test mpg 28.3
CAP Monitor residual value £6,075/31%
Expenditure to date Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles