Just how sexy can a panel van get? Not much more than this, I reckoned after a week with the dazzling Ford Transit Sportvan.
The jazzy white stripes on the front shout ‘don’t mess with me’.
The alloy wheels clad in low profile 235/45 tyres scream ‘look at me’.
We were only surprised that there weren’t flaming wheelarches on offer as a paid-for extra.
It’s a powerful package. For £18,750 ex-VAT, you get a standard front and rear spoilers and side skirts, 18in alloys and low profile tyres, mean-looking twin exhaust pipes, a unique colour (performance blue) and ‘go faster’ white stripes on the front.
Inside, air-con comes as part of the package, along with cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a CD/radio with steering column-mounted controls and remote central locking which opens the front and rear separately.
On the safety front the Sportvan gets driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes, ESP traction control and a Quickclear front windscreen.
It all sounds more like the spec sheet from a Mercedes-Benz car than a Ford van.
Our test model also had leather seats which add another £750 to the price.
Under the bonnet goes Ford’s 2.2-litre 130bhp TDCi diesel engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. But what makes the van feel extra lively is the 228 lb-ft of torque which gives it an amazing amount of grunt on the road.
Behind the wheel
You will find, if you ever meet a journalist, that most of us are pretty ‘full-on’ characters.
I’m a 55-going-on-17 kind of guy and as such I fell in love with this van at first sight.
I wasn’t the only one to be impressed either.
As I drew up at a double junction on the first day of my test week, a driver in a battered Vauxhall Movano pulled up alongside me and yelled: ‘nice one, mate!’ at me through our open side screens, assuming I suspect that this was a natty custom job rather than an off-the-shelf variant.
That’s something that’s never happened to me before.
The Sportvan is a questionable vehicle for fleets – it is aimed more at the owner-driver who wants to give himself a treat.
But there is a place for it in any company that wants a high-profile vehicle.
If people stop and stare at this van, they’ll be staring at your company decals too, offering a nice bit of free advertising.
Or how’s this for an innovative idea to get your drivers working well – take on one Transit Sportvan among your fleet and offer it for driving as a ‘prize’ for a week to the most productive employee.
Just imagine how their work may suddenly improve if they get the chance to swop their bog standard models for this one for a time.
But this van isn’t all about bling – it is as practical as any other Transit under the skin and will lug cargo around happily until the cows come home.
Climbing into the cab, the Transit reveals itself as a pleasant place to pass a day, with a smart new dash over the old model and a dash-mounted gearlever.
Unusually, the top of the dash opens on both driver and passenger sides to reveal big storage areas and the driver’s side features a handy 12-volt take-off to accommodate a sat-nav unit.
A lot of effort has gone into making the Transit like a large car – and that effort has not been wasted.
The diminutive steering wheel is tilted at an angle rather than positioned almost horizontally and the driving position is rather curious until you get used to it – rather like being behind the wheel of an overgrown Focus.
The powerplant is quiet and muted on fire-up and even when pushed, there is no gruffling and growling.
That huge torque shows itself as soon as the vehicle moves off – it feels much faster than the 174bhp Volkswagen Transporter I drove recently for example.
Flip round a bend and those low profile tyres really come into their own.
This van will handle anything the average driver can throw at it – and a lot more.
And if things get a little too racy there is, of course, that standard traction control to magically correct things.
It is standard right across the Transit range, a point worth mentioning in Ford’s favour.
The downside of all this, of course, is that many fleets will not want their drivers hooning about in such a fast vehicle.
Enthusiastic driving will badly affect the van’s fuel economy.
We really didn’t want to hand this one back after our test week – who could resist the charms of such a dazzling dandy?
Max power (bhp): 130
Max torque (lb-ft): 228
Payload (kg): 1,020
Gross vehicle weight (kg): 2,600
Price (ex-VAT): £18,750