For decades, commercial vans underwent so few changes they began to seem downright fossilized. In the past few years, however, a new generation of full-size cargo vans such as the Ford Transit has come along to breathe life into this hard-working segment.
The Transit van offers a near ideal balance of form and function. Buyers can choose from two wheelbases, three body lengths, three roof heights and three engines. There is, in short, a Ford Transit model for just about any job.
As for function, the Transit has three payload ratings: Transit 150, Transit 250 and Transit 350 (with load capacities ranging from 2,740 to 4,560 pounds). In terms of all-important cargo capacity, the largest of the three offers 487 cubic feet of cargo space, putting it somewhere between its two most comparable full-size van competitors. Towing capacity for the Transit 350 peaks at a healthy, if not class-leading, 7,500 pounds when properly equipped.
While there's no mistaking the basic model for a luxury hauler, the Ford Transit can be decked out with a long list of upscale extras, from leather upholstery and a navigation system to the Sync 3 infotainment interface and power-retractable running boards. Add in a host of design innovations, and the Ford Transit is a major step up from the old-school commercial vans.
Current Ford Transit Van
Ford offers a single trim level on its Transit models. But buyers can choose from low-, medium- and high-roof body styles and opt for a standard or a long wheelbase. An optional extended-length body maximizes capacity on the long-wheelbase version. As noted earlier, you can also spec three different gross vehicle weight ratings, dubbed Transit 150, Transit 250 and Transit 350.
Standard equipment on the Transit includes 16-inch steel wheels, a hinged passenger-side cargo door (a sliding door on medium- and high-roof models), remote locking and unlocking, front air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, a rearview camera, a two-speaker stereo with an auxiliary audio input jack and, in the cargo area, tie-down anchors and LED lighting.
The fairly extensive list of options includes different axle ratios, a heavy-duty trailering package, dual sliding side doors with or without windows, and a spray-in cargo bedliner. Safety items include automatic headlights and wipers, towing mirrors, and sensors for lane departure warning and rear parking. Further choices, whether stand-alone or in packages, include leather upholstery, remote engine start, rear air-conditioning, power-retractable running boards, and Sync voice controls with a 4-inch multifunction display or the Sync 3 infotainment interface, which includes navigation, HD and satellite radio, a USB port and a 6.5-inch touchscreen.
The Transit comes with a 3.7-liter V6 engine that puts out 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque (a CNG/propane engine prep package is available). As in all Transit models, it drives the rear wheels by way of a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. Other engine options include a turbocharged 3.2-liter five-cylinder diesel rated at 185 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque and a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that produces 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The EPA does not list fuel economy numbers for the Transit cargo van, but it can be expected to compare to the passenger-oriented Transit wagon, whose standard 3.7-liter V6 is rated at 16 mpg combined (14 city/18 highway).
From behind the steering wheel, the Ford Transit has a distinctly different personality than the truck-based vans it replaced. A tight turning circle and light steering give it a nimble feel, especially for a vehicle this size. Power from the standard 3.7-liter V6 is adequate, while the available turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 offers enough power to meet most needs. The 3.2-liter diesel falls somewhere between the two in performance terms but promises improved fuel economy.
Used Ford Transit Vans
Changes in the Ford Transit have been incremental since its introduction for the 2015 model year. In 2016, the automaker added the Sync 3 infotainment system, dual sliding side doors and a standard rearview camera. Changes for 2017 are also relatively minor, with the 3.7-liter V6 becoming the standard engine on dual-rear-wheel models and the debut of a short-wheelbase version of the heavy-duty Transit 350. Comfort- and convenience-oriented optional upgrades include heated front seats and power-retractable running boards.