Test Drive Review: Ford Transit Courier

When the Ford Fiesta Van was cancelled in 2017, the Transit Courier faced the daunting prospect of attempting to fill the shoes of the popular car-based commercial vehicle.

Now that Ford has relented and added a van version of the new Fiesta, the pressure has been taken off somewhat, but the Courier remains alongside it in the range, providing competition to its more stylish sibling.

The recent update for the Courier brought crucial changes in all the main areas. The most important, but least glamorous, is to the engines, which were all brought up to the latest Euro6.2 emissions standards. A 100hp 1.5-litre diesel came into the range, as did a six-speed manual gearbox.

The other changes are more immediately apparent to previous Courier owners, as the facelift brings an update to the looks both inside and out. As part of this, the Courier also gets the very latest in Ford’s infotainment system.

At the front, the looks have been brought in line with the rest of the Ford range with the wide grille and redesigned lower fascia. Sadly, the tweaks also result in a fairly large drop in overall payload, which will come as an unwelcome change for some.

 

Inside
While it has been updated, and now features the latest Ford tech, the Courier’s interior still retains a hardy feel that makes it clear that this is very much the more utilitarian option at the small end of Ford’s commercial vehicle range. The materials used are solid and feel hard-wearing and almost old fashioned, particularly on the dash and down between the two seats, but the design is that of a much more modern vehicle.

The Sync3 infotainment system that comes on every trim from Trend upwards sits in a solid, purpose-built housing that is well positioned to be within the driver’s eyeline. It’s worth noting that you only get the newly introduced 6.0-inch screen from Limited upwards, though, and the lower trims get the old smaller 4.0-inch equivalent that is trickier to see at a glance.

The standard equipment levels are not too bad, even on the Base model. The ability to get DAB and Bluetooth, Ford’s misfuelling prevention system and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake is better than you get on the basic trims of some rivals.

Upgrading to at least Trend is worthwhile, if not least because these versions come with a side door on the loading bay and a greater degree of support and adjustment on the driver’s seat.

In-cabin storage is limited, as one might expect in a small van – the centre console comes with small cupholders rather than a big bin for stashing objects. However, thanks to the Courier’s height there is a handy overhead storage area that you wouldn’t get in the likes of the Fiesta van.

Out back, the practicality offering is a mixed bag. The overall load volume has actually grown from 2.3m3 to 2.4m3, but the payload has dropped following the facelift. Where it was previously 650kg-663kg depending on which model you went for, it is now only possible to carry between 535kg and 556kg. This brings the amount that a Transit Courier can carry disappointingly close to the Fiesta’s 511kg maximum payload. The Courier does feature the bigger overall loading space, and has the crucial ability to take a Euro pallet though – something Fiesta owners can only dream of doing.

 

On the road
The Transit Courier’s basic underpinnings remain unchanged and shared with the superb-handling Fiesta, which means it is a surprisingly entertaining van to drive. The steering is sharp, the body control excellent and the ride wonderfully composed.

The gearchange is snappy, and the addition of the sixth gear means that the Courier never really feels strained and will sit happily at motorway speeds.

The extra height on the Courier doesn’t mean it gets uncertain in corners either – this is a genuinely enjoyable van to drive.

The 100hp 1.5-litre diesel engine won’t be the default or practical choice for most, but it makes for an excellent option if you spend more time on the motorway or need to tow. The lowered payload of the latest version means that it isn’t allowed to carry vast amounts of weight anyway, so for many the lower-powered and more affordable 75hp 1.5-litre will make perfect sense.

With the fixed bulkheads the cabin is composed on the move, too – it remains quiet enough to hold a conversation at a normal level. This may well not be the case if you go for the extra practicality of the folding mesh bulkhead, though.

Overall, the Transit Courier makes a lot more sense than the more expensive, less practical and smaller Fiesta Van, but it lags behind on the image front, which will be crucial for many small businesses hoping to make a statement with their van.

Those who opt for practicality over posing will not be disappointed with their choice, though, as they will have saved cash up front and still got a van that is enjoyable to drive. It is a real shame that there isn’t more of a payload bonus for opting for the Transit Courier, but in every other sensible manner it makes a strong business case for a small operator.

TOM WEBSTER