We live in an increasingly joyless land. Don't smoke, don't drink, don't over-eat, don't speed? The edicts dished out by the Nanny State seem endless. Break any of them and you can be sure that a camera will spot you — after all, we live in the most watched society on the planet — and that retribution will swiftly follow. George Orwell (read his novel 1984 if you haven't already done so) would have understood it perfectly.
As a consequence we can only welcome something that will cut through the gloom and cheer us all up. That something is Ford's exciting Transit SportVan. The antidote to a grey, over-regulated society, it will distinguish you from the rest of the High Street pack. It's been energetically promoted by German TV presenter and racing driver Sabine Schmitz too.
For your money you get wide white bonnet stripes, twin exhaust pipes with sport trims, side skirts, wheelarch extensions and lower spoilers to the front and rear. The front one gets a bright centre section to ensure it stands out even more and Ford's captivating cargo-shifter also features a body-coloured grille and front bumper centre piece.
Boasting a unique Performance Blue paint finish, SportVan sits on 18in alloy wheels shod with 235/45 Z R18 low-profile tyres — Continental Sport Contact 2s on our demonstrator — that look for all the world like thick rubber bands. Don't be fooled by all these enhancements, however. Based on the short-wheelbase, standard roof, front-wheel drive 260 Trannie, it's still a practical load carrier.
Despite its looks, SportVan isn't powered by anything special. For your money you get a standard 2.2-litre four-cylinder 16-valve Duratorq TDCi intercooled diesel pumping out 130hp at 3,500rpm. Peak torque of 310Nm bites at 1,600rpm and the engine is combined with a five-speed gearbox.
The suspension is standard fare too. At the front it's independent, with MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar, while the rear set-up employs leaf springs. The same disc brakes that are used on standard Transits are fitted all round. ABS and Electronic Stability Programme are among the safety features and the steering is power-assisted.
With a gross weight of 2,600kg, SportVan can cope with a gross payload of 989kg and is capable of towing a trailer with an all-up weight of 900kg.
Swing open the back doors and you'll find a 6.6m3 cargo area — 5.6m3 if you measure it in the way favoured by Ford, which involves filling it with blocks of uniform size — with eight load tie-down points. The total includes one above each wheel box. Fail to lash your cargo down and it will be brought to a halt if it slides forwards by a full-height bulkhead that includes a window.
As part of the SportVan package the well-lit load box is comprehensively protected against minor scratches and scrapes. It is timbered to half its height, the wheel boxes are encased in plastic shrouds and the floor is covered by a tailored mat.
Maximum load length is 2,582mm. Maximum width is 1,762mm, narrowing to 1,390mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 1,430mm. Rear loading height is 538mm. The rear door aperture is 1,370mm high and 1,540mm wide while the side door aperture's dimensions are 1,352mm and 1,030mm respectively. All the vehicle's doors are protected by remote central locking with deadlocks.
Buy a SportVan and you'll have little reason to complain about a lack of comfort. Leather-trimmed seats are provided for the driver and both passengers while the former gets to use a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. Air-conditioning is included in the price as is a radio/six-disc CD player with steering column-mounted remote controls, not to mention electric windows, electrically operated and heated exterior mirrors, a heated windscreen, cruise control and driver and passenger air bags. Two 12v power points have been thrown in as well.
It's a pity that some of the plastic used to construct the facia and the other in-cab fixtures and fittings looks a bit cheap, but at least there's plenty of storage space.
The roster includes a large bin in each door. The one on the driver's side encompasses a moulding to hold a bottle of water or a flask. A bottle-holder and a cup-holder can be found at each end of a dashboard that also plays host to lidded trays on both the driver and passenger side, a glovebox and a central shelf concealed by a flip-down tray with slots for a couple of cups. Sitting next to yet another lidded compartment, the gearstick is mounted on a moulding on the front of the facia but does not obstruct cross-cab movement.
One of the big plus-points of Transit SportVan is its astonishingly good handling. It clings to the road like the proverbial limpet and its remarkably responsive steering provides ample feedback. Nor is it lacking in the performance department, with plenty of low- and mid-range grunt accompanied by some great growling from the exhaust. OK, those low-profile tyres mean that the ride is on the firm side, but it can't be described as uncomfortable.
Noise levels are well under control and SportVan comes with a high-quality gearchange. Pity it's fitted with a five-speed gearbox, but we're willing to bet that in its next incarnation it will come with the 140hp version of the 2.2-litre and a six-speeder.
As far as fuel consumption is concerned we averaged 33mpg during the test period.
SportVan is covered by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty plus an eight-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty. Service intervals are set at 15,000 miles.
With its big alloy wheels, low-profile tyres, body kit and striped bonnet, Ford's Transit SportVan looks a treat and is a hoot to drive while remaining a competent cargo carrier. It handles superbly and the ride, though firm, cannot be categorised as uncomfortable. OK, we'd like to see a lot more power on offer, but a lot more power in a van of this size will probably mean lots of points on your licence and using a standard powertrain should help keep running costs down. SportVan gets our vote, without a shadow of a doubt, and it's good to see that a growing number of manufacturers are offering products of this type. After all, if you spend more hours at the wheel of your van than you do in your own home, you're likely to want something that's a bit of fun. Remember fun?