Following the successful introduction of low CO2 technology to its Fiesta, Focus and Modeo passenger cars Ford is bringing the same ‘green’ option to its light commercial vehicle range in the shape of the Transit ECOnetic. A Fiesta Van ECOnetic will debut later in the year.
The philosophy behind ECOnetic is to reduce CO2 emissions, and hence fuel consumption, as much as possible without using any expensive technology. In the case of the Transit the starting point was a short-wheelbase, low roof 280 powered by the 115hp/300Nm 2.2-litre TDCi diesel engine and driving the front wheels via a manual six-speed gearbox.
To achieve its aims Ford has re-calibrated the engine management system and lengthened the gearing by fitting a 4.36 final drive ratio and larger 16in wheels shod with 215/75R16 tyres. Full-size wheel covers are used to lower aerodynamic drag and as with all current TDCi Transits, ECOnetic features a shift indicator arrow integrated into the revcounter which illuminates green at the optimum time to change up a gear.
Ford has also fitted a 70mph speed-limiter as standard which cannot be de-activated by simply removing a fuse as it is hard-coded into the engine management software.
Reducing the availability of some of the heavier optional extras like an offside sliding door also helps to keep fuel consumption down, but this does not mean that the ECOnetic’s specification is low. It comes as standard with ESP — ABS is fitted to all Transits — which includes Hill Launch Assist, a high-spec audio system and a full steel bulkhead.
Option extras for the ECOnetic include air conditioning, rear parking sensors and a new rear-view camera with a 7-inch colour screen mounted above the windscreen; it activates automatically when reverse is selected or can be activated manually.
The result of all this re-packaging is a 1,172kg payload Transit with a load volume of 6.5m3 and capable of returning combined cycle fuel consumption of 39.2mpg with average CO2 emissions of 189g/km; that’s an improvement of 24g/km over the standard 2.2TDCi 280 Transit and a fuel consumption reduction of 11 per cent.
Add the optional closed-loop coated Diesel Particulate Filter (cDPF) and the ECOnetic becomes compliant with the upcoming Euro 5 emission regulations.
Although distinguishable externally from other models in the range thanks to its full-size wheel covers and the subtle badging on the rear, ECOnetic Transit is just like any other once behind the wheel.
Even when it comes to driving it we would defy anyone to tell the difference between it and the standard 280 it’s based upon. There’s plenty of torque available low down, and there’s a good spread through the rev range. The driving position is excellent, the steering is precise and the gearchange smooth. Some of the plastic used on the dashboard is a bit low-rent, but the actual design and ergonomics are sound.
It’s only when you hit the speed-limiter that you remember you’re in the ‘green’ Transit. We are not big fans of speed-limiters as they can be dangerous and would prefer an audible warning instead when 70mph is reached.
This was our first experience of the ‘change-up’ arrow next to the revcounter and although it’s a good idea in principle it can become irritating. We were, however, very impressed with the optional reversing camera fitted to the test van; big screen and high resolution.
Ford will release the price closer to the September on-sale date and so long as that is reasonable we see nothing inherently wrong with the ECOnetic; so long as it’s a short-wheelbase, low roof 280 Transit that fits the bill. And for anyone looking to be seen to be ‘green’ the badge on the back says it all.