Anybody who has ever been on a school trip, been a member of a sports team, or been picked up at an airport and ferried to some far-flung car park has probably travelled in a Ford Transit minibus. An often-unsung success story for the Big Blue Oval, passenger-carrying Transits must have shifted millions of people from Point A to Point B during the many years they’ve been available. They have put up with the abuse they’ve suffered with very little complaint.
Peering through the mists of time, the writer can vaguely remember what the rugby team at the university he attended did to the Students’ Union Transit minibus one weekend. It wasn’t pretty. An ability to soak up punishment is one reason why Transit has won What Van?’s Minibus of the Year award yet again; that, plus the diversity of the line-up Ford offers.
You can order a Transit minibus as a nine-, a 12-, a 15- or a 17-seater. The biggest of the bunch can be specified with a high roof instead of a medium-height roof and they are all speed-limited apart from the nine-seater.
Front-wheel drive, the two smallest models are fitted with a 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel. The 110hp version was recently replaced by a 115hp variant and you can order one with 140hp on tap too. Whichever one you pick, you get a six-speed ’box to play with.
Rear-wheel drive, the 15- and 17-seaters come with a 2.4-litre Duratorq TDCi producing 100hp, 115hp or 140hp. Select either of the two most powerful options and you’ll find that a six-speed gearbox is included in the deal. It’s also worth noting that the 15-seater is listed as being available with Transit’s newly launched 4x4 AWD system.
Disc brakes are installed all round, ABS is a standard feature and so is Electronic Stability Programme unless you’ve opted for four-wheel drive. It includes a device that ensures you don’t roll backwards into the vehicle behind when you’re attempting to pull away on a gradient.
The whole range complies with M1 passenger car safety levels, every seat is equipped with a lap-and-diagonal belt plus an adjustable headrest and the 12-, 15- and 17-seaters come with a Schedule 6 pack. This includes decals that tell you where the emergency exit is, how many people the vehicle can carry and whereabouts the first aid kit that also forms part of the pack is kept are its most visible manifestation. It also provides a grab handle to make entry through the sliding side passenger door easier — the anti-slip step is illuminated — and a fire extinguisher.
All Transit minibuses are fitted with twin batteries; one to power any items that happen to be in use while you are stationary plus another that’s there to ensure that you will always be able to fire up the engine.
While the foregoing range includes enough choice to satisfy most requirements, do not forget that there are two other Transit people carriers; the upmarket eight- and nine-seater Tourneos.
Representing good value for money, Citroën’s Relay minibus wins our Highly Commended accolade.