Like so much of the rest of the vehicle market, minibus sales have taken a hammering over the past 12 months. That’s despite the fact that they are invaluable workhorses for a wide variety of organisation, from schools and hotels to gang masters and construction companies that need them to move groups of workers from one site to the next.
To achieve their aims they need a vehicle that is reliable, comfortable, rides and handles well and is cost-effective to operate; all reasons why Ford’s Transit has driven off with What Van?’s Minibus of the Year award once again.
Transit minibus is up for grabs as a 9-, 12-, 15- or a 17-seater. The largest model in the line-up can be ordered with a high roof instead of a medium-height roof and they are all fitted with speed-limiters aside from the nine-seater.
The two smallest models are front-wheel drive and equipped with a 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel producing either 110hp or 140hp. Both versions are married to a six-speed manual gearbox. A 2.4-litre Duratorq TDCi producing 100hp, 115hp or 140hp powers the rear-wheel drive 15- and 17-seaters. Go for either of the two most powerful versions and again you get a six-speed manual ’box included in the deal.
It’s also worth noting that the 15-seater is listed as being available with Transit’s 4x4 system. That could be handy if you regularly need to transport gangs of workers to awkward-to-access locations.
ABS comes as standard. Electronic Stability Programme does too unless you’ve opted for the AWD model, and includes a device that ensures you don’t roll backwards when you’re attempting to pull away on a gradient.
All Transit minibuses meet M1 passenger car safety levels. Each seat is fitted with an adjustable headrest and lap-and-diagonal belt and the 12- 15- and 17-seaters all arrive with a Schedule 6 pack. It includes a fire extinguisher plus a grab handle to make entry through the sliding side passenger door easier. The anti-slip step is illuminated. Also included are decals that tell you how many people the vehicle can carry, where the emergency exit is and whereabouts the first aid kit that also forms part of the pack is stowed.
Transit minibuses are fitted with twin batteries. There’s one to power any items that happen to be in use while you are stationary plus another to ensure that you will always be able to start the engine.
While the foregoing range is without doubt comprehensive, the story doesn’t end there. The Transit line-up also encompasses a pair of people-carriers; the upmarket eight- and nine-seater Tourneos.
In Limited guise the eight-seater boasts air conditioning, a heated and comprehensively adjustable driver’s seat, a six-disc stereo radio/CD player with an auxiliary MP3 connector and steering column-mounted controls, and 16in five-spoke alloy wheels.
Offering good value for money in these tough times, Citroën’s Relay minibus wins our Highly Commended prize. Available in 12-, 15- and 17-seater guise, it’s a conversion executed by Advanced Vehicle Builders as part of Citroën’s award-winning Ready to Run range. ABS comes as standard and the list of options includes a wheelchair ramp and access steps.