Originally revealed in Germany at last autumn’s Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show, Ford’s new Fiesta Van is now on sale in the UK. Based on the three-door version of the latest, and widely applauded, Fiesta car, it’s up for grabs with a choice of three specifications; entry level, Trend and top-of-the range SportVan.
Three different engines are on offer. Buyers can pick from an 82hp 1.25-litre Duratec petrol, a 68hp 1.4-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel or a 90hp 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel, all married to a five-speed manual gearbox. The 1.6-litre is the only engine available in Fiesta SportVan and customers can choose to order it with or without a particulate trap.
Surprisingly, the petrol unit cannot be converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (lpg). Given that this is the only major reason why one might want to specify a petrol engine in a commercial vehicle, it makes you wonder why Ford is bothering to offer it.
How about fuel economy? The petrol lump promises 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 133g/km while both the Dagenham-built diesels promise a frugal 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 110g/km.
ABS is a standard feature along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and all the newcomers are equipped with electric power steering.
Glad to see that Fiesta Van is fitted with the Big Blue Oval’s EasyFuel capless refuelling system which prevents the wrong nozzle being inserted when you pull up at the pumps. The last thing you want to do is fill your diesel tank with petrol or vice versa.
Top payload ranges from 490kg to 515kg depending on the version you pick, and the Ford’s latest offering comes with a 1.0m3 cargo area. It looks to us to be much roomier and a lot more practical than that relatively modest figure might suggest.
Maximum load length is 1,296mm. Maximum width is 1,278mm narrowing to 1,000mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 806mm. A half-height composite bulkhead is installed along with four load tie-down points.
Opt for the entry-level model and you get electric windows and exterior mirrors and a height-adjustable steering column. The tear-drop-shaped mirrors certainly look good but we suspect that some drivers would prefer something a bit bigger; even if it wasn’t quite as stylish.
Move up to the Trend version and you’ll additionally benefit from front fog lights, heated door mirrors in body-coloured casings that fold against the vehicle’s sides at the flick of a switch and a heated windscreen. Other features include windscreen wipers and headlamps that come on automatically, a trip computer and a lumbar support for the driver’s seat.
The goodie-fest only really gets going, however, if you opt for the SportVan. As well as the features fitted to Trend the deal includes 16in five-spoke alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, manual air-conditioning, Electronic Stability Programme with Emergency Brake Assist, sports-tuned suspension with a lowered ride height and knee and side airbags for the driver plus an active head restraint. You also get sports-style seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. What’s more, SportVan is distinguished by a colour-keyed body kit that includes a rear roof spoiler.
All Fiesta vans boast an attractive cab interior with chunky dashboard controls for the MP3-compatible stereo radio/CD player — a standard feature on all models, it also boasts remote controls on the steering wheel — and the heating and ventilation system.
Oddment storage facilities include bins in the doors, a decent-sized glovebox and you’ll find mouldings to accommodate a couple of cups and a bottle of water between the seats. They’re adjacent to a 12v power point.
Prices range from £9,025 to £11,305; all prices quoted here exclude VAT. Options across the range include metallic paint (£250), a full-height bulkhead (£100), a rear window protector (£75) and reversing sensors (£250).
All Fiesta Van derivatives are on sale through car dealers as well as through the commercial vehicle dealer network. Insurance groups are 1E for all engines apart from the 1.6 TDCi, which falls into the 2E category.
So what’s the stylish-looking and well-put-together Fiesta Van like to drive? We took to the highways of Warwickshire in a 1.4-litre TDCi Trend, and for the most part we were impressed. It handles well and while we’re not big fans of electric power assistance we have to admit that in this case the steering is remarkably responsive, offering ample feedback. The little load-lugger is highly manoeuvrable too.
The gearchange is slick and user-friendly and the driving position is superb, although tall and/or bulky drivers may find it a little cramped. You get a supportive seat — the sort of seat that you sit in rather than perch on — that should ensure that you emerge from the cab after a long journey feeling pleasantly tired rather than completely knackered.
Noise levels are well-suppressed although our demonstrator’s engine struck a slightly-irritating note at times, especially at low speeds.
With no weight in the back the ride was choppy and while this Fiesta Van looks as though it will be fine on round-the-town delivery work, it runs out of puff a bit at higher speeds. Opt for the 1.6-litre instead if you do a lot of urgent intercity runs.
One thing that concerns us about Trend is the lack of side rubbing strips to protect it from minor scratches and scrapes. The wheelarches lack protection too. Good looking though it is, Fiesta Van is still a van; and even the best-looking van is prone to collecting knocks.
If you want to get in touch with the hooligan that lurks inside us all, then get yourself a Fiesta SportVan. With 90 horses lurking under the bonnet courtesy of its 1.6-litre diesel it’s a hoot to drive from start to finish, with no lack of performance and growls from the exhaust to encourage you to make the most of it. The sharp gearchange allows you to get the best out of the engine, although you have to contend with a rather fierce clutch.
Lowering the suspension and tuning it to sports mode means that the ride is a lot firmer than what’s on offer from the standard model, but the handling definitely benefits. The sports seats are simply superb and hold the driver and passenger in place even during spirited cornering. They also provide plenty of lumbar and thigh support.
Ford hasn’t stinted on equipment and with its body kit and alloys there’s no doubt that SportVan looks good. Nobody will be ashamed to have it sitting on their drive.
In a good year around 3,000 Fiesta Vans find buyers in the UK, says Ford commercial vehicles director, Steve Kimber. “Typically we capture 30 to 40 per cent of the small hatchback van market,” he comments.
Nobody is going to confuse 2009 with a good year, alas, but he’s still confident that Fiesta Van sales will reach the thousands — though not as many as 3,000, he concedes — rather than the hundreds. “SportVan should account for 15 per cent of registrations and that figure could go higher,” he says.
So far as the entire light commercial market is concerned, Kimber expects registrations to be down by around 25 to 30 per cent this year compared with 2008’s total. “I don’t anticipate a recovery any time soon,” he says. “Orders from rental fleets have plummeted and pick-up registrations have been hit especially hard.” In a reflection of the harsh economic climate, the Transit plant at Southampton is down to a single shift and only working four days a week.
Yet while he baulks at any suggestion that the much-promised green shoots of recovery are starting to poke through — “it’s still a tough market” — Kimber believes that there are one or two grounds for optimism. “The thing that gives me most encouragement is the way in which used van prices have started to strengthen,” he observes.
Stocks of unsold Ford vans have fallen significantly in recent weeks, so if you’re after a bargain, and you’re not too bothered about colour or the exact specifications, then now is the right time to buy. Once stocks are exhausted prices will probably begin to rise as a result of sterling’s weakness against the euro. While the pound had strengthened a little at the time of writing, it’s a long way from reaching the, now-dizzying, heights against the euro that it achieved 18 months to two years ago.
Surely the fact that Ford assembles Transits in the UK, and builds engines here too, shields it from sterling’s woes? It does, agrees Kimber, but only to a limited extent because many of the components fitted in Southampton and Dagenham are imported.
While Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat have introduced a new class of van in the shape of, respectively, Nemo, Bipper and Fiorino, and Renault has retaliated with the Renault Kangoo Compact, Kimber shows little interest in joining them. If Ford did it would have to slot in a model between Fiesta Van and Transit Connect; and he clearly wonders whether the investment required would be worth the return the company would get in the long-term.
Ford has come up with yet another cracking van in the very attractive shape of the Fiesta Van. The fuel consumption and low emissions of the diesel engines alone make this a winner.