The hatchback car-derived sector of the van market may not be the biggest in terms of sales, but it remains one supported by the majority of manufacturers with appropriate passenger cars to convert. Citroën (C2), Fiat (Grande Punto), Ford (Fiesta), Peugeot (207), Renault (Clio) and Vauxhall are all players, with Volkswagen conspicuous by its absence. There is no Polo Van in the UK.
We were huge fans of the previous generation Fiesta Van, but we had to wait until Spring 2009 to try the all-new models, despite the passenger cars being launched in 2008 to rave reviews and a string of major awards. Judging by our experience so far, however, the wait was worthwhile. And this time around there’s a wider choice, with three engines — 1.25-litre 82hp petrol, 1.4-litre 68hp diesel and a 90hp 1.6-litre diesel — and three levels of specification; Base, Trend and SportVan. It’s the latter that we put to the test here.
Fiesta SportVan is available solely with the Dagenham-built 1.6-litre TDCi Duratorq common rail turbodiesel under the bonnet. Maximum power hits the mark at 4,000rpm and it develops 204Nm of peak torque at 1,750rpm. The official CO2 output is rated at 110g/km and the front wheels are driven via a five-speed manual gearbox. There is currently no six-speeder or the option of a semi-auto ‘box.
Suspension is MacPherson struts at the front with dampers, springs and an anti-roll bar, and a torsion beam arrangement at the rear with springs and dampers. Ride height is lowered on the SportVan, the springs and dampers are stiffer and it rides on five-spoke 16in alloy wheels fitted with 195, low profile 45 Hankook tyres.
Brakes are ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear. All Fiesta Vans feature ABS as standard, but the top-of-the-range SportVan also has ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) which incorporates traction control. It’s an option on the rest of the range.
The standard power steering is electric rather than hydraulic and with 2.6 turns lock-to-lock it offers a kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 10.2m.
With a gross vehicle weight of 1,545kg, SportVan can handle a gross payload of 490kg and is capable of towing a braked trailer grossing at 750kg.
Accessed via a high-lifting tailgate, the new Fiesta Van offers 1.0m3 of load space with a maximum load length of 1,296mm. A half-height solid composite bulkhead is supplied as standard and this can be topped off with a steel mesh infill from the options list.
The loading height is 702mm and the maximum width is 1,278mm narrowing to 1,000mm between the wheel boxes and maximum height is 806mm. Four sturdy load tie-down rings are provided; two on the inside of the rear lip and two on the floor at the cab end. A non-slip waterproof mat covers the floor and the spare wheel well is filled with what Ford describes as a Active Tools Mobility Kit; in English that’s is a sealant and compressor kit. A standard steel wheel spare can be specified off the options list if deemed necessary.
Opting for the SportVan variant brings a few extra useful toys to the party, on top of the remote central locking, electric windows, heated and folding door mirrors, heated windscreen, front fog lamps, trip computer and auto wipers/headlights found on the Trend.
On top you get hands-free a leather-trimmed steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity and voice control for the radio/CD (MP3) player — all models feature remote controls on the steering wheel — manual air conditioning, knee/side airbags — in addition to the standard driver and passenger airbags — and an active headrest for the driver, sports seats and a colour-coded body kit which includes a rear roof spoiler.
For a van of this size the in-cab storage is not bad. There’s a big, segmented drop-down glovebox, half-length bins in the doors and mouldings next to the handbrake in between the seats to accommodate a couple of drinks and a small bottle of water.
A single 12v power socket sits just in front of the gearstick and next to it there’s a 3.5mm AUX IN socket to plug in an iPod or MP3 player.
Slip into the contoured and really supportive driver’s sports seat and it takes no time at all to set the perfect driving position thanks to seat height adjustment and the ability to alter the rake and reach of the steering wheel. The short gearstick is positioned well off the floor to minimise the distance from the steering wheel and the ’change quality is slick, positive and well weighted.
Performance is not exactly sports car-like, but the 200Nm of torque do endow it with sufficient urgency when required and enough for it to be real fun. Yes, driving a van can be fun.
As should be expected the ride is on the hard side, but this is not a negative as it means the SportVan’s handling is significantly sharper than that of the standard models. There is also noticeably less body roll. Ride and handling will always be a compromise, but we like Ford’s approach on this van.
A slight downside is the electric power steering. It’s one of the better systems we have come across, but it still lacks the feedback and weighting of a hydraulic system. If anything, the braking system goes way beyond what is necessary for a van of this weight and performance. They are quite simply stunning.
One area that is streets ahead of the previous model is noise levels. Ford has made huge advances in all areas of noise suppression and it makes the latest Fiesta a pleasure to drive over long distances.
The positioning of the controls and instrumentation is ergonomically sound and we particularly welcome Ford’s approach to the size of the controls for the infotainment system. They are designed for adults, not toddlers.
There are a few neat convenience features which should be mentioned. The rear wiper activates automatically when reverse is selected, Ford’s EasyFuel capless refuelling system means that the wrong fuel can’t be put in the tank and the auto rain-sensing wipers and auto headlights, although not essential, are well worth having.
The door mirrors can be programmed to fold in automatically when the central locking is activated and we applaud the fitment of auto activation of the hazard lights under heavy braking.
The only two optional extras fitted to the test vehicle were metallic paint and reversing sensors at £250 each. The former made the exterior design look great, the latter a bit unnecessary on a van of this size for that money.
During the test period the SportVan recorded an average fuel consumption of 49mpg and it must be said that we weren’t exactly driving it with economy in mind; life is too short. Mid 50s should be possible.
Like all Fiesta Vans the SportVan comes with a three-year/60,000 miles mechanical warranty with mileage unlimited in the first year. The SportVan falls into insurance category 2E. Service intervals are set at 12,500 miles; a bit disappointing, but not unusual these days.
Ford has raised the bar significantly in the small car-derived sector with the introduction of the new Fiesta Van. SportVan may not be everyone’s taste, but if the payload and load cube are big enough for your needs and you enjoy your driving it’s a no-brainer. It’s well designed and built, has plenty of performance allied to good fuel economy, it handles like a dream and the cab environment is excellent. It’s a bit of a classic really, and a good-looking one at that.