ROADTEST FACT FILE
Car...Ford Transit 280 SWB 2.2 TDCi (125PS)
Mpg (comb cycle)... 39.2mpg (7.2L/100km)
Price...From £21,356.20p (on-the-road)
Loaned by Permier Ford, Newport
IT was curious how, when I mentioned that I was road-testing the brand new Ford Transit, men turned a pale shade of green.
From the ingratiating "Could I drive your van?" and the envious "I love driving vans!" to the downright sexist "Birds shouldn’t drive vans," the comments revealed something that took me by surprise.
What men know — but don’t want women to know — is that van driving is extremely good fun.
Test driving new cars is one of my favourite duties and I have put some lovely cars through their paces. But the Transit offered an entirely different driving experience, one that converted me into a would-be van woman almost instantly.
I climbed into the spacious cab of the gleaming silver machine with some trepidation. However, anxiety melted away as I discovered that the six-speed gearbox and power steering — using the fun-sized steering wheel — were as easy as any car.
The joy of the Transit was the high driving position, wraparound windows and powerful engine, which invited assertive driving.
Reversing took some getting used to but the huge wing mirrors and rear sensors compensated for lack of rear view mirror.
As woman-with-van, I traversed the Island. Someone needed a long ladder moved — Transit to the rescue. Someone else needed a sofa, armchair and two mattresses taken to the tip — ditto. I drove with a friend to Freshwater for a night at the panto and ferried a couple to Seaview for Sunday lunch, proving three people can travel in style and comfort.
There was no shortage of opinions on the van. An experienced van man observed that mounting the gear lever on the dash has freed up leg room.
He thought the cab noise was quieter and the driving experience was more like a car than previous models.
The exterior shape and styling remain purposeful but the dash design has been modernised and now has about ten cubby- holes and four cup-holders, not to mention a very natty flip-out picnic table gadget.
The only improvements I could suggest would be twin side doors as standard, rather than a single, near-side sliding door. And for the sake of women drivers, the addition of vanity mirrors behind the sun visors would be much appreciated.