In Transit

In Transit

Johannesburg is known for its daily fast-paced rat race, but GAVIN MYERS had never experienced a mad dash like this through his home town before. It was quite a novel way for Ford to prove the qualities of its new Transit and Tourneo Custom models.

Delivery vehicles run some of the biggest races you can imagine. Clocking up the miles, they run in and around town from one “checkpoint” to the next, keeping the wheels of the economy turning. The Ford Transit has been doing it in Europe since 1965 – 2,3 million have been sold in the United Kingdom (UK) alone since then – and now it’s made its long-awaited South African debut.

Well that’s not entirely accurate – it was built on local soil between 1967 and 1974. However, that’s all the South African market has known of the Transit. According to Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa CEO, Jeff Nemeth, current economic, market and model derivative factors have made the time right to introduce the new Transit Custom locally and make up for what South Africans have been missing. Better still, a brand new passenger “bus” version of the Transit, the Tourneo Custom, has been launched too.

It was this model that formed the basis for our driving impressions during Ford’s “The Amazing Drive” event – its own rendition of the popular The Amazing Race TV series.

In TransitThe Transit has been named the International Van of the Year for 2013, and Ford was set on showing us why. From the starting point in the basement of the Sandton Gautrain station, each team of three was given a key to one of the gleaming Tourneo Customs – and it was then ready, steady, go!

Ours was a top-of-the-range, 92 kW long wheelbase (LWB) Trend model. Both the Transit and Tourneo are available in two trim levels (Ambiente and Trend) and each comes with a choice of long and short wheelbase (SWB) with mid- (92 kW at 3 500 r/min, 350 Nm at 1 450 Nm) and low-power (74 kW at 3 500 r/min and 310 Nm at 1 300 r/min) versions of Ford’s Euro-4, 2,2-litre, four-cylinder Duratorq TDCi engine.

The Transit range adds a SWB Sport version, fitted with a Euro-5, 114 kW (at 3 500 r/min) and 385 Nm (at 1 600 r/min) high-power version of the same engine. Ford South Africa’s Struandale engine plant will build 31 000 of these 2,2-litre units a year for export to the Transit Kansas assembly plant.

The mid-power Tourneo proved smooth and comfortable as we hurriedly googled our way to the first checkpoint of the race – the oldest building in Johannesburg. There, a quick challenge in the billiard room had us collect our next clue, and off we powered to the next checkpoint, the oldest traditional market in the city.

In TransitWeaving our way through Johannesburg traffic gave us the opportunity to experience the good ride and handling characteristics, which Ford says are “car-like”. Regardless, the Tourneo custom rides exceptionally comfortably, is very quiet and nimble enough to thread around other road users (although, with a 3,3 metre-long wheelbase, the LWB versions do require a bit more care in tight spaces).

From there it was a leisurely – OK, make that hasty – drive to the Orlando stadium in Soweto. This gave us some time to acquaint ourselves with the vehicle’s interior, which has been designed to be a comfortable working environment featuring numerous spacious stowage spaces, a comfortable driving position with good ergonomics and some impressive features for a vehicle in this segment.

These include a full suite of safety-features including: driver, passenger, curtain and side airbags; ABS, EBD, ESP, EBA and roll-over mitigation; and over 40 percent of the body being made from high- or ultra-high-strength steel. In fact, the Transit is the first van to achieve a maximum five-star Euro-NCAP safety rating.

At the Orlando Stadium, an important task was to put Transit’s load space to the test. The LWB Transit’s
6,83 m3 (SWB measures 5,95 m3) load area is accessed by 50/50-split rear doors and a left-hand sliding door (the Tourneo features a single-piece lifting tailgate and twin sliding doors). The Transit’s load bay also features an innovative load-through bulkhead design to help accommodate particularly long objects and offer an additional 93 litres of storage space. Gross vehicle mass ratings range from: 2 900 to 3 325 kg, with payloads of 1 155 to 1 505 kg.

In TransitFrom there, a quick sprint to the Hector Pieterson Memorial to pick up some passengers for a quick drive to Nelson Mandela’s house on the famous Vilakazi Street, demonstrated the Tourneo Custom’s versatile eight-seat passenger carrying ability. The Tourneo’s seats can also be arranged in a mindboggling 30 individual configurations, making the vehicle extremely versatile and appealing as both a lifestyle and commercial option.

Pricing for the Transit is between R313 900 and R364 600 and for the Tourneo between R385 200 and R414 700. This is accompanied by a four-year/120 000 km warranty, three-year/unlimited kilometre roadside assistance and a five-year/90 000 km service plan on the Tourneo (dealer option on the Transit).

The finish line of our Amazing Drive event was the famed Orlando Towers. These bold, colourful icons of the Soweto skyline reinforced the fact that the Ford Transit has been leading the commercial vehicle race in the UK market for 47 years. In the new Transit and Tourneo Custom models, Ford South Africa has a product that might start a similar trend locally.

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