Can driving a van be a cool experience?

Last week I had the pleasure of driving a Ford Tourneo, the bus version of the world famous Ford Transit Panel Van. The Transit has been the best-selling light commercial vehicle in Europe for 40 years, and in some countries the term “Transit” has passed into common usage as a generic term applying to any light commercial van in the Transit’s size bracket. While initially designed for European consumption, the Transit is now produced in Asia, North America, and Europe for worldwide buyers.

After an almost 30 year gap the Transit has been released in South Africa in both panel van and bus (Tourneo) forms. The car is made in Turkey and uses South African built 2.2 litre diesel engines also found in the Ford Ranger. The panel van also comes in short and long wheel base versions with three versions of the engine from 74kw to 92kw and a sport version with 114kw of power. Despite a large engine fuel economy is around 7 litres per 100KM so it’s efficient and powerful enough to get you around town. In addition you’ve got technical benefits such as ABS with EBD as well as hill climb assist and roll-over mitigation if you try take it around a corner too quickly.

The Transit Custom is available in a choice of short wheelbase (SWB – overall length 4.97 metres) and long wheelbase (LWB – overall length 5.34 metres) versions, so that customers can select the amount of load space which best suits their business. It’s not cheap with the five models costing the following:

  • 2.2 TDCi Ambiente Low swb – R302 700
  • 2.2 TDCi Ambiente Hi swb CVT – R306 400
  • 2.2 TDCi Ambiente low lwb – R309 700
  • 2.2 TDCi Ambiente Hi lwb – R317 400
  • 2.2 TDCi Sport swb – R364 600

The Toyota Quantum panel van costs around the same so it’s competitive. The interior is fairly decent and you can fit a fortune in the back.

As mentioned, I drove the Tourneo bus and I was surprised at how good an experience it was. Again there is a short and long wheel base version although both offer eight seats.

Tourneo Custom models offer twin side sliding doors as standard, with running boards below the doors for improved low level step access, as well as a strong visual differentiation. A liftgate is fitted as standard at the rear.

The seats in the two rear rows can be easily folded into multiple configurations and removed in segments or completely – in total there are over 30 seating permutations to suit any occasion. All seating positions provide integral three-point lap and shoulder style seat belts. The Tourneo Custom comes with a four-year or 120 000km comprehensive warranty and a service plan covering five years or 90 000km (service intervals of 15 000km).

What surprised me was how the interior feels exactly the same as a car. So much so that you get standard Ford features such as a USB port, Sync Bluetooth connection with voice command abilities combined with a very light steering wheel and a very slick gearbox. Besides for the exceptionally high seating position you’d never know you’re in a panel van. It’s easy to drive, easy to park and has enough power to overtake on the highway.

I drove the bus no differently than I would a normal car. I took it on a highway, on windy roads at reasonable speed and around traffic circles with absolutely no issue at all. So much so that I forgot I had four passengers and luggage in the boot.

I’m personally not in the market for something such as the Tourneo but it seems a lot more stylish than a Toyota Quantum and vastly cheaper than a Mercedes Viano. If you’re in the market for a vehicle to transport a crowd or are breeding a soccer team or just happen to be gangster enough to want a car for drive by shootings then I reckon the Ford Tourneo is a great choice.