Er, it’s CAR magazine, not What Van? magazine…
We know, but allow us this indulgence. Well not indulgence, but vans are always great fun, and no van is more fun than this, the SportVan. Ignore the cheesy name and just enjoy the spec. Based on a low-roof SWB 260 Transit, the SportVan adds a whole host of cosmetic tweaks and extra features. It also adds nearly £4000 to the price, taking it from £15,826 to £19,526. Ford has a history of hot vans, and put an F1 engine in a Transit before Renault thought to do the same to an Espace. Last year we also saw a one-off Transit Connect-X with Focus RS running gear. However, this SportVan is properly on Ford’s price list: how many it sells is anyone’s guess, but we drove past two others while we had ours.
So what has Ford done to the Transit to give it the SportVan moniker?
The list is fairly extensive. Bigger and lower front and rear bumpers, side skirts, plus extended wheelarches. The whole van is painted in a unique Performance Blue colour, while two white stripes run up the bonnet. Annoyingly, they don’t extend along the roof and down the rear doors. Then again that’s part of the fun, as people will see a hotted-up Transit in their rear-view mirror, but once you’ve past them all they will see is a humdrum Transit. Humdrum unless they clock the two huge chromed exhausts. And although this is a diesel the pipes will stay nice and clean. As on the Jaguar X-type, the actual exit for the exhaust is before the chrome tips, so they stay nice and shiny. There are also 18-inch wheels, although they still look undersized when compared to the Transit’s large flat sides.
What about the driving?
Let’s get this out of the way first. It’s a van. And secondly there have been no dynamic tweaks. It’s of course slightly noisier and less refined than most of the cars on our roads, but it's still good fun. The big wheels give plenty of grip and despite being nose-heavy, it’s actually quite good fun through the twisty bits. You sit upright in a very, er, van-like driving position. But that extra height comes in handy for forward visibility, and suddenly childhood dreams of captaining everything from trucks to ships come back and you enjoy being at the helm of the Transit. That raised driving position gives you an increased sense of speed - so 70mph feels plenty quick enough. And while the 2.2-litre diesel engine only has 129bhp, the 229lb ft of twist is plenty for the traffic light grand prix and overtaking. The dashboard-mounted gearstick is strangely reminiscent of the Honda Civic Type-R's for its perfect positioning.
So what’s the inside like then?
Like a regular Transit, though our car came with £750 leather-trimmed seats. The steering wheel is in your lap but apart from that, it’s pretty good. There are multiple gloveboxes, and the waterbottle holder will also nicely take a pint of double cream. The stereo is big and bold and easy to use, while the remote control on the steering wheel column is intuitive and doesn’t dig into your knee as it does on the Fiesta. Cruise control, air-con, heated and powered mirrors and everything else you could want without being fussy is there.
Let’s get practical. Load space…
Er, big. I’m afraid we didn’t put this particular Transit to carrying duties beyond popping to the local shops. But having used the same SWB, low-roof Transit shell to transport two children to university we can vouch for its load-carrying abilities.
We love the Transit, pure and simple. It’s a great van. Whether the extra cost of the SportVan can be justified is another matter, but it makes the Transit even more of a laugh. The standard Transit does everything so well: it's small wonder it's Britain's best-selling van. And as long as you like the Essex-boy look, then the SportVan will go down a treat with workmen in a rush.