Courier's Ford Transit
Mark Baker meets a live-wire courier driver who’s in love with his Ford Transit and finds it’s all about the auto.
Almost the first thing Abdul Faizal says when we meet is “I love this thing.” The second is “It’s the auto – fantastic!” Based at Hobill Avenue and driving a local grid in Wiri with NZ Couriers, Abdul has run his beloved high-roof Transit for a year now, and wonders if it was the first red auto to arrive in country. In that time he has put 26,000 km of almost exclusively short-run, stop-start street driving on the big red van and says his customers all know who he is when they see the big red in the driveway. And in the worst driving conditions possible, the diesel engine has shone through, backed by the best six speed transmission Abdul says he has ever driven. He says for a busy courier driver, the Transit is of course more than the auto. A massive load-space partitioned off from the cab by a full safety barrier, convenient door arrangements that make the loading and unloading of cargo simple, a range of tie points for large, tall or heavy items, the right loading height, and a rear bumper at the ideal height for parcel scanning – these are things that matter to courier drivers and van users. “It’s the whole product. I was a little bit worried about its size but man, it just drives like a car. Smooth, quiet, easy to place on the road, you know where everything is in the cab.” The company allows drivers discretion to choose the vans they want as long as the vans meet certain criteria. The cavernous load space of the Transit caught Abdul’s eye because he was looking for a bigger, more practical load space for his local run. “I don’t ever tow, everything goes in the van – and that’s no trouble with the Transit, that big square load area is great.” When he picked up the Transit from South Auckland Motors, Abdul, a ten year veteran of the industry, was taking a bold leap away from the smaller Toyota Hiace into his first Ford. “That’s a big change, you know, after that time. But the Transit made me feel at home as soon as I got in the cab. It’s the little things like getting in and out – always a struggle before but now you don’t even think about it.” In the yard at Wiri, several of the other drivers are running manual transmission Transits. Grudgingly allowing them a look at his auto-equipped version – and maybe even a drive – has brought unanimous praise. Abdul says the other Transit drivers will likely upgrade to auto when it is time. “Manuals just aren’t as handy for us. I would always stick with the auto now – especially this auto. I don’t know of any of our Transit guys who’d change away from these vans either.” Abdul says he’s tried rival products: “I’ve driven VW, tried lots of others, but you can’t beat the Transit.” Fuel efficiency is important to
couriers, whose work is hardly conducive to economy-run figures – but Abdul’s measure is real-time in real life: “My old vans would give me three days of running before I have to fill. The Transit gives me a full five days – and we don’t think the manuals are any more economical.” Extended service intervals (30,000 km) mean the van stays on the road longer between workshop visits. Abdul is fastidious. Standard equipment he adds to his vans include a broom for sweeping out road grit and dirt, polish and cloths to keep the exterior looking showroom fresh. “I get the van clean and it looks great. My worst day is to do all the cleaning and then I drive out and it starts to rain!” The result – a one-year old Transit, subjected to all the worst Auckland (and Wiri) could offer in terms of driving conditions, and still looking fresh and new. Abdul is also a customiser: he’s added a smart set of 18inch alloy wheels to the van, and inside the cargo space he’s built extra panels to protect the Transit from occasional scratches or dings as cargo is loaded or unloaded. The load cubby above the cargo protection barrier now sports a smart black hatch door and a pair of speakers. “In the cab though there was not much I could change, it just works so well, it’s well set out and so comfortable.” Ford has worked hard to make the new Transit a real standout in the van market and the drivetrain has been the subject of some serious attention. A new 2.0-litre four cylinder diesel received extensive work to optimise it for commercial use including fattening the torque profile at low revs, a new engine ‘architecture’ that focuses on clean-burning combustion profiles and significant reductions in emissions. Extensive work was also done internally to deaden the classic diesel soundtrack. Emissions work including sophisticated after-treatment processes for the exhaust gases took the Transit comfortably through the ever more strict Euro emissions tests and when Euro VI arrived last September the Transit once more sailed through. The six speed auto and the engine’s maximum 405 Nm of torque are welcome features in the stop-start going that makes up most of a courier’s day. The new six speed was specially adapted to the Transit with a new torque converter, new external casing and most crucially a remap to match the profile of the engine. The auto senses when the vehicle is on a steep gradient and shifts gear to meet the demand; it will adapt to a heavy load by adjusting its shift strategy for greatest efficiency. The result is Ford’s most refined commercial vehicle ever – an engine-transmission pairing that Abdul says is ‘amazing’. The summary? An enthusiastic endorsement. “It’s smooth, it’s quiet and it never misses a beat.”