Finding The Thrill Of Driving In Unlikely Vehicles

Ec make no hones about the fact this is the second Transit that's featured on this page in the space of a year. Back in issue 142, Dickie Meaden sung the praises of a high-roof, long-wheelbase version. I drove that one toe and it was fun. This one's better.

All vans are fun, though. OK, so I'm sure the appeal wears off pretty quickly if you drive one every day, but for those of us used to interacting with a car, vans are something new and interesting. There are the physical differences, for a start. You climb up a long way and then find yourself sitting on a flat chair in front of a huge scrcen with a wheel on your lap. It's like earing your TV dinner oil your knees.

I particularly like the newspaper holder built into the dashtop above the stereo - perfect size for a folded tabloid. Now that's called knowing your customers. There are also perfectly shaped holders for cans of Coke and Yorkie bars, and hard-wearing rubber mats for when they spill/melt.

Ford is only building 100 of these Transit Sportvans. They use the standard 2.2-litre 138bhp TDCi diesel engine, but the crucial figure is the 2581b ft of torque. Leave yourpayload at the depot and this front-drive

2.2-litre diesel is unchanged, but pumps out 2581b ft of torque

048 Pictures: Chris Rutter

Cabin is fabulousl/ functional, with a holder for everything

Transit doesn't muck about, at least between 1800 and 3000rpm - above that it quickly gets rather raucous and power tails off. But narrow though the powerhand is, the six-speed gearshift is pretty quick through the gate and pleasingly precise.

However, without any cargo the Sporrvan is a springy; bouncy thing that leaps off lumps as if the rear axle is devoid of any damping whatsoever. We didn't discover the perfect balance, but reckon 150kg over the back axle would tie things down much better and allow genuine enjoyment of the cornering grip available - which is quite considerable on the 235/45 R18 tyres. The steering is surprisingly detailed and the chassis more responsive than you'd ever imagine.

So now you know why Transits are always 'making progress'. Behind the wheel of each one there's a budding chassis engineer playing with weight distribution and analysing the finer points of ride and handling. That's what I like to think anyway.

Ollie Marriage

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