Pretoria - Time was when a panel van (at least in South Africa) automatically meant a Ford Transit, whether in plain white and carrying the dings and scratches of outrageous traffic, or decked out in royal red velour as a mobile motel room (one of my best friends was conceived in one!) they delivered the goods (pun intended) until overtaken by French, German and Japanese rivals.
But now the Transit is back, bigger than ever, as part of the company's 'One Ford' globalisation plan, in panel van, chassis cab and Tourneo 12 or 18 seater minibus format, each on either the medium wheelbase or extended jumbo version of a rugged two-tonner chassis.
The Transit and Tourneo come with a 2.2-litre Duratorq turbodiesel, available in three states of tune: a choice of 92kW/350Nm and 114kW/385Nm versions for the medium and long-wheelbase Transits, and a 100kW/350Nm prime mover for both variants of the Tourneo.
The Transit has been engineered for toughness, with high-strength boron alloy steel in key areas; preproduction models covered 11 million kilometres in testing (equivalent to 275 times round the world) 500 000km of it in the unsympathetic hands of real-world customers, and endured some extreme tests based on real-life scenarios, such as hitting a 150mm kerb at 60km/h!
The vans were also designed around real-life cargoes such as standard-size pipes and building boards, with more-vertical side walls that its predecessor and larger, more practical door openings - the side load doors can open to 1300mm easier loading and unloading with forklift trucks.
The medium-width Transit has a 10 500 litre cargo bay that can take four Europallets or carry three-metre lengths along the floor, while the jumbo Transit boasts an echoing 14 800 litres, with room for either five Europallets, or floor space for materials up to 4.2 metres long.
Smart features include cargo-bay lighting (not all deliveries are done in daylight), tie-down points low down on the sidewalls to keep the floor flat and clear, and high-visibility reflectors to warn other road users when the rear doors are open at 90 degrees.
The medium wheel-base Transit is rated to tow 2800kg, while the jumbo can pull 3500kg.
The Transit's cabin boasts a steering column that is fully-adjustable for rake and reach, a full-width overhead shelf and a large hidden compartment under the dual passenger seat, as well as no less than three 12-volt power sockets for charging mobile devices; an audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity is standard.
Also standard is an electronic stability program developed specifically for tall vehicles with roll-over mitigation, load adaptive control, and curve control to slow the van in a safet and stable way when it goes into a bend (a freeway off-ramp, say) too quickly, as well as trailer sway control and hill hold.
The new Transit and Tourneo will be available later in the year from a number of dedicated Ford dealerships specialising in commercial vehicles. They'll be covered by Ford's standard family-car warranty of four years or 120 000km; prices, as always, when they get here.