What Car? says...
In the same way that your favourite piece of technology keeps getting smaller and more compact, the Ford Transit Courier is a small van with all the benefits of a bigger one.
Answering the call for a small van that can help combat rising fuel costs but still has all the space a tradesperson might want, the Courier shares the Transit name with one of the most successful vans of all time. It also plugs a handy gap between the Ford Fiesta Van and the larger Ford Transit Connect in Ford's commercial vehicle range.
The current Ford Transit Courier, like earlier versions, is based on the Ford Fiesta and takes advantage of chassis, engine and component know-how that's been proven by the road car. That makes it a hugely enticing product that sits alongside the rest of the Transit family – the Transit Connect, the Ford Transit Custom and the Ford Transit itself, in case you were wondering.
Unlike the other Ford vans, the Courier is available in just one size and weight. Its gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 1.8 tonnes gives it a maximum payload of up to 582kg. Load volumes are set at 2.3m³.
There's more choice when it comes to engines, with petrol and diesels available. Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost – still something of a benchmark for small three-cylinder petrols – is joined by a 1.5-litre diesel with a choice of two power outputs, and all engines have a stop/start system as standard. The Courier comes in four trim levels, starting with Leader (also known as Base), Trend, Limited and Sport.
The Ford Transit Courier doesn't have too many rivals these days, and the Fiat Fiorino is its main challenger. Some car or SUV derived models join the fray too, including the Dacia Duster Commercial and the Toyota Corolla Commercial.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Before you get overly excited about a van with a small petrol engine, heed this warning: the 1.0-litre Ford EcoBoost engine is exceptionally impressive in its own right, but it's not always ideal for a commercial vehicle. You see, its 125lb ft of torque falls short of what it takes for hauling a fully loaded van.
For more versatility, you’ll want the 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine. Its two versions produce 74bhp with 140lb ft of torque and 98bhp with 159lb ft. The difference between the petrol engine and the less powerful of the two diesels is like night and day – but so too is the jump between the 74bhp and 98bhp diesel. While the lower-powered unit needs to be worked hard to stay on song, the higher powered one has a far wider power and torque range.
Being based on the Ford Fiesta, the Transit Courier it shares many of the small car's driving charms. The handling is sharp and the steering is really communicative – neither common traits of a commercial vehicle.
The front suspension uses independent MacPherson struts with coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the rear set-up is a torsion beam with coil springs. As for the ride, it’s firm when unladen, but with a small amount of weight on board, the Courier settles nicely into the road. It does feel like quite a heavy van at times, though, weighing in at nearly 1.2 tonnes.
Overall visibility is good, with narrow A-pillars and decent wing mirrors. What's more, very little road, wind or engine noise gets through to the interior, making for a van that's relaxing as well as fun to drive.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Transit Courier owes a debt of gratitude to the Ford Fiesta for its interior. While the materials used are a little more focused on commercial needs, with fewer chrome and piano-black highlights, the basic shape and function of the Courier's dashboard is almost identical to the Fiesta’s.
Equipment from the car range is carried over too. Most importantly for a small van, the Fiesta's rake and reach adjustable steering wheel and four-way adjustable seat are present in the Courier. A basic DAB radio with Bluetooth is fitted as standard in Leader models. A unit with a 4.0in screen is the next option up for Trend trim vans, followed by a 6.0in touchscreen on higher-trim models.
Both systems run Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment software, but only the larger screen offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The 6.0in system is standard on Limited trim vans. Strangely, Sport trim – which many would consider to be the top specification – does not get the bigger screen as standard.
No matter which version of the Transit Courier you go for, the interior is comfy, well designed and well made, with quality that's frankly astonishing for the price, but it's not all that spacious (this is a small van, after all).
The seats are very supportive, and if you go for Trend trim or above, you get extra seat adjustment, which we think is a worthwhile upgrade. The steering wheel is a pleasantly sporty shape, which might seem like an odd point of praise for a van, but thumb notches at the nine and three positions make it quite relaxing to grip and control the phone and infotainment controls.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Transit Courier is 4.16m in length, which is just 200mm longer than the Ford Fiesta it's based on, but the major difference between the van and the car is in the height and width. The Courier has an internal height of 1244mm and a width of 1488mm, creating a maximum load volume of 2.3m3. Payloads on individual models vary from 566kg to 582kg, which also compares favourably with rivals.
A side loading door only becomes standard on Trend models but can be specified on Base vans. A solid steel bulkhead is fitted as standard when a side door is specified, otherwise Base vans have a moulded plastic bulkhead.
You can add a window to the steel bulkhead, but of more interest will be the folding mesh bulkhead that combines with a “fold and dive” seating pack to allow the passenger seat to fold completely flat. It creates a level loadspace floor, allowing the total space to increase from 1620mm to a vast 2593mm. It also adds 0.3m3 of storage space, while safely separating the driver from the load.
Loading height is generous for a small van, at 564mm, while door apertures are wide at 1104mm for the rear and 453mm through the side door. Access is hampered a little by the slope of the bulkhead, though. Six lashing points are standard, while protective flooring is an option. Trend models get a 12V power socket in the loadspace as standard.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Ford Transit Courier comes in four trim levels, starting with Leader (also known as Base), Trend, Limited and Sport. Trend is available with any of the engines, but the other trims have some restrictions.
Leader is only available on the petrol engine and the lower-powered diesel engine, and its kit list is so sparse that Ford highlights the A4 document storage and centre consoles with two cupholders among the main frills. That said, the storage in the door pockets and the provision of a decent-sized glovebox for such a small van add moderate functionality.
The Trend trim gives you under-seat and overhead storage compartments, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, a locking glovebox, electric windows, automatic headlights and wipers, and a 4in screen with DAB radio. There’s also a 12V power point inside the rear loadspace, and a side loading door.
Limited trim adds to that with manual air-conditioning, rear-parking sensors, a 6.0in infotainment touchscreen, body-coloured bumpers, door handles and mirrors, and 15in alloy wheels.
The Sport trim doesn’t build on the Limited spec kit list, but rather the Trend model, adding a leather gearknob and gaiter with contrast red stitching, plus manual air-con. The rest of the alterations are to the exterior and include sports stripes, black heated door mirrors, body coloured side mouldings and 16in alloys.
The Limited and Sport trims are reserved for the petrol engine and the high-powered diesel van.
For the level of equipment on offer, we’d recommend the Trend as the best starting point. If you really feel the need to add the larger touchscreen, you’ll need around £1000 more to step up to Limited or specify it as an option. It’s a good system and will enhance the user experience over the sometimes-buggy SYNC 3 (although software updates have made it vastly more reliable).
So, what's the Transit Courier's fuel economy like? Well, under the latest WLTP test regime shows that the 75bhp diesel engine can officially return up to 52.3mpg, and if you drive it carefully, you might get close to that. In any case, expect a high-40mpg fuel economy from the Courier van across all three engine outputs.
When it was launched, the Courier led the way in terms of safety equipment fitted to a van. While only the driver’s airbag is standard (a legal requirement), the option of adding side airbags, curtain airbags and knee airbags means the Courier can be specified with safety in mind.
Electronic stability control, hill-start assist, roll-over mitigation and electronic brakeforce distribution are all standard, along with trailer sway control when a towbar is fitted. There’s also emergency brake assist and emergency brake warning on the latest models.
The Transit Courier comes with a 36-month warranty as standard, covering you for up to 100,000 miles. A five-year warranty package is available too. Servicing is required every 20,000 miles or every 12 months.
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About the author
George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.
Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.
The Ford Transit Courier is the lowest priced and smallest model in Ford’s van range. It can carry up to 582kg (compared to the Connect’s 750kg) and has a slightly shorter load volume, at a maximum 2.3m³. It is also substantially cheaper than the Connect. Read our Ford Transit Courier review, or Ford Transit Connect review.
Ford Transit Courier buyers get a choice of a 1.0-litre petrol engine or a 1.5-litre diesel with a choice of two power outputs. The right choice depends on how you will use the van; the petrol engine lacks power for heavy duty use, whereas the diesels are both flexible and powerful. Read our review of Ford Transit Courier driving impressions.
The space in a Ford Transit Courier depends how you spec it; go for the optional folding mesh bulkhead and fold-and-dive passenger seat and you can get items up to 2.59m long in there. Maximum width is 149cm and height 124cm. Likewise, in its optimum configuration the load volume is up to 2.3m³. Read more on the Ford Transit Courier’s practicality.
Parking sensors and a rear view camera system are available on the Ford Transit Courier, although on many trims they will have to be specified as optional extras. Read our rundown of Ford Transit Courier trim options.
The Ford Transit Courier is smaller than the Ford Transit Connect, with a lower weight limit and slightly smaller dimensions. The Courier’s maximum load volume is 2.3m³, the Connect’s 3.6m³, while the load limits are 582kg to 750kg respectively. Read our Ford Transit Courier review or Ford Transit Connect review.