Ford's Fiesta van looks to have the right stuff. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Ford's Fiesta van gets off to a great start in life in being based on their Fiesta supermini. The carrying capacity isn't huge but its driving experience, design and build quality set new standards for the sector.
By far and away the simplest route to creating a class leading small car-derived van is to start with a class leading small car. Which in the seventh generation Fiesta is exactly what Ford have. Having done the hard work in creating it, the boys at the Blue Oval weren't above tearing out the back seats to bring us the Fiesta van. This variant competes in the supermini-derived van market where Ford has traditionally taken 25% of sales and goes head to head with van versions of many of the same models its passenger car sibling must battle. So the Fiesta van follows the same basic recipe as the Corsavan from Vauxhall and the 207 van from Peugeot in that it sacrifices its rear seats and windows in favour of a flat load bay in which businesses with minimal load carrying requirements can stow their wares. Once upon a time, the small van market was completely made up of supermini-derived models like this one but in recent times, most buyers have been drawn towards purpose-designed small vans that aren't constricted by passenger car styling and so can offer much larger carrying capacities without taking up any more roadspace. Renault's Kangoo is a good example and it competes against models like Citroen's Nemo, Peugeot's Bipper and Fiat's Fiorino. If you really need carrying capacity, models like these are a better bet - but then, if you really need that, should you really be considering a very small van in the first place? If having considered that, you conclude that your needs are less cubic capacity-orientated, then this Fiesta van might prove to be a very effective choice.
On the road, if you're familiar with the previous generation Fiesta van, your experience should be that this model has a more solid feel, despite the fact that it's 40kgs lighter. Electrically assisted power steering made its debut on this generation model, technology that has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, the feeling no longer being as if you were at the wheel of a PlayStation. I particularly like the 'Stall Prevention' feature, designed to help in low speed manoeuvres by altering the engine's ignition profile and preventing that embarrassing stalling moment when there's a queue of traffic behind you. With most vans, operators will choose diesel power without even thinking about it but with one this small likely to cover very restricted mileages, petrol might still be a viable option, so it's just as well that the 82PS 1.25-litre unit on offer is a pleasant one - and much quieter than the 1.4 and 1.6-litre Dagenham-built common rail injection TDCi diesel options. A key component of the Fiesta passenger car's makeup is its enjoyable driving dynamics and the van version inherits these. Expect lively handling and first rate manoeuvrability married to a more comfortable ride than owners of the previous generation Fiesta van will have experienced.
Design and Build
A payload range from 490kg to 515kg (significantly more than a Peugeot 207 van but a little less than a Vauxhall Corsavan) gives customers a competitive option for transporting their products. The rear side windows are replaced by body-coloured solid panels, and the rear passenger seats have been removed to provide a load box area of 1,000 cubic litres, with a maximum useable load length of 1,296mm, as well as a maximum load box width of 1,278mm (1,000mm between the wheel arches) and a height of up to 806mm. The styling of the Fiesta will win it many admirers and operators looking for a compact van that will cut a dash on the city streets will like the wedge-shaped front end as well as the curvy rear. The cabin is similarly avant-garde in its design, with a dashboard control interface based around that of a mobile phone and a clever choice of quality materials.
Market and Model
Prices are comparable, of course, with obvious competitors like Vauxhall's corsavan and Peugeot's 207 van. This Ford is available with a choice of Euro5-compatible engines: most will choose between a 1.25-litre 82PS Duratec 16 valve petrol unit and a frugal 1.4-litre 70PS Duratorq TDCi turbo diesel. At the top-of-the-range, the 1.6-litre 95PS Duratorq TDCi turbo diesel has a closed-loop coated DPF diesel particulate filter. All models come with a body-colour roof spoiler, electric door mirrors and front windows, a trip computer, an adjustable steering column, plus a stereo radio CD player with MP3 connection, four front speakers and steering wheel mounted controls. All models have ABS brakes with brakeforce distribution and ESP stability control. One innovation that will appeal in the commercial world is Ford's Easy Fuel capless refuelling system. This prevents 'mis-fueling', or the costly practice of putting diesel in a petrol powered vehicle and visa versa, by preventing the wrong type of fuel pump nozzle from fitting down the filler neck.
Practicalities and Costs
In terms of practicality, as we've said, you won't be buying a supermini-derived small van if interior space is everything. That point made, it's also worth saying that this Ford does at least enable its owner to make good use of the space that is on offer. DIN-compliant tie-down hooks are standard but if you forget to use them - or simply can't - then a half-height composite bulkhead is standard to prevent loose items from sliding forward and joining you in the front. A 12-year anti-perforation guarantee goes a long way to reassure buyers of Ford's faith in their product's capacity not to fall foul of Mr rust and if all goes to plan, the 1-year breakdown cover will be surplus to requirements. When it comes to insurance, the Fiesta van performs admirably: its 1E grouping is about as low as you can go. As for running costs, well to prioritise these, you need the 1.6 TDCi diesel of the ECOnetic version which returns 85.6mpg on the combined cycle and 87g/km of CO2.
Ford knows exactly how to build a class-leading supermini-derived van - but then, with a passenger car product as good as the Fiesta to base it on, you'd think that the van version's designers had very little to do to complete an excellent product. Perhaps the best part about this commercial vehicle is that it doesn't look like one. All the style that marks out the Fiesta car has been transferred over intact - and that should make it a good advert for the kind of small businesses (florists, gardeners and so on) likely to want a vehicle of this kind. Imagining your company logo on the doors? Then you'll know what to do....