The 2018 Ford Transit provides the wheels that keep the cogs of commerce rolling. This full-size van is a best-seller in the United States, and with good reason. It has been shaped by countless miles of duty in practically every imaginable scenario where a van has to earn its keep. That shape involves sleek styling, unibody (as opposed to body-on-frame) construction and decent fuel economy. Much of this development has taken place in Europe, where the versatile Transit is so common it’s almost a generic name.
As ever with this class, customizability is king, so there are three body lengths to choose from, along with two wheelbases and three roof heights. The version on sale in the United States (made in Kansas City, Missouri) offers great engines, including a twin-turbo V6 and a 5-cylinder turbodiesel that’s easy on fuel. Don’t buy a new full-size van without checking out the Transit.
What’s New for 2018?
Versions with the medium-height and high roofs have a new high-mounted rearview camera as standard. Cargo models also have a new LED lamp switch for the load area and a new rear-door exit handle; versions with sliding doors have laminated glass for the windows, while screen mesh is added to the windows placed in the 60/40-split side doors. All Transits receive a locking glove compartment. New options include extended-length running boards, short-arm power-folding/heated side mirrors, scuff plates, D-pillar grab handles, heavy-duty cargo flooring, a push-down manual parking brake, charcoal leather seat coverings and a forged alloy wheel package for dual rear-wheel setups. See the 2018 Ford Transit models for sale near you
What We Like
Civilized driving experience; highly customizable; capable engines with fuel-efficient turbodiesel option; modern look and feel
What We Don’t
Price can escalate quickly
The standard engine is a 3.7-liter V6 generating 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. In regular-wheelbase versions with low or medium roofs, fuel consumption is estimated at 14 miles per gallon in the city, 18 mpg on the highway and 16 mpg in combined driving. A flex-fuel variant is adapted to run E85 ethanol, and there are options for liquid propane gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG).
A more muscular 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 makes 310 hp and 400 lb-ft, thanks to a turbocharger. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts consumption at 15 mpg city/18 mpg hwy/16 mpg combined.
A 3.2-liter 5-cylinder Power Stroke turbocharged diesel engine develops 185 hp and a hefty 350 lb-ft of torque. There are no EPA mileage ratings on this unit (not required for Transit variants with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 8,600 pounds), but it should keep the company accountant happy.
Each engine is linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All Transits sold in the United States employ rear-wheel drive; we don’t get the front-drive version offered across the pond. If that’s an issue, perhaps the smaller front-drive Transit Connect could be worth a look.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Ford Transit is available as a regular panel van, or in wagon forms with seating for 8 to 15 occupants.
It comes with a 129.9- or 147.6-in wheelbase. The latter can also offer an extended body length. Then there’s the choice of a low roof (83.6 inches) or medium-height roof (100.8 inches); the two longer versions offer medium or high (110.1 inches) roofs. With the high roof, a 6-foot person can easily stand up inside. In the largest version, total cargo volume is 487.3 cu ft. Maximum payload is 4,650 pounds, and maximum towing capacity is 7,500 pounds.
Those numbers on the back doors — 150, 250, 350 and 350 HD — signify gross vehicle weights of 8,600, 9,000, 9,500 and 9,950 pounds, respectively. For the heaviest loads (350 HD), a dual-rear-wheel setup is used.
The Transit 150 ($33,775) starts with 16-in steel wheels, keyless entry, variable intermittent wipers, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, power-adjustable mirrors, power windows/locks, front air conditioning, vinyl upholstery, a rearview camera, lashing hooks and LED lighting in the cargo area, a lockable glove box and a 4-speaker AM/FM stereo with Bluetooth and an auxiliary input. The passenger version has tinted glass, plus 3-point safety belts for all seats and extra airbags.
Sliding passenger-side doors are standard on medium- and high-roof versions; dual sliding doors are optional. The Transit can be ordered as a cutaway or chassis cab.
There are also numerous options, such as extended side mirrors, power-retractable running boards, 16-in alloy wheels, cruise control, power/heated front seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, a keyless entry pad, lane-departure warning, remote start, rear air conditioning, a trailer package, Crew Chief commercial telematics and the options mentioned in the What’s New section above.
The cargo area can come with a spray-in liner or heavy-duty flooring. A choice of rear axle ratios is also on the options list, along with SYNC voice controls and the SYNC 3 infotainment system with navigation, a USB port, HD Radio, satellite radio, a 6.5-in touchscreen and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
Equipping the van for specific tasks (known as upfitting) often requires upgrading the electrical system. With this in mind, Ford offers a single absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery and auxiliary fuse panels as options.
The Ford Transit comes standard with 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control with rollover prevention technology, plus driver and front passenger airbags, side curtain airbags and thorax airbags. Side-wind stabilization is also standard.
Rear parking sensors and lane-departure warning are optional.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Transit four stars out of five for front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection.
Behind the Wheel
The Transit is easy to drive, with a precise feel to the steering (the steering wheel looks like it ought to be in an upscale sedan) and brakes, plus a ride quality that will keep worker fatigue at bay. The cabin is remarkably quiet, even in larger versions where more noise is expected. The diesel engine is similarly subdued and clatter-free.
The dual-rear-wheel setup is only 4 inches wider than the front, so drivers won’t have that much trouble gauging the van’s width during tight maneuvers, making use of the relatively compact 39.2-ft turning circle. They’ll also like the large (folding) side mirrors, whose concave lower sections bring a useful view of the Transit’s rearmost corners as well as vehicles in other lanes.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Chevrolet Express Cargo — Smaller and older than the Transit.
2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter — Despite that 3-pointed star, the Sprinter is not crazy expensive. The Automotive Lease Guild (ALG) also says the Sprinter has the highest resale value in its class.
2018 Nissan NV — Nissan’s full-sizer is both contemporary and affordable, with a muscular V8 available. No diesel option, though.
2018 Ram ProMaster — The Fiat-derived ProMaster is another Euro-style van. See if the oddly angled steering wheel is to your liking.
Every business has its own needs, so investigate all the relevant options. There are even ambulance, school bus and shuttle bus packages. Think about the diesel engine if heavy loads and long distances are involved.