The Ford Courier name was abandoned in the early part of the millennium when the appetite for small vans began to wane but now it's back as the Ford Transit Courier.
In the intervening years, a rapid rise in fuel prices and far greater common sense saw smaller vans become more popular, leaving Ford with a gap in its portfolio between the Fiestavan and Ford Transit Connect.
With the revamp of the entire Transit van range, the Courier name has returned, allowing Ford to compete in the microvan segment once again and challenge Fiat, Peugeot and Citroën with their joint-venture Fiorino, Bipper and Nemo models, as well as provide an alternative to car-derived vans like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.
Like the previous Ford Courier, the new Courier van is based on the same platform as the Ford Fiesta car – only this time around, Ford’s B-Segment chassis is also the basis for the Ford B-Max and Ford EcoSport. It’s part of Ford’s global strategy that sees greater component sharing and wider use between cars and CVs. Ultimately what that means for Courier owners is a better finished product, one that is tried and tested in passenger cars, and a van that is no longer the poor relation.
Courier is, however, a gap-filler, plugging the small but noticeable hole from the Fiestavan to the start of the now four-strong Transit range – Transit Courier, Transit Connect, Transit Custom and Ford Transit. Unlike the rest of the Transit range, which provides buyers with seemingly infinite possibilities, the Ford Transit Courier is available at just one size and weight.
The single option means the Courier has a GVW of 1.8 tonnes, maximum payload of 660kg and a load volume of 2.3m³. There is the option of a folding bulkhead, with collapsible passenger seat, which increases the maximum load length to 2.59m. Need more than the two seats you get in a panel van? There is also a Transit Courier Kombi model that can accommodate up to five people, albeit with a dramatically reduced storage compartment.
Four engine power outputs are available from three different engines. Unlike many vans, even of this size, a petrol option is available – Ford’s highly regarded 1-litre EcoBoost – alongside 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre diesel engines. Each engine is also available with the option of a stop/start system. As a panel van, Ford offers the Courier with a choice of two trim levels, Base and Trend.
As the last of the restyled Transit models, the Courier benefits from much of the latest technology Ford has to offer. It also helps that the Fiesta base vehicle has a huge amount of kit to choose from too, which means that the small Ford van is very well equipped.
Standard features on Base models include daytime running light, remote central locking, an immobiliser and Ford’s Easy-Fuel capless refuelling system, but perhaps of more interest is the DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB connection. There’s also a rake and reach adjustable steering wheel and a four-way adjustable seat. Trend vans get a bit more glamour with rain-sensing windscreen wipers, electric and heated mirrors, automatic on/off headlights, driver side underseat storage drawer, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, leather trimmed steering wheel and gearnob, and a trip computer with MPG readout.
A full-width overhead storage shelf comes as standard on Trend models and is available as an option on Base models. Other creature comforts on Trend vans include Ford SYNC with Applink, that allows voice control of certain entertainment and navigation functions as well as emergency assistance calls (in the event of an accident) and perhaps the feature everyone likes the look of the most, the ability to read out text messages.
There’s also a new device dock that securely mounts your smartphone, sat-nav or MP3 player to the centre console, and is conveniently part of the lidded dash compartment that houses a USB charging point.
Option packs include the comfort pack, cold climate pack and sport pack. Available as an option on Trend vans, the comfort pack adds manual air conditioning, leather trimmed steering wheel, cruise control and rear parking sensors. Cold climate options (available on Base and part of Trend models) include a heated windscreen, front fog lights, a speedier PTC heater and heated electric mirrors. The sports pack gives Trend spec vehicles 15in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and roof bars.
As the interior is a reworked version of the Fiesta passenger car, the Courier’s cab is a supremely smart and comfortable place to be. You won’t find levels of refinement like this in any other vehicle of this type. Car-derived vans like the Fiestavan and Corsavan obviously have a similar feel, but in a box van like the Courier, the competition simple isn’t up to scratch just yet.
Seats are supportive and easy to adjust, with a grade of cloth that feels robust. The steering column can be adjusted easily and the wheel is pleasantly shaped with wider grip sections at the classic 10 and two hand position, and thumb notches for a more relaxed driving style at the nine and three position that allows you easy access the telephone and infotainment controls. For such a small van there is a good deal of space for both driver and passenger, with enough seat travel to accommodate a large adult.
The dials have a supermini feel to them and are hooded with racy-looking and easy-to-view graphics. The centre console is very much in the style of all the current Transit models, but is in fact, on Trend models at least, a shrunken version of the dash found in the Fiesta car – Base models without an infotainment screen get a slightly revised layout to accommodate the device holder and upper dashboard compartment. It’s very well organised and requires next to no time to familiarise yourself with the controls and layout.
Storage is not abundant, but most vehicles in this sector are fairly poorly appointed, and the Courier does its best with the space available. A centre console next to the gear lever will take two coffee cups and is deep enough to store a handful of items and long enough to hold an upright clipboard or laptop. While Base van buyers get additional storage in the shape of a lidded compartment on top of the central dash, the overhead storage is a must-have if buying the entry-level van. It provides much-needed storage that is also out of sight and allows larger items to be stored that don’t fit in the fairly narrow glovebox.
Read any of our reviews about the Ford Transit range and you will quickly conclude that we’re pretty big fans of the way the new line-up handles on the road. The Courier is no exception to this and is perhaps the finest of the lot.
The important bits in the front half of the Courier are made entirely from the Fiesta car; a fine handling vehicle with responsive and communicative steering that have translated well into the van. The front suspension is made up of independent MacPherson struts with coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the rear setup is a torsion beam with coil springs. As is the way with Ford’s suspension settings, the ride is firm when unladen but with a small amount of weight on board the Courier settles nicely into the road.
At the wheel it feels sharp and firmly connected to the road, the passenger car platform contributing a composed and precise driving experience. It’s an agile van but given that this is the smallest model in the Transit range, it feels like quite a weighty vehicle.
Despite it feeling like a heavy van, the Courier is actually quite lightweight, tipping the scales at just 1,140kg. The lower-powered 1.5-litre 75hp diesel unit is more than capable of pulling the Courier along at a decent speed, but does suffer at maintaining it. Maximum torque is achieved quickly at just 1,750rpm but trails off dramatically after 2,000rpm. In the 1.6-litre 95hp unit, however, its maximum torque of 215Nm is available between 1,750rpm and 2,600rpm. The wider plateau makes the engine more usable in stop and start traffic and far easier to extract decent fuel economy from as you spend more time with the engine at its most efficient.
It is a different story with the EcoBoost, though, which musters just 170Nm of torque albeit between 1,400rpm and 4,000rpm. If driven carefully, fuel economy can be kept at a reasonable level, however, so gradual is the power build up to the 100hp peak of the little 1-litre engine that you constantly push for more and more power. The plus side of this is a comical but enjoyable engine note, but the downside is a real penalty on your consumption. For short journeys, providing you moderate your right foot, the EcoBoost should prove to be good investment, but for longer journey use and more urban applications, the 1.6-litre Duratorq is a better bet.
Regardless of your engine choice, the Courier is a pleasant van to drive. All-round visibility is good and there is little in the way of road, wind or engine noise. Build quality is exceptional, so you certainly won’t find any squeaks or rattles.
It’s an agile van but given that this is the smallest model in the Transit range, it feels like quite a weighty vehicle
The Courier is the starting point of the Transit range, but rather than the name being a pricey barrier to entry, the Transit Courier is keenly priced against its rivals, matching the likes of Citroën and Peugeot to almost the nearest round number.
Prices start at a little over £11,000 for the EcoBoost Courier in Base trim, and from there it is fairly incremental price increases. Upgrading from Base to Trend will cost about £600. Moving to diesel power with the 1.5-litre 75hp engine will set you back £400. A further £200 gets you a stop-start system, and an upgrade from the 1.5-litre unit to the 95hp 1.6-litre engine will cost about £500.
When it comes to a warranty, you’ll get 36 months from the manufacturer with a 100,000 maximum. Service intervals should be scheduled for every 20,000 miles or every 12 months.
Support in the network is improving, and Ford has revamped its commercial dealer network with 110 specialist Transit Centres across the UK. The move coincided with the launch of its new range of Transit vehicles, but also the Transit24 aftercare service, using dedicated LCV technicians to carry out servicing.
Small vans are leading the way when it comes to safety and, unsurprisingly, Ford is at the forefront of the sector with the Courier. The passenger car scores a five-star rating with a massive 91% for adult occupants, while the passenger car version of the Transit Courier, the Ford Tourneo Courier, gets a four-star rating with an 84% rating for adults, 84% for children and 74% for pedestrians.
A driver’s airbag is mandatory, but the Courier does not have one for the passenger as standard on the van. Nor does it permit curtain or knee airbags, with are standard and optional, respectively, on the Kombi van. Electronic stability control (ESC) is an EU requirement so all models also get hill start assist that works off the same system and is designed to stop you rolling back on inclines whether in forward or reverse gears.
Also fitted as standard and again part of the ESC system are emergency brake assist, which increases braking force in an emergency situation to limit an impact, emergency brake warning, that puts on the hazard lights during heavy braking, traction control that redirects torque to the front wheel with the most traction, and roll-over mitigation that restores stability much in the same way ESC works by braking individual wheels. Trailer sway control helps regain stability when a trailer starts to snake, by reducing torque and braking, is also a standard feature if a factory-fitted tow-bar is present.
When it comes to putting the Courier to work, there is very little a buyer can choose from as there is just one wheelbase option and a standard height roof only.
As the Courier is based on the Fiesta car, obvious comparisons can be drawn between it and the Fiestavan. Measuring 4.16m in length, the Transit Courier is just 200mm longer than the Fiesta van, but allows a maximum load volume of 2.3m3, compared with the 1m³ in the Fiesta. It also provides a maximum payload of 660kg compared with Fiestavan’s 485kg.
But beware: payloads vary based on individual models, with the EcoBoost with Start-Stop plated to have the lowest payload (645kg) and the standard 1.6 Duratorq model the highest (660kg).Front and rear axle weights also vary slightly between 690kg and 710kg at the front and 425kg and 430kg for the rear axle. Maximum towing capacity is 2,675kg.Unglazed twin rear doors that open to 180-degrees are standard, but the Courier can also be specified with windows and with a top-hinged tailgate door. A side loading door only becomes standard on Trend models, but can be specified on Base vans.
A solid steel bulkhead becomes the standard fitment when a side door is specified, otherwise Base vans receive a moulded plastic bulkhead. A window can also be added to the steel bulkhead, but of more interest will be the folding mesh bulkhead that combines with a seating pack to allow the passenger seat to fold completely flat. The seat sinks downwards into the footwell and level with the loadspace floor. The mesh bulkhead then swings into the cabin to create an additional 0.3m3 of storage space, while also safely separating the driver from the load.
Dimensions in the loadspace are the best in class, alebit only fractionally up on the Citroën Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino. The distance from the floor to the roof measures 1,244mm, while across the Courier’s width there is 1,488mm and 1,012mm between the wheelarches. Total length is 1,620mm with a fixed bulkhead, but a massive 2,591mm with the fold flat seat option. Loading height is relatively high at 547mm, but door apertures are generous at 1,103mm for the rear doors at floor level and 453mm through the side door – although access is hampered a little by the slope of the bulkhead.
Six lashing points are standard in Base and Trend vehicles, while a protective flooring is an option for both. Trend models do, however, get a 12v power point in the loadspace as standard.
When you browse the Ford brochure or website for the Courier, much of your attention is directed towards the impressive-sounding EcoBoost engine. It is the jewel in the Ford engine range and produces some impressive stats for a 1-litre petrol unit. In reality, the petrol unit is, at best, a fringe product and the range is better served by the two diesel engines that far outperform the engineering achievements of the EcoBoost model.
The 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine is the more powerful of the two and delivers a maximum of 95hp at 3,750rpm and 215Nm of torque at 1,750rpm. Claimed combined fuel economy is 70.6mpg, increasing to 74.3mpg with the stop/start system and 76.3mpg with stop/start and a fixed 62mph speed limiter.
In comparison to the two diesel engines, the EcoBoost petrol doesn’t come close on fuel efficiency
The slightly smaller displacement 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCi also develops its maximum power of 75hp at 3,750rpm and reaches peak torque of 190Nm at 1,750rpm. Claimed fuel consumption is, however, marginally less, with a combined economy of 68.9mpg for the standard unit, and 72.4mpg for the stop/start model.
Average CO2 emissions for the standard model 1.6-litre Courier are 105g/km and 108g/km for the 1.5-litre van. Both are 4-cylinder turbodiesels with direct fuel injection, diesel particulate filters and electronic EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valves. The 1.6-litre engine uses an alloy cylinder head, whereas the 1.5-litre unit has an aluminium block.
In comparison to the two diesel engines, the EcoBoost petrol doesn’t come close on fuel efficiency. The 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit may outperform both Duratorq units in terms of power, but the full 100hp only becomes available at 6,000rpm with peak torque of 170Nm arriving at 1,400rpm. This results in much higher engine revs and consequently lower fuel consumption.
Nevertheless, for a petrol, the claimed fuel economy of 52.3mpg for the standard engine and 54.3mpg for the EcoBoost with stop/start. CO2 emissions are 124g/km and 119g/km. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, while power for each vehicle is through the front wheels only.
The small van sector is expected to be one of the boom areas of the van market, so it is no surprise that Ford has chosen to launch the Courier with a Transit badge and wrestle some market share away from the likes of Fiat, Peugeot and Citroën.
With a choice of three engines, and the promise of some excellent fuel economy figures, the Courier blends small van practicalities with car-derived van economics in the same footprint. While there may be a lack of options when it comes to body types, the van that Ford has produced provides a compelling argument with high-volume and payload capacities.
Comfortable and entertaining on the road, the Courier is arguably more of a refined package than any of the larger Transit vans in the range. Although it doesn’t have the space of its siblings, it is also practical as a mobile office.
Supported by a strong warranty, and a expanding dedicated CV network, the Courier is streets ahead of the competition in the sector. Say it quietly, it may also be the best van in the Transit range.