This Ford Transit comes with the medium-height roof. Believe it or not, there’s an even taller model available.
You don’t need to pastor a megachurch or run a plumbing-supply company to own a 2020 Ford Transit van. Those are admittedly the sort of customers this vehicle is aimed at, but it’s comfortable and pleasant enough to drive that you might consider one for your small business or your family, especially if you’ve got a large brood or just want a versatile camping rig.
LikeSurprisingly agile handlingExcellent forward visibilityPotent V6 engine
Don’t LikeAwkward pedal placementCramped footwellsBooming interior
Ford offers a dizzying array of variants in this Kansas City, Missouri-built vehicle, from cargo- and passenger-specific models, to chassis cab and cutaway variants. Giving customers even more choice, it’s also available with three different roof heights and in a trio of lengths. The Transit pretty much covers the market, meeting the needs of everyone from HVAC service technicians to adventure seekers who want to upfit their Transit to be the ultimate overlanding machine.
My tester is Ford’s new-for-2020 crew-van model, which has both a large cargo area and seating for five people. This van also features a regular-length body and medium-height roof, but trust me, even though it’s the “midsize” offering of the family, it’s plenty big. I can stand up in it without clocking my head on the ceiling, and an air mattress should fit without issue if you dream of owning a 1970s-style custom van. Sure, it’s a bit of a step up to get into this vehicle, but it’s not that bad.
Another welcome addition to the Transit for 2020 is available all-wheel drive, which affects neither the floor nor seat height. The system can send up to 100% of available torque to the front wheels as needed, giving this commercial-grade vehicle plenty of capability. Ford even offers a couple driver-selectable modes, one for mud and ruts as well as another for slippery conditions. Predictably, there’s no sport mode, which is a bummer because I wanted to autocross this Transit. Not only would it turn a few heads snaking around those cones, it might turn in some pretty impressive lap times. Seriously, this van drives that well.
For 2020, the Transit’s base engine is a 3.5-liter gas V6 that delivers 275 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, pretty feeble figures on paper but that engine moves the Transit with shocking ease, at least when unladen. The new 10-speed automatic transmission and 3.73 limited-slip rear end make the most of every available pony. Quick to rev and unexpectedly smooth, it gives this van plenty of scoot off the line and at highway speeds. The gearbox is plenty responsive, quickly upshifting as you accelerate and easily dropping gears when it’s time to boogie, but I wish it were a touch smoother. Ford’s 10-speed auto-box isn’t always the most refined transmission. For customers who need even more performance, a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 is also offered. It delivers 310 hp and an even 400 lb-ft of torque. Models equipped with that turbocharged engine feature a different grille design for enhanced cooling. The five-cylinder diesel option in previous model years is no longer offered.
Due to the Transit’s van-like proportions, it’s hard to see, let alone access, the engine.
As for dynamics, this house-size van is rather enjoyable to pilot, with unexpectedly crisp steering. In fact, for my money, it drives better and feels smaller than the Ford Ranger. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either, but this vehicle feels more buttoned down, responsive and enjoyable than the Blue Oval’s own midsize truck, which can be pretty sloppy and disconnected. Empty, the Transit’s ride quality is also amazingly good, firm and a tiny bit bouncy at times, but nowhere near as harsh as you might expect for something with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 9,070 pounds and a maximum payload capacity of 3,670 pounds. Swing for the fences, and you can get a Transit with a GVWR of 10,360 pounds and with a max payload rating of 4,550 pounds. Interior noise levels are, as expected, somewhat elevated since it’s basically just a giant uninsulated box on wheels. Load this baby up with freight and it should quiet down appreciably.
Like other vehicles with a GVWR exceeding 8,500 pounds, this van is exempt from government fuel-economy ratings. In testing around town and on the highway, I averaged about 16 mpg empty, which is better than I expected. Of course, if you’re hauling anywhere near this van’s limits, expect a lot less.
Perched atop the Transit’s elevated driver’s seat, which is passenger-car comfortable and trimmed in a rugged-feeling fabric, this Ford gives you picture-window forward visibility. The expansive windshield and relatively thin roof pillars make it easy to see where you’re going. Of course, a towering ride height doesn’t hurt, either, allowing you to look down the road over the rooftops of practically every other motorist except long-haul truckers. When it’s time to back this beast up, the sharp reversing camera and large outside mirrors with convex reflectors are surprisingly helpful. A 360-degree camera is not offered.
The Transit’s interior is comfortable and highly functional.
Unfortunately, there is a tradeoff for those superb sight lines. The Transit’s driving position is as awkward as a middle-school dance though not as cumbersome as the Ram ProMaster’s seat, which is much more bus-like. Sitting so far forward means your left foot essentially rests above the wheel. This van’s front footwells are quite narrow as a consequence, and the brake pedal is on a plane far above the accelerator’s, which makes it ankle-twisting to operate. At least the brakes are beautifully weighted, with a nice, firm feel and no grabbiness at all.
As far as storage, let’s just say the Transit has cubbies and cupholders and bins galore. Its interior has no shortage of places to stash things, with large pockets on top of the dashboard and additional nooks down low. There are huge bins above the front seats and more junk-carrying receptacles on the door panels. If you run out of spots to put things in this van, you’re probably an undiagnosed hoarder. The rest of this van’s interior is decidedly workaday, constructed of coarsely grained hard plastic. Easy to clean and surely hard-wearing, but luxurious it is not. Making this blue-collar vehicle a little more refined, the Transit can be had with a power-sliding side door and even swivel seats, more new equipment for 2020. Ford also offers some fresh exterior colors and a 31-gallon fuel tank.
My test Transit arrived fitted with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system with navigation and an 8-inch touchscreen, an $810 option. This is one of my preferred multimedia arrays, as it’s easy to navigate, plenty snappy and supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa and even Waze. A multifunction display with a 4-inch screen is standard if you don’t feel like shelling out extra cash.
Really, this high-riding van ain’t too shabby.
For 2020, a range of new advanced safety features are standard. Every Transit now comes with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, automatic high beams and even lane-keeping assist. This van doesn’t really wander (at least when there aren’t stiff crosswinds), but that last item is still helpful, gently nudging the Transit toward the center of its lane should you drift too close to one of the lines. Other models come with blind-spot monitoring including trailer coverage and cross-traffic alert. Additional available features include enhanced active park assist, high-intensity discharge headlamps and even adaptive cruise control, which is smooth and attentive even if it doesn’t work in stop-and-go traffic. As for protection, the Transit comes with your standard, three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The powertrain and safety systems are covered for five years or 60,000 miles, plus you get roadside assistance for the same amount of miles and time. This coverage is exactly the same as you get with a Ram ProMaster, and very similar to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, though it comes with a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The 2020 Transit seen here stickers for $51,420. That price includes a smattering of useful options and a whopping $1,695 in destination fees. Is this high-riding van for everyone? Of course not. But drivers in need of a rig that can haul vast amounts of cargo or a Sunday school’s worth of kiddies would be wise to consider one. This big boy is comfortable, drives well and is super versatile, especially now that all-wheel drive is available. When it comes to hauling, the 2020 Ford Transit is tough to top.