- Updated Ford Transit at IAA Commercial Vehicles show 2018
- Big news: 185hp engine, diesel hybrid tech and 10-speed auto option
- Increased payload, reduced fuel consumption, on sale in 2019
Officially unveiled at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hannover, the 2019 Transit not only gets a facelift outside and in, it also features new engine and gearbox options plus improved practicality.
So while this Transit is not an all-new model like the latest VW Crafter and Mercedes Sprinter, it is a serious upgrade of Ford’s existing 2.0-tonne large van, and certain to secure its position as one of the bestselling light commercial vehicles in the UK.
What's different about the new 2019 Ford Transit facelift?
Beyond that sharp-looking new grille and headlight arrangement, there are a number of important technical changes for the new Transit:
- Increased payload - good news, as this is an area where the Transit currently under-performs versus rivals
- Better fuel economy from updated 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engines and other innovations
- More power from new range-topping 185hp engine, which also provides 415Nm of torque
- All-new interior with increased storage space, similar to the latest Transit Custom
- Built-in 4G modem connectivity to aid fleet management
- 10-speed automatic gearbox option on rear-wheel drive models
In addition to all this, Ford has also announced that the new Transit will be the first van to feature 48-volt mild hybrid (mHEV) technology.
What is the Ford Transit mHEV?
Available as an option on both front- and rear-wheel drive versions of the 2019 Ford Transit fitted with a manual gearbox, the 48-volt mHEV system - mHEV standing for mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle - is designed to boost fuel economy.
It works by combining a new 48-volt electrics system - previously the reserve of posh cars from Audi and Bentley, although this has been developed independently of Ford's new collaboration with the Volkswagen Group - with a small lithium ion battery.
Whenever the van slows down, the electrics capture the energy generated by braking and store it in the battery, where it then helps to power all other on-board systems.
As a result it uses 3% less fuel than an equivalent 2019 Transit without the hybrid tech - and according to Ford, that's in real-world driving. Better yet, that saving improves to 8% in stop-start traffic, like you'd find in towns and cities.
And while it's designed to save fuel rather than boost performance, Ford says the instant response of the hybrid's electric motor does improve initial response.
No other van on the market has anything like this. We look forward to trying it next year.
Engine upgrades for 2019 Ford Transit
Hybrid system aside, the regular 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine range in the Transit has also been overhauled to improve mpg.
New, more powerful fuel injectors now operate at 2,200 bar, while slimmer-skirted steel pistons replace the previous cast aluminium items to reduce friction. The oil pump is now variable flow as well, responding to demand.
The engines also get an 'enhanced' design of turbocharger that delivers more torque over an even broader range - an impressive claim given the 2.0-litre EcoBlue engines already out-performed the older 2.2-litre engines in this respect.
The previous 105hp, 130hp and 170hp power ratings continue as before, but are now joined by a new 185hp range-topped with 415Nm of torque. This Transit is going to fly.
The revised EcoBlue engines - including the 185hp version - and the mHEV tech are also coming to the Transit Custom in 2019.
Is the 2019 Ford Transit better on fuel?
In addition to those engine changes, the 2019 Transit gets electric power steering for the first time - which is more efficient to run than the old hydraulic type. The latest Crafter and Sprinter use the same tech.
The Transit has also undergone what Ford calls 'an extensive programme of weight-saving', has improved aerodynamics, and will be fitted with low-rolling resistance tyres.
A new Efficient Drive Mode system uses the GPS to give 'predictive advice' to the driver about upcoming terrain - which if followed should maximise mpg on the road ahead.
Put all of that together with the new engines, and Ford reckons real-world fuel savings of up to 7% are possible.
New 10-speed automatic gearbox for 2019 Ford Transit
The existing Ford Transit automatic option uses an old six-speed unit that's fine, but not exactly cutting edge.
From spring 2020, this situation will be dramatically improved by the introduction of a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which should bring better fuel economy and a better driving experience.
Its availability is limited to rear-wheel drive Transits only, though.
Increased payload for 2019 Ford Transit
Ford hasn't yet detailed how much the payload increase is for the new Transit, but it has explained how its saved weight on the van itself - and a lighter van means more payload capacity, especially up to the all-important 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight (GVW) maximum of a regular car driving licence.
Using 'computer-aided engineering systems' from the aerospace industry to optimise the Transit's design, these weight savings have apparently been achieved in 'every area'.
Examples include a new aluminium bonnet, variable-thickness spun steel wheels, a redesigned exhaust that now only requires a single silencer, and the introduction of composite material bulkheads in place of steel.
What's different about the cab interior of the 2019 Ford Transit?
Following the lead of the its smaller Transit Custom brother, the 2019 Transit has a redesigned cab which promises to be more comfortable, more user-friendly and even more car-like.
It's not as big a change inside as it was with the Transit Custom, however, so if you really want something different make sure you go for a model with the 'floating' 8.0-inch touchscreen.
Still, there are three new storage bins on top of the dashboard - sadly all are open-topped rather than covered - while lower-specification models are available with a 'device dock' for safely mounting tablets and smartphones.
The fit and finish is said to be much more durable than before, while the seats are supposed to be comfier and covered in a harder-wearing fabric.
Any new technology for the 2019 Ford Transit?
That new screen features the latest Ford Sync 3 infotainment system with voice control, while the new FordPass Connect system adds a 4G Wi-Fi modem that connects to telematics services that Ford also plans to launch in 2019, as well as the FordPass mobile app, which allows remote access to the vehicle via a smartphone - among other tricks.
The Ford MyKey gives the option of programming individual keys to limit things like maximum speed and radio volume, which may be of interest to fleet managers...
Aftermarket conversions and accessories can now be better integrated thanks to the new Upfitter Interface Module.
The Transit also gets Selectable Driving Modes for the first time:
- Slippery Mode
- Mud/Rut Mode (on four-wheel drive variants)
- Tow/Haul Mode (smooths out power delivery when towing trailers that weight more than the Transit itself)
Meanwhile, the electric power steering (EPAS) not only makes lighter work of low-speed driving, it also enables automatic parking and an enhanced lane-keeping aid (both of which take control of the steering from the driver).
What's more, all of the following safety systems are available on the 2019 Transit:
- Blind Spot Information System with Trailer Tow system - extends blindpot monitoring to cover trailers up to 10m in length
- Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control - can automatically adjust the cruise control to match the speed limit
- Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection that now works at night (once illuminated by headlights)
- Front and rear wide-angle cameras - to help with tricky junctions or when reversing
- Parking aid that now uses side sensors to detect objects around the van as well as in front or behind
- Cross Traffic Alert
Like we said, lots.
On top of this, the facelifted front end, with its bi-xenon headlamps and LED daytime running lights, taller 'more assertive' grille and redesigned lower bumper is said to be both more aerodynamic and easier to clean. Bonus.
When does the 2019 Ford Transit go on sale and how much does it cost?
The new Transit is set to go on sale in the middle of 2019, so it's a little early for pricing at this stage. Given the amount of changes and innovations, we'd anticipate a slight increase in cost over the out-going model.
We can tell you that Ford is adding an additonal, higher-specification Limited trim level to the Transit, alongside the current Base and Trend models.
Look out for an update to our Ford Transit review early in the new year.
Prior to the release of all this official information, we received spy shots of the Ford Transit facelift, well ahead of its official at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles show.
The most recent set came from our friends at Diesel Car magazine, who spotted an updated Transit in proper large van form on a transporter parked in a UK industrial estate.
This follows on from earlier pictures taken by our international spy photographers, who snapped a prototype with a dropside bed being transported home from a test session. Both sets of photos show a heavily disguised front end design, but no changes to the rear of the vehicle.
The prototypes spotted were all reasonably heavily disguised, but it’s still clear to see the new grille design, reshaped to echo the look of the 2018 Transit Custom and bringing the Transit into line with Ford’s latest car design language.
One of the close-up spy shots also clearly shows a new LED daytime running light design in the headlight (confirmed in the official teaser image released in early September 2018).
None of the spy photos allowed us to get a good look at the facelifted Transit’s cab, but this will be an area targeted for improvement as well – again influenced by the successful overhaul given to the Transit Custom earlier this year.
This should result in a full-size Transit with a much more functional and attractive cabin – the Custom now has class-leading amounts of storage, for example, while still looking much less like a commercial vehicle inside than the average van – with upgraded, harder-wearing materials, particularly on the seats.
Ford is promising a big injection of technology for the new Transit, too. For example, we expect the FordPass connectivity system to make an appearance, giving you remote access to vehicle data and the ability to lock and unlock the doors via a smartphone app.
What else do the Ford Transit spyshots tell us?
Well, it’s interesting to note that the Transit in question has a British number plate, which tells us that some of the prototype testing is being carried out in the UK (which is pretty standard for Ford, as it maintains a considerable technical centre here).
Therefore, the most surprising thing about the spy pictures is what’s parked behind the Transit on the same transporter.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you – that really is a Volkswagen Crafter.
According to our spy photographers, the Crafter in question is a 4Motion four-wheel drive model, registered to Ford in Cologne, Germany.
It would seem that Ford has been doing some comparison testing with its own four-wheel drive system (which we originally drove in the Transit back in 2015, though have yet to sample in combination with the 2.0-litre engine).
That it’s benchmarking against the Crafter is particularly intriguing, however, given the recent news that Ford and VW are in talks to form a strategic partnership to jointly develop future vans. The Blue Oval has apparently been doing its homework.
But who could blame them – the Crafter is one of the best vans of any type currently on sale, and the 2018 Parkers van of the year.
A wilder theory is that as part of the agreement with VW, Ford could be preparing to ditch its own four-wheel drive system in favour of Volkswagen's 4Motion set-up. And given the Ford 2.0-litre engines haven't exactly been trouble-free so far, it's not impossible that there could be VW power under the bonnet as well.
Not impossible. But not very likely either. That said, it would mean a better automatic gearbox option; Ford's current six-speed unit is new to the Transit but over a decade old in technology terms, whereas the Crafter uses a modern eight-speed unit.