The most successful commercial vehicle in Britain – the Ford Transit – enters a new era in its long and successful life, with extensive improvements to keep it ahead of the pack.

A great British success story, new Transit has been designed and engineered in Essex, with engines from Dagenham, transmissions from Merseyside and assembly in Southampton.

Gary Whittam, commercial vehicles director, Ford of Britain said: “Transit led the market once again in 2005 with 54,300 sales, outselling the nearest rivals by more than three to one. Customer needs have been a driving force behind the improvements in the new Transit and this is the secret of its success.

“The new 2006 Ford Transit takes its market-leading strengths and advances them to the next generation. Existing customers will love the new Transit. The new styling and dynamic changes will ensure that many new customers who take pride in themselves and their business, will also take pride in placing their name on the side of a new Transit.”

Interior and exterior, back to front, on the surface and under the skin, every area of Ford’s popular workhorse has been examined and improved. The extensive upgrade is the result of several years of development by Ford engineers, and are the most significant changes for six years.

“When setting out to improve the Transit, we paid particular attention to an increasingly important customer base, the artisan or single-vehicle owner,” explained Barry Gale, chief engineer, commercial vehicles. “These customers told us their van was a statement about them and their company, so it not only needed to be functional, reliable and durable, but stylish too. Additionally, they wanted a vehicle that was pleasant to drive – that it should never feel like taking a step down from a passenger car.”

In terms of driving dynamics, Ford engineers have worked hard to ensure the new Transit has driving and handling characteristics that are even closer to the Company’s acclaimed passenger cars. Detailed changes in the suspension have made a significant change to the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), cutting it by some 20 per cent.

Exterior design changes give the vehicle a stronger, more contemporary profile when viewed head on. The most noticeable changes are at the front where the bold new three-bar grille sits between new, more vertical headlamps and a nine inch Ford oval badge on the grille, the largest on a European Ford vehicle.

Major improvements have also been made to the Transit interior, reflecting the demand for the same level of user-friendly features as passenger cars. A completely new dashboard, instruments, switches and a new steering wheel face the driver, while new, considerate and innovative storage solutions ensure that Transit is now an even more convenient workplace.

A significant change in cabin ergonomics sees the gear lever moved up to the dashboard – giving a more car-like driving position. It also gives a completely clear floor area from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side for “walk through” access. A two-tone instrument panel and higher grade cloth trim complete the changes.

The Transit will feature a range of distinctive new colours, as well as new-style wheels, wheel trims and exterior trim detailing.

The new high-tech TDCi diesel engines are the first dedicated commercial vehicle powertrains to be developed as part of the partnership between Ford Motor Company and PSA Peugeot Citroen and will be built at Ford’s Dagenham Diesel Centre.

The new Transit range will offer six diesel engines and one LPG-compatible petrol engine. The diesel options include new 2.2-litre and 2.4-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engines, matched with either five-speed or six-speed Durashift manual transmissions.

All Transit diesel power units are compliant with Euro IV emissions standards and feature latest generation common-rail technology. They have been designed to accommodate forthcoming emissions legislation and to deliver improved performance with reduced fuel consumption, while the engine layout has been revised for ease of maintenance.

The outgoing Transit received many international awards for its outstanding security features. The new Transit builds on this success with an even more comprehensive list of security features, engineered to frustrate and deter would-be thieves and so improve insurance ratings and lower insurance costs for owners.

Two levels of alarm are available, including Thatcham Category 1, while the Transit also features Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS), hood lock, cable-free doors and the industry’s first configurable unlocking security system.

Configurable unlocking means customers can choose which doors unlock in which order, when selected buttons are pressed. There are three combinations to choose from at purchase.

Safety features include Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Traction Control System (BTCS) and an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP).

Protecting the occupants in an accident is an important function of the vehicle’s structure and Ford engineers were keen to improve on the already high standards set by the Transit. Driver’s airbag is standard while seat-mounted side, head and thorax airbags are available as options for the first time. In addition the redesigned front structure further enhances low speed impact resistance.

Ford has listened to its customers and made the Transit’s interior a more enjoyable place to be, with a host of new convenience features. They include three levels of heating and ventilation, four trim options including leather, 10 seating arrangement options, cruise control availability for the first time, and a new instrument cluster. The new Transit also boasts a self-charging waterproof ignition key – the first vehicle in the sector ever to be fitted with one.

The Transit has become famous for offering customers exactly what they need, with a huge range of body and engine variations. With the new improvements, Ford is providing even more choice. There are 60 basic structures and body styles. Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations team can also handle any further specifications.