I drive quite regularly a 1997 Ford Transit purchased new as a company vehicle. It has just reached around 50,000 miles. We have experienced the following problems:
Cam belt snapped before due (£800 engine repairs)
Steering pinion completely worn, steering slipping!
Ignition lock failed.
Key regularly gets stuck in fuel cap, depsite regular squirts of oil!
Engine burns oil (what? a Ford engine burn oil!!!)
Tyre life is poor.
Indicators now fail to cancel,
The engine is shamefully underpowered (70bhp), only for the fact the gearing is low does it get up hills at all.
The suspension is crude, when empty the back end is unstable when loaded the ride is comparable to a boat.
Steering is vague at speed (speed? - something a transit experiences when travelling down a steep hill!)
Engine noise is sometimes unbearable.
Brakes are good!
If you disagree with any of my comments then I suggest you test drive a Mercs or VW van and see the difference for yourself - I have.
UPDATE! The van is off the road again! After smelling fuel while driving and noticing an oily patch in the area it is parked we found fuel leak at the top of the engine. The rocker cover and bulkhead foam were both soaked in diesel fuel.
I bought my L Reg Rover 214 SI 16v nearly three years ago second hand, it had a very low 16,000 miles on the clock. I am now up to 42,000 and loving every minute! The beautiful K series engine continues to surpise me (and other motorists in "more powerful" cars) especially when climbing hills.
Another opinion writer mentioned having to purchase a new battery, my original has lasted seven years and only recently replaced for £49.95 (for a special Lithium technology one, the standard was less than £40). The catalytic convertor is not £400, I paid less than that for a full exhaust system front to back including cat, they are actually less than £100 if you shop around.
The interior is pleasant and spacious, I find many larger cars more cramped in the front than my Rover (I am 6"2').
If anything could be redesigned, the fuel filler pipe is an awkward shape, when filling the nozzle has to be turned up to work properly.
The stereo is made by Phillips for Rover and sound quality is good, they feature digital tuning, auto reverse cassete and 4 way fading.
The brakes could be a little keener, if you get the choice try to get the ABS model - these have discs all round and will be much better. ...