What is it?
FORD’S Transit Custom van given a mid-lifecycle update.
And, while we might have to wait a little longer for the super-frugal ECOnetic engine, or until 2019 for the city-centre friendly plugin-hybrid, Ford has taken great strides to ensure that this updated Transit Custom is as efficient as possible.
Which means better operating cost for you.
However, update doesn’t really do the new Ford Transit Custom justice. The Ford Design studio in Dunton spent three years talking with customers and designing solutions to address as many problems as possible, and the end result is the most car-like van Ford has ever produced – and that includes the car derived vans!
It’s a one-tonne van that rivals the likes of the Volkswagen Transporter, Peugeot Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro. It’s already the van to beat, with the Transit Custom outselling the Transporter and Vivaro combined, but that gap could extend as the new Custom appeals to a broader base.
That starts with the visual updates that sees the Custom take on Ford’s SUV design language. A large trapezoidal grille is surrounded by new headlights and some aerodynamic changes that improve efficiency. Long term costs have been cut by adding a replaceable lower bumper cover, a piece that’s prone to being scraped on steep inclines.
There’s not much that can be done to improve the slab sides of a van but Ford has worked on the sliding door runners so they fit flush with the bodywork. At the back it’s much the same as it ever was, but with a slightly revised light stack.
However, the dashboard area has been significantly tidied up with less clutter and introduction of Ford’s SYNC 3 so you can stay connected. There’s control of your phone, music and navigation system via an 8 inch colour touchscreen with pinch-and-swipe gestures for intuitive navigation. It’s sited centrally in the dashboard
Interior options remain pretty traditional with a three-seat panel van and a double cab-in-van option that adds a second row of seats with a bulkhead behind to keep passengers and loads separated. Each is available in two wheelbases lengths and two roof heights, with four trim levels. A trio of engines and a choice of auto or manual gearbox rounds off the combinations, with this review model being a near-perfect setup for couriers – it’s the mid-range Transit Custom Trend specification, with the L2 long wheelbase and H2 high roof height.
Why would you want to drive a Ford Transit Custom?
- Under the bonnet of this van is the 170PS version of Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine, which is potent enough to be bordering on sports car territory and, once rolling, is pleasingly refined and quiet.
- More pleasingly, it’s also frugal, promising just over 44mpg using official figures. That’s a huge improvement over the old 2.2-litre engine, but the additional expense of filling the 21-litre AdBlue tank needs to be taken into account, and that needs doing every 6,000 miles. That said, service intervals are every 36,000 miles or two years, so maintenance costs should be low and the van should spend little time off the road.
- The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth and precise, while the steering is light and positive in action, with little in the way of slack. Combined with large mirrors with additional wide-angle blind spot mirrors, it makes city driving particularly easy.
- With a long wheelbase and a high roof, there’s 8.3 cubic metres of load space, separated from the cabin by a full-width steel bulkhead. The gross vehicle mass is 3.4 tonnes, which means there’s rooms for 1,379kg of payload in the back, spread across three Europallets.
- The rear doors open wide, allowing unrestricted access to the loadbay that comes with a rubber floor liner for easy cleaning, as well as tie-down rings along the floor and lower half of the sides. A side door provides another access option, and the hole left is big enough to squeeze another pallet in. The openings allow lots of light in, but an option LED interior lighting upgrade bathes the load area in bright white light.
- The central locking only operates the drivers door by default. More pressing of buttons or interior switches opens up the rest of the van, but it remains secure when quickly jumping out for a coffee.
- That steel bulkhead reduces noise in the cabin which, combined with a well damped engine note, makes longer journeys less tiring. Combined with a new interior that mimics the dashboard found in the new Fiesta, it’s an environment that few would find issue with.
- There’s genuinely handy safety features included in the equipment list, including a stability control system designed specifically for vans that adjusts depending on the load in the back. Side Wind Mitigation helps keep the Transit Custom on the straight and narrow when gusts try to push the van from lane to lane.
What might you put off a Ford Transit Custom?
- While performance from the EcoBlue engine is strong, an unusual clutch pedal means it’s sometimes not that easy to move away smoothly; there’s a lot of travel in the pedal, but the bit that actually makes a difference is surprisingly small.
- The 170PS engine might be more fun, but the capital cost is a fair bit higher. The lower powered 130PS unit only misses out on a tiny proportion of torque (385Nm vs 405Nm) which will make day-to-day performance broadly similar.
- The Trend model is one up from the rental favourite Base specification, but it still comes with just a small 4.2-inch black and white screen for the infotainment system. There is Bluetooth connectivity, but no satellite navigation, DAB radio or Android Auto or Apple Carplay smartphone mirroring. Upgrading to the excellent Sync 3 system with navigation adds a further four figures to the price tag.
- Air-conditioning is also an optional extra, which might keep van fleet managers happy as it reduces costs, but won’t impress hard-working drivers on a hot summer’s day.
- Security has been considered throughout the van, but the lack of a standard fit alarm is surprising.
- The three-across seating is a tad cramped if there’s actually three people in the cabin, and the centre seat feels firmer than the other two thanks to a fold-down tray that can hold paperwork when left vacant.
- While the cabin has been designed to increase storage – there’s an extra 25 litres in the dashboard alone! – the high roof option fitted to this review vehicle doesn’t provide any overhead storage.
Verdict on the Ford Transit Custom Trend
The Ford badge goes a long way when it comes to selling or leasing vans, with Transit being a huge product for the manufacturer. Indeed, if Transit was its own brand, it’d be the eighth biggest brand in the country, ahead of Toyota, Peugeot and Kia. And that’s in its entirety, not just against vans.
However, the Transit Custom deserves to be at the top of the sales charts purely on merit. It offers every bit of practicality that its rivals can manage, but wrapped up in a package that’s enjoyable to drive and easy to live with.
There wasn’t a great deal wrong with the old model, but seemingly every important area has been improved in this refresh, and it’s difficult to think of another vehicle that would suit the courier industry as much as this Custom Trend. An automatic gearbox would make life easier, although the auto box is a tad lumpy and slow to react, and some might want access to the loadbay from inside the cabin, but almost every box has been ticked by the team at Ford’s design base in Dunton.
The service intervals, strong fuel economy and low running costs will appeal to owner drivers and trades as much as they will to van fleet managers, and strong residuals should make leasing options competitive, making it easy to justify to the beancounters. It remains the van to beat in the segment.
Ford Transit Custom Trend 340 LWB High L2H2 2.0 170PS FWD data table
On the road price ex-VAT £23,619.66 (inc number plates, 1st reg fee, VED)
Load length 2921mm (3404mm inc small through-bulkhead area)
Load width (max) 1775mm
Load height 1778mm
Load capacity 8.3cu m
Towing capacity braked/unbraked 1160/750kg
Engine 2.0-litre 4-cyl diesel
Economy (combined) 44.1mpg
CO2 emissions 179g/km