What is it?
Faced with strong competition from the likes of the Mercedes Vito, Volkswagen’s T6 Transporter and the Vauxhall Vivaro, amongst many others, Ford’s 1-tonne Transit Custom needed a bit of work to remain fresh and the Ford Transit Custom 2018 has been transformed.
The Transit outsells all of its rivals, which mitigates the need to make too much of an effort in facelifting the van, but that memo doesn’t seem to have got to Ford’s HQ. The Custom, despite its sales lead, has been heavily revised for 2018, taking its lead from the car side of the business to produce something that’s altogether more pleasant while still retaining the load-lugging virtues the vehicle is famous for.
The front end now resembles the new Ford Fiesta, and that’s no bad thing, with the wide grille being surrounded by adaptive cornering headlights with LED daytime running lights, at least on this high-spec Trend model.
Inside sees the greatest transformation with the cabin being positively car-like in its ambience. Gone is the scatter-gun approach to buttons on the dashboard, with most functions working from an eight-inch touchscreen system mounted high on the centre stack.
An extra 25 litres of storage has been squeezed in around the dashboard, with three large bins beneath the windscreen. Extra cup and bottle holders sit left, right and centre, while the door pockets and glove box have been expanded.
Safety technology has been added by the bucket load, with a speed-limiting speed assist option, blind spot warning, cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and prec-collision assist with pedestrian detection, amongst other things.
Engine choice remain the same as before, with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel EcoBlue engine available in 105, 130 or 170hp variants. There’ll be a petrol-hybrid coming along in 2019, but for now it’s just traditional diesel options, or a lean-burn ECOnetic choice that matches the 105hp output but promises up to 49.6mpg, with peak torque on all choices coming in at around 1,500rpm.
And, as before, the Transit Custom is available in a range of body styles to keep most businesses happy, with two body lengths, two roof heights, three passenger configurations, and various payloads of up to 1,450kg.
- Handling remains excellent, with safe, secure and predictable behaviour regardless of what load is in place. It’s even slightly entertaining, especially when empty.
- Ride quality is exemplary, especially when cruising along, again seemingly regardless of the load behind the bulkhead. This is a van you could actually enjoy driving.
- A full width and height steel bulkhead is included as standard, safely separating the cabin from the load bay. An optional window allows a look in though, and some extra rearward visibility.
- Seemingly endless storage extends to a secret area under the seat cushions to accommodate a laptop or slim bag.
- All but the most basic model are well equipped, with the second level Trend trim receiving front fog lights, a heated windscreen and mirrors, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, and Ford’s SYNC music streaming and voice control system.
- Load area remains unchanged, but can still accommodate three europallets, and up to 1,450kg of payload in some configurations..
- Service intervals are a generous two-year or 36,000 miles, with a large dealer network making it easier than its rivals to keep maintained.
Impressive touchscreen system isn’t standard across the range, with a traditional single-DIN radio fitted instead.
- Despite the high equipment levels, base and Trend models miss out on air conditioning and DAB radios.
- There are three seats in the front, but the two passenger seats are tight if they’re both in use. There’s also nowhere to put any bags or coats if there’s a passenger on board.
- The high-roof option adds load space, but no extra above-the-driver storage. The load bay on the review model also had excellent LED lighting, but that’s an optional extra.
- An automatic gearbox option (briefly tested on the 130PS option) makes driving easy, but it’s rather enthusiastic to shift down a gear or two, making progress noisier and lumpier than necessary.
- The economical 105PS model has just enough power when empty, but under load it struggles a little occasionally, despite the 360Nm of torque. A step up to the 130PS engine might be worth investigating if your van is to be heavily loaded.
- There’s no chassis cab option, so you’re limited to simply a van option with different seat, length and height configurations.
Verdict on Ford Transit Custom 2018
There’s a reason why the Transit Custom has been selling so well, and the changes made will ensure things continue in that vein. It walks a line between pure practicality and being easy to live with that its rivals struggle to follow, and manages to appeal to both users and fleet managers.
The addition of near endless safety equipment, such as blind spot warning and cross traffic alert for the first time on a Ford van, and pre-collision assist that now extends to react to pedestrians as well as vehicles, makes for a compelling purchase for those keen to keep on top of their duty of care.
Lane departure warning, driver alert, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control and crosswind stabilisation continue as before, making for a comprehensive suite of driver aids.
The changes to the interior will keep everybody happy, with a more car-like environment being more relaxing and easier to live with than the scattergun approach to ergonomics that went before.
In gaining that, it’s lost nothing in the way of ability, still being able to swallow close to 1.5 tonnes or 8.3m3 of materials in the back, while being competitively priced and backed up by a large dealer network and a strong 3-year warranty.
Lowdown on Ford Transit Custom 2018
|Model tested||Ford Transit Custom Trend 2.0 EcoBlue 105PS L1H1|
|Price excluding VAT||From £20,500 (estimated)|
|Load length||2,555mm (to bulkhead)|
|Load width (max)||1,775mm|
|Towing Capacity||2,500kg (braked)|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power/torque||104bhp / 360Nm|