21 Aug: Ford Transit Custom

Ford Transit Custom DCiV Limited …

A Van for all Reasons …

It’s now six months, and 6,000 miles, since I first drove the all-new Ford Transit Custom at Daventry in Englandshire with the Ford team allowing me to drive it home – in the snow. Six months later during which time it has followed rallies all over Scotland, it has gone back to Ford. And I was really sorry to see it go.

But let’s start with a criticism, not of the van, but of the company which originally injected a bit of pizzazz into vehicle advertising and promotion. The company that made the original Cortina sound sexy and took the word ‘escort’ out of society mags and put it into rallying folklore. They missed out with the Transit Custom.

In the past six months I have lost count of the number of times I have had to explain to people what this van is.

The opening comment runs something like this: “So this is the new Transit then?”
Experience has demonstrated that a simple short answer will not suffice, requiring an explanation along the following lines:
“No, it isn’t.
It’s another Transit.
It’s an addition to the Transit range.
So it’s not a ‘proper’ Transit.
This brand new van sits between the Transit Connect and the current Transit.
The brand new ‘proper’ Transit will be announced in September.
This isn’t it.
This is an extra Transit to offer LCV buyers even more choice!”

That’s usually followed by: “Oh! Can I have a look? Can I sit in it?” And that is almost universally followed by appreciation and praise. It also caused quite a stir on the way north as I drove it home that day with other van drivers doing a double-take or getting close to see what it was.

Pitched against the VW Transporter and M-B Vito this is an altogether more stylish van from Ford compared to its boxy, more muscular bigger bother. It’s still a one tonne van, but it’s not quite as wide as a ‘standard’ Transit. So the Custom is not comparable to or a replacement for any other Ford product.

As for good looks. I’m not sure. Friends and colleagues reckon it’s good looking for a van. I’m still not sure, but six months down the line, either I’m getting used to it, or I am genuinely starting to like it. What really swayed my opinion was the joiner in the next village. He’s just a bought a Transit Custom, and it’s bright red. Seriously smart.

On the drive north from the UK launch, I was getting 31.3 miles to the gallon, which I thought was pretty good for the 155 PS (153 bhp) 2.2 litre TDCi engine. Six months down the line and with a few more miles on the clock, average fuel consumption has risen to 33.9. And this is normal everyday, sensible working driving, not eco-friendly coasting and crawling. That makes it even more impressive, and I reckon it will improve with more miles.

If there is one criticism of the engine then it is the same fault I find with all other modern Euro-5 ‘high performance’ diesels. They don’t have the same torque as previous generation diesel engines. Where normally you might use second gear just to pick up the pace when accelerating from near-rest at a junction or roundabout, in this you really have to change down to first gear, or you will stall.

Tackling long hills with a load also requires more downshifts, but that is a fact of life these days. However, Ford has countered this with a real sweetie of a gearbox. Driving schools would like it!

It was no accident that Ford announced the Tourneo (extra seats and windows) version first because the target market is people-moving, and for that they needed something rather more svelte and stylish than ‘the box’. On that basis, Ford has succeeded very well. Buyers can choose from standard or long wheelbase with seating for up to 9 people. That means it will be of interest to hotels, taxi firms, airport shuttles, and for use as crew-buses.

The bonus from that for the ordinary commercial user is that Ford now has a rather more stylish one tonne van which is also available as a double-cab-in-van (our test vehicle) to seat six with room in the back for tools and materials.

A lot of thought has gone into this vehicle and in addition to the lockable rear door opening-stays the loadbox is illuminated by (optional) bright LED lamps. The result is a van whose doors won’t slam shut on you when the wind gets up, and if they did, at least you would be able to see what you were doing in the back, even at dead of night. And there’s another thoughtful touch. The interior handles are bright yellow plastic and easy to find, unlike the ‘real’ Transit which has a hole in the metal for a finger to poke through and release the door catch from inside.

Given its design brief, the commercial user gets an altogether more luxurious cab, although a little bit more padding on the seats would be appreciated by the high mileage runners. The seats are well shaped though with the driver’s seat adjustable in all directions. Coupled with the adjustable steering column that makes working life so much easier. And despite its slightly smaller dimensions, there is plenty of head and shoulder room for three up front. A couple of round trips from Glasgow to Birmingham proved that the driving position is extremely comfortable and the firmly cushioned seats are acceptable.

Both front doors open really wide easing the climb up into the cab while the sliding side doors are a decent size for accessing the second row of seats. And it has another trick up its sleeve. On the floor between the front seats is a three-pin 230v electrical socket. This van has the optional 36 quid Invertor fitted – a boon for laptops and mobile phones and all the other electronic gubbins that we have to carry around these days, and well worth the money.

Another thing that Ford is renowned for are the ‘driving dynamics’ of the vehicles it produces. That may be a surprising thing to claim for a commercial vehicle, but in Transit’s case it set new standards for handling and ride comfort when it was first introduced in 1965. The new front wheel drive Custom takes that a stage further and can make full use of the 153 bhp under the bonnet.

As far as the Transit Custom DCiV is concerned, this is not just a van, this is an M&S van (Multi-use & Sensible) for every day transport. It’s an estate car at weekends, it’s a comfy business cruiser on the motorways and it’s a load lugger when there is work to be done. And the clincher? That deliciously tasty, leather rimmed steering wheel – in a van!

In other words, this van could make estate cars an endangered species. It really is that good.

  • Review Date: August 21, 2013
  • Price
  • Engine
  • Power
  • Transmission
  • Wheel Base
  • Overall Length
  • Overall width
  • Loadfloor length
  • Loadspace width
  • Loadspace height
  • Loadfloor from ground
  • Payload
  • Kerb weight/GVW
  • GTM