Professional Builder welcomes the opportunity to get more “accustomed” with Ford’s most popular mid-sized van offering.
It might be well into its sixth decade but, in simple van terms, the Ford Transit has never been remotely close to being classified as in the vulnerable category. In fact, it appears to have had a built-in immunity to competition ever since its launch way back in 1965, and latest sales figures suggest that it is in the best shape of its life, outperforming competitors half its age. And, talking of shape, it is the Custom – the medium-sized van offering in a massive portfolio of Transit configurations – that contributes most to making it – amazingly – Ford’s third best-selling vehicle after the Fiesta and Focus.
It first arrived on the scene almost a decade ago now, but a full face lift in 2018, and a constant round of updates and revisions, make it the go-to vehicle for a vast array of multi-tasking tradespeople – not to mention, of course, all those home delivery carriers which have been such a feature of the Covid crisis. In fact, way back when we were coming out of the first national lockdown Ford very carefully negotiated the rules and regulations to enable a small press contingent to road-test vehicles by making a scheduled visit to a food bank in the capital city.
One good deed leads to another, of course, and we jumped at the opportunity to take a Custom on an extended loan to see why it has other leading van manufacturers eating their own hearts out. Ford has long had a nose for design trends and the front of the latest Custom is now based on its passenger cars, which also applies to an upgraded interior with the higher spec models featuring the multimedia system and the latest Ford Sync3 voice control system.
In terms of body styles, the Custom comes in L1 and L2 wheelbases, both offered with HI and H2 Roofs. All come with double sliding doors and 50/50 split rear doors, with a tailgate offered as an option. Power is provided from a fuel saving Ecoblue 2.0 litre diesel unit which offers four different levels of horsepower and six speed manual or Powershift automatic transmission. There is also a petrol/electric set up with the Transit Custom PHEV, which we reviewed very favourably in the February issue. An all-electric version is due to be launched in 2023.
Load volume is competitive for a mid-sized panel van at between 6.0m3 and 6.8m3, whilst the largest version will accommodate an impressive 8.3m3. The bulkhead on the regular panel van has a useful load-through facility for longer items to slide under the passenger seat, enabling pipes etc up to 3m long to be carried safely and out of temptation. A sturdy hard rubber floor liner with tie down rings set in the floor, and lower walls, are useful in preventing materials from flying around in the back, whilst a number of features, including extra bright LED load area lights, and an integrated roof rack capable of carrying up to 350kg, are optional extras. There’s plenty of storage space in a very accommodating and comfortable three-seater front cab with the passenger seats flipping up to reveal hidden compartments that can accommodate a laptop or small toolbox. And with all those valuables you will want a reliable alarm, with two options which are standard on Limited versions and above.
Thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating since launch in 2012, the Custom has long been a benchmark within the sector, but the latest version takes it a step further with Ford’s ESP Electronic stability programme designed for its larger vans with side wind mitigation technology built in. Al models are front wheel drive, and you can expect around 47mpg driven well.
And talking of which, the long and winding road out of lockdown isn’t quite done with yet, but you would be hard pressed to find a vehicle better equipped to help you find some light at the end of the tunnel.
For further information on Ford’s Transit Custom visit https://www.ford.co.uk/vans-and-pickups/transit-custom