What's the used Ford Transit Custom van like?
It's fair to say the Transit Custom has been a bit of a runaway success - it's the UK's best-selling van. It was launched in 2012, and as a medium-sized van sat below the larger Transit and above the smaller Courier and Connect in the admirable Ford range.
Its key competitors are the Volkswagen Transporter, Mercedes-Benz Vito and Vauxhall Vivaro, and you can have your Transit Custom with either a standard or long-wheelbase van, with the choice of a regular or high roof. If you’re after something other than a simple panel van, there are Kombi minibus versions capable of carrying up to nine passengers and Double Cab vans with a second row of seats. For the ultimate in people moving, there is also the Transit Custom Tourneo – a premium nine-seat minibus.
The 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine under the bonnet comes in three power outputs: 104bhp, 128bhp and 168bhp. It was launched with the tried-and-tested 2.2-litre Duratorq engine from the Transit, but in 2018 it was facelifted inside and out and fitted with the already proven 2.0-litre engine. Indeed the Custom has been updated incrementally with new software and safety features over the course of its life, and that 2018 facelift revitalised the model inside and out.
There are also four trim levels: Base, Trend, Limited and Sport. Base trim should be disregarded because Trend adds a considerable amount of desirable equipment. Body-coloured bumpers, LED daytime running lights and proper wheel trims improve the looks dramatically, while on the inside there is a DAB radio, the complicated but eight-way adjustable seat, leather-trimmed steering wheel and cruise control, not to mention parking sensors. Limited adds the 8.0in infotainment screen, as well as air conditioning and alloy wheels, and Sport adds a bodystyling kit, stripes and a bit more leather. Trend trim should be sufficient for most buyers, but if you want a few extra gadgets and the connectivity afforded by Sync 3, Limited is probably worth the premium. If you’ll be using the van to tow, we’d also recommend adding the rear-view camera with Trailer Hitch Assist.
On the road, the later engine is far more efficient than the first-generation 2.2-litre Duratorq and emits 55% less NOx. However, it‘s not the most refined engine in the market – the 1.6 diesel found in the Renault Trafic, Vauxhall Vivaro and Mercedes-Benz Vito is quieter and just as lively.
The 168bhp engine with 299lb ft is the pick of the bunch if you want masses of pulling power, but all three units are highly competent. There’s plenty of torque across a wide spread of revs so the Transit Custom is a pleasurable van to drive both around town and on motorways. The Custom is also the best-handling mid-sized van, with a pleasantly weighty steering rack that provides you with ample feedback without being tiresome to drive.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox has a nice sharp action and is our preferred choice over the six-speed SelectShift automatic, which is only available with the two higher-powered engines.
Inside, Limited and Sport models get a tablet-like 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system as standard, which is a good attempt at adding premium car equipment into a working vehicle. The system uses the third generation of Ford’s Sync system, which is far simpler than the multi-menued Sync 2 and a welcome upgrade from the 4.3in standard screen on Trend models or the standard AM/FM radio found on Base vans. Sync 3 also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allows you to use your smartphone via the screen.
Elsewhere, the Transit Custom’s interior looks neater and less cluttered than before, and it has a particularly ergonomic layout. Thanks to the combination of a rake and reach adjustable steering wheel and a highly adjustable seat, it should be easy for drivers of all shapes and sizes to find a comfortable driving position in the Transit Custom.
Although there isn’t more storage space overall than before, the Custom has far more places to stash things away, including more compartments along the top of the dash. The door bins are more practical, too, with split-level compartments that allow you to store more small items discreetly.
In the rear, the Ford Transit Custom is highly likely to be able to accommodate whatever you want to put in it because it has one of the largest cubic volumes of any medium-sized van. The short-wheelbase standard roof van has six square metres and the long-wheelbase high roof has 8.3 square metres.
Its load-carrying capacity is also among the best in class thanks to a gross vehicle weight range from 2.6 tonnes to 3.4 tonnes. Maximum payload, depending on body length and height, is up to 1459kg.
The Transit Custom’s large potential operating weight also means that its payload is significantly more than rivals. It can carry 230kg more than the Volkswagen Transporter and 180kg more than a Mercedes Vito; both of these competitors are only available as 3.2-tonne vans.
Maximum load length is 2554mm for the short-wheelbase version and 2921mm for the long wheelbase. Standard height vans are 1406mm tall, and there’s an additional 370mm in high-roof models. Load width is 1775mm with 1350mm between the wheel arches.
Rear doors open to 180deg, but can be locked out at 90deg using a special hinge, while a single side-loading door with an opening of 1030mm is standard on all vans and there’s the option to add a second side door on the driver’s side.
Safety features include forward collision prevention and a rear blind spot assistance system called Cross Traffic Assist. It uses the rear parking sensors to scan the roads to the sides of the vehicle while you back out of a parking space or driveway. It’s a simple but brilliant advancement in safety that is much needed in vans and one we’d thoroughly recommend.
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