How Ford's vans won five What Car? Van Awards: our editor's give their verdict

Three Ford vans – the Ford Transit Courier, the Ford Transit Custom and the Ford E-Transit – won five awards in our annual round-up of the best vans on the market. Here are all the reasons why...

The What Car? Van Awards recognise the very best that the commercial vehicles market has to offer. Winning one category is an enormous achievement in itself; but taking home five trophies – as Ford’s vans have done this year – is truly impressive.

It’s the most wins that any manufacturer has scored in the What Car? Van Awards’ history. Not only that, but Ford’s wins are spread over a wide range of categories, demonstrating the sheer depth and breadth of its commercial vehicle line-up.

The Ford Transit Courier won Best Compact Van, the Ford Transit Custom took home Best Medium Van, while the all-conquering all-electric Ford E-Transit won Best Large Van, Best Electric Van and the Overall Van of the Year title. That’s why we asked our expert editors and our discerning road test team to explain why Ford’s vans deserved such acclaim.

Ford Transit Courier

Compact Van of the Year: Ford Transit Courier

Small, manoeuvrable, cost-effective and fuel efficient, compact vans offer a perfect blend of everyday usability and overall versatility for urban-based businesses. And, according to our What Car? team, the Ford Transit Courier is the best of the lot.

First, the Ford Transit Courier offers great handling thanks to shared underpinnings with the Ford Fiesta. As Darren Moss, deputy editor of What Car?, explains: “Unlike many of its rivals, the Ford Transit Courier is good to drive with agile handling, and a comfortable ride and steering which lets you place it accurately on the road. That’s a real bonus in the cut-and-thrust of urban traffic."

The Ford Transit Courier is available with three engine choices. If you are after strong pulling power mixed with impressive economy, the two Euro6-compliant 1.5-litre diesels offer 75PS with 190Nm of torque, and 100PS with 215Nm of torque. Both have fuel economy north of 50mpg. If you want a compact van with a bit more sporty zing, consider the 100PS 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol with official economy figures of up to 42.2mpg (WLTP).

In the back, the Ford Transit Courier is perfect for packing in more. With a payload of up to 585kg, a load volume of 2.3m3*, and load length of 1620mm (expandable to 2592mm with the folding bulkhead), the Transit Courier offers plenty of versatile space. As Darren explains: “The Transit Courier’s maximum payload capacity of close to 600kg is comparable with some vans from the class above, while its load volume is more than twice that of the best car-derived vans.”

In the cabin, the Ford Transit Courier offers supportive seats for those longer journeys, while our five-star review praises its interior quality: “No matter which version of the Transit Courier you go for, the interior is comfy, well designed and well made, with quality that's frankly astonishing for the price”.

Ford Transit Custom

Medium Van of the Year: Ford Transit Custom

The Ford Transit has dominated the medium-sized van market for decades, and the Ford Transit Custom continues this legacy. To prove the point, the Transit Custom wasn’t just the UK’s best-selling commercial vehicle in 2021, but the best-selling vehicle (full stop).

The Ford Transit Custom offers class-leading versatility, with the option of a short or long wheelbase and the choice of a standard or high roof line. Van load capacity ranges from 6m3 to an enormous 8.3m3 in the biggest versions, while load-carrying capacity is among the best in class with gross vehicle weights ranging from 2.6 to 3.4 tonnes*.

Maximum payload sits at a whopping 1459kg – that’s 180kg more than a Mercedes Vito, and 230kg more than a Volkswagen Transporter – while the wide-opening rear doors and side sliding door make loading and unloading a breeze.

Up front, the cabin is spacious and well-built, with plenty of cubbies for all your bits and bobs. If you need even more space, the Transit Custom is available with a double cab – and even comes as a nine-seat kombi that’s the perfect solution for taxis or shuttle bus services.

Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to help make connecting your phone a breeze, while the 8.0in touchscreen adds a premium feel to this commercial vehicle.

On the road, our What Car? test team praised the Ford Transit Custom for its superb handling: “The Transit Custom is the best-handling mid-sized van out there, with pleasantly weighty steering that provides you with good feedback without ever becoming tiring. In fact, everything about how the Transit Custom drives is pretty much spot on, with it striking a great balance between comfort and body.”

When it comes to drivetrain, the Ford Transit Custom offers a range of efficient diesels and even a mild hybrid which returns up to 40.9mpg on a combined cycle. Finally, the Transit Custom offers an extensive suite of safety features to keep you on the straight and narrow. These include forward collision prevention and a rear blind-spot assistance system called Cross Traffic Assist.

“Whether you opt for entry-level Leader trim, the high-spec Sport, the lifestyle-focused Active or the off-road capable Trail, there’s a Ford Transit Custom to suit just about everyone – and that’s where this van’s appeal lies,” we said. “The sales charts confirm its undeniable success, but it’s the diversity and constant reinvention of this van that keeps it at the top of the pile in the most fiercely contested sector of the van market.”

Learn more about the Ford Transit Custom

Ford E-Transit

Large Van, Electric Van and Overall Van of the Year: Ford E-Transit

Finally, we come to the all-conquering all-electric Ford E-Transit. Not only is it a superb all-rounder for businesses that need to shift huge loads, but the E-Transit represents a watershed moment for the van market.

As What Car? Editor Steve Huntingford explains: “This is the first electric van to not only beat its zero-emission rivals, but also to beat conventionally powered large vans.”

With an official range of up 196 miles** (WLTP), the Ford E-Transit can travel further than any of its electric rivals, while a payload of up to 1711kg, load volume of up to 15.1m3* and the choice of 25 different motor, height and length combinations, makes it one of the most versatile and hard-working vans on the market.

But it’s not just electric rivals that the Ford E-Transit trumps. With up to 269PS and 430Nm, the Ford E-Transit offers more power and torque than the most powerful diesel equivalents. Not only that, but its load-lugging abilities, with capacities of up to 4.25 tonnes, allow it to match the best that diesel has to offer.

When it came to naming the Ford E-Transit as our overall What Car? Van of the Year, our discerning test team said: “With a configuration available to suit most businesses, effortless acceleration that will help you keep pace with the cut-and-thrust of urban traffic, or get up to motorway speeds quickly, strong real-world range and the ability to carry bigger payloads than rivals, the Ford E-Transit leads in just about every area.

“Even better, it’s great to drive, with a smooth ride and confidence-inspiring handling. Driver comfort is top-notch, too, with an infotainment system that’s easy to get along with and lots of spaces to store your odds and ends.”

But what does all this magnificence cost? Well, the Ford E-Transit pioneers there, too: “You might imagine that such greatness would come at a price, but you’ll actually pay less for the Ford E-Transit than you would for electric van rivals such as the Mercedes eSprinter and Renault Master E-Tech. And even though it costs more than most combustion-engined large vans to buy outright, the price difference is less than you might think.

“Plus, if you can plug it in at home or work regularly, where a full charge can be completed in around eight hours and will cost significantly less than relying on public chargers, the reduced running costs should quickly tip the balance sheet in your favour.

“In summary, The Ford E-Transit represents a watershed moment for electric vans. From now on, rather than seeing if one will fit into their operations, fleet managers will need a good reason not to go electric.”

Finally, to top everything off, the growing sales support service from Ford Pro helps buyers to do everything from tracking their fleet to installing the necessary charging infrastructure to keep it moving.

Learn more about the Ford E-Transit

Ford vans


*Cargo and load capacity limited by weight and weight distribution.

**Based on 390 Series L2 H2 with full charge and 56mph speed limiter. Estimated range using Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). Figures shown are for comparability purposes and should only be compared with other vehicles tested to the same technical procedures. Actual range varies with conditions such as external elements like temperature, driving behaviours, route profile, vehicle maintenance, and lithium-ion battery age and condition. 196-mile WLTP Overall Range reflects a combined driving cycle– tests are conducted in controlled conditions with an ambient temperature of 23 degrees Celsius and no climate or electrical load.