Subtle changes keep Ford’s Transit Custom ahead of the pack, says Dan Gilkes.
It was a fairly easy decision, naming the latest Ford Transit Custom as our Van of the Year in March. Though a somewhat conservative facelift externally, the changes in the cab and beneath the metalwork tipped the scales firmly in the mid-weight Ford’s favour.
Yet, there is always slight trepidation when you return to an award-winner for a full road test. Did we make the right decision? Will a week at the wheel expose some critical flaw that we missed on the launch?
An early morning drive from Suffolk to Oxfordshire, taking in the many roundabouts of Milton Keynes, was all that it took to remember exactly why the Custom was such a deserving winner. It made light work of a three-hour drive, from almost empty country roads to morning-commuter city snarl-ups.
In short wheelbase, low roof 300S guise, our test van was equipped with the mid-range 130bhp version of Ford’s EcoBlue diesel engine, which is now by far the most popular fleet option. This was twinned with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, a combination that promises over 40mpg and just 166g/km of CO2. In a week of mixed driving the van was showing a commendable 37.4mpg, which is not far off the mark.
It’s the way in which the Custom goes about the business of driving that is the most impressive however. It has an incredibly refined drivetrain, making for very relaxed progress across country or on a dual carriageway. You do have to keep an eye on the speedo, as even this mid-power motor will cruise a little too rapidly if you’re not careful, , but that is hardly a criticism.
As mentioned, the most noticeable changes to the van are inside the cab and, in our test van’s Limited specification, they are in the main very successful. The dash looks modern and has plenty of storage. The revised seats are extremely comfortable and there is plenty of steering wheel adjustment. The visibility is also good, particularly from the double-lens mirrors.
The SYNC 3 multi-media system works well, though the 8” touchscreen could perhaps be slightly angled towards the driver, rather than facing directly towards the middle seat passenger. I didn’t make much use of voice control, but it is part of the connectivity package, that also includes AppLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
You can load the van up with driver assistance packages if desired, but the standard specification has everything that most will require. This includes Side Wind Mitigation and Roll Stability Control, both designed to keep the van stable under difficult conditions.
There is less to talk about in the rear of course, Custom is still available in short and long models, with a choice of two roof heights. The full height steel bulkhead has a load-through hatch, to offer almost 50mm of additional load length, which should prove useful to buyers of the shorter model. Both internal and external roof racks are available too.
But Ford didn’t need to update the load area, it already suits thousands of buyers across Europe. To be fair, there was little wrong with the previous interior either, but time marches on and manufacturers are always keen to keep things fresh and add the latest technology.
With more time at the wheel, I was pleased to see that our initial assessment was spot on.
What we think
Ford’s big seller benefits from an improved interior, the latest technology and an enviably smooth, refined driveline.
MODEL: Ford Transit Custom Limited 300S
BASIC PRICE: £25,950
ENGINE: 4-cyl 1,995cc
FUEL INJECTION: Common-rail
POWER: 130bhp @ 3,500
TORQUE: 385Nm @ 1,500
KERB WEIGHT: 1,915kg
MAX TRAILER WEIGHT: 2,240kg
LOAD SPACE LENGTH: 2,554mm
LOAD SPACE WIDTH: 1,775mm
LOAD SPACE HEIGHT: 1,406mm
WIDTH BETWEEN W/ARCHES: 1,351mm
LOAD HEIGHT (UNLADEN): 511
LOAD VOLUME: 6.0m3
COMBINED CO2/MPG: 166g/km /40.9mpg
FUEL TANK CAPACITY: 70 litres
OIL CHANGE: 2 year/36,000 miles
WARRANTY: 3 year/100,000 miles