The best medium van all-rounder on sale? We think so
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Modern looks and features
- 2018 facelift vastly improves cab
- Lots of dealers, strong value
- Impressive payload ratings
- Cab not that practical pre-2018
- Poorly placed oil filler cap
- Some security concerns
- Oil service issues on Euro 6
- Bouncy ride when unloaded
This Parkers Vans review deals with the whole Transit Custom range, including the 2018 mid-life facelift, which introduced a sharp new look, enhanced high-tech safety equipment and a much more practical yet still stylish interior cab design.
What is the Ford Transit Custom?
Introduced in 2012 (as per the image below), the Custom effectively split Ford’s traditional Transit range in two – with the Custom taking on the mid-size or ‘one-tonne’ segment, leaving the full-size Transit to concentrate on the large van or ‘two-tonne’ segment.
This means that from the smallest to the largest, the Ford light commercial vehicle (LCV) range now looks like this:
- Fiesta Van (discontinued in 2017; reintroduced as an all-new model in 2018)
- Transit Courier
- Transit Connect
- Transit Custom
- Ranger (pickup)
Described at launch by Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell as ‘A stylish, modern van that customers will be proud to have on their driveway, with the hard-working attitude they expect from a Transit,’ the Custom excels as a complete all-rounder.
Not only does it have one of the highest payload ratings in its class and great availability through Ford’s large Transit Centre dealer network, the Custom also looks and feels far more modern inside and out than most vans, and is even rather good fun to drive.
Ford Transit Custom 2018 facelift review details
As a total package, the Transit Custom has always been tough to beat. But while the original 2012-2017 cab design is good to look at, it has never been especially practical, with small, fiddly buttons and limited stowage space.
The 2018 facelift – or MCA (mid-cycle action) in Ford-speak – has resolved this issue with a full interior redesign, which now offers class-leading amounts of in-cab storage and updated infotainment options.
It also still avoids looking too much like a commercial vehicle, something Ford knows is important to Transit Custom buyers.
On top of this, the 2018 refresh brings a new front-end design on the outside that more closely matches the latest Ford car design language. Key elements include the high-mounted three-bar grille and slim headlights with distinctive LED dayltime-running lights on most models.
You might also have noticed that the lower centre section of the front bumper is unpainted now; it's also easily replaced, a design detail intended to solve the occasional grounding damage these can be subject to on building sites or when brought into contact with high kerbs.
Other changes include flush-mounted rails for the side doors, which previously stood proud of the body sides, and a revised bodykit and stripes for the range-topping Transit Custom Sport models.
The rear of the van and the fundamental engineering carry over from before, aside from a slight increase in structural rigidity to improve refinement and the re-introduction of a fuel-saving Econetic diesel variant.
Ford Transit Custom PHEV for 2019
The revised Transit Custom will be the first van available as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).
Using a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine in combination with an electric motor and a battery pack, this will offer up to 31 miles of emissions-free electric-only driving with the flexibility of a total range of more than 350 miles and the ability to refuel at any petrol station.
The Ford Transit Custom PHEV began trials in 2017 but won't go on general sale until 2019. For details on the development of this unusual eco-friendly model click here.
Ford Transit Custom body variants and trim levels
In addition to the regular panel van, the Custom is also available as a Double Cab-in-Van (DCiV) and a Kombi. There's a Tourneo Custom passenger version, too.
The DCiV features a second row of seats, meaning space for up to six people with a separate load area complete with full-height bulkhead, while the Kombi has up to nine seats like a basic minibus.
All versions are available in two lengths (L1 and L2, also known as SWB and LWB for short- and long-wheelbase) and two heights (H1 and H2).
Trim level choices are:
Each version is comparatively well-equipped as standard, including remote locking, Bluetooth, dual front passenger seat, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and metal bulkhead (on the regular panel van and the DCiV).
There are plenty of cutting edge options available as well, including Pre-Collision Assist and Active Braking autonomous emergency braking (AEB) technology (introduced in 2016).
Further high-tech safety aids were made available as part of the 2018 update, including Intelligent Speed Assist and blindspot monitoring with Cross Traffic Alert (see the Safety and Security section for more details).
The eye-catching Sport (above), which features racing stripes, a bodykit, lowered suspension and large alloy wheels, was initially only available as a single model, but choice was expanded to six versions in December 2016.
A limited run of distinctive Colour Edition Transit Customs was announced at the same time. Click here for further details.
Ford Transit Custom engine choice and history
From launch in 2012 until late 2016, all Transit Custom were powered by a 2.2-litre TDCi turbodiesel engine, available in three power outputs: 100hp/310Nm, 125hp/350Nm and 155hp/385Nm.
This Euro 5 engine was officially replaced when the Euro 6 emissions regulations were introduced in September 2016 – though you will likely find Euro 5 registrations continued well into 2017 as dealerships worked through their stock.
Newer Euro 6 Transit Customs are powered by a brand-spanking 2.0-litre TDCi EcoBlue turbodiesel, known internally as the Panther engine.
Despite its smaller size, this new motor offers more power with less noise. It too comes in three versions – 105hp/360Nm, 130hp/385Nm and 170hp/405Nm – but what’s particularly impressive is the 20% increase in torque (pulling power) at lower revs, making it easier to get heavy loads moving.
A six-speed automatic gearbox was also introduced for the first time alongside the 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine.
Ford Transit Custom verdict
From the way it drives to the amount it carries via its outstanding appearance and solid reliability, the Ford Transit Custom works hard for the success it's achieved in the showroom, and has established a loyal following among working operators and lifestyle buyers.
We see it as the place to start if you’re in the market for a medium-sized van – every rival should be compared with this when considering which best-suits your personal needs.
Keep reading for the full Parkers Vans Ford Transit Custom medium van review
Looking for something even more lifestyle? We've got reviews of M-Sport and MS-RT models as well:
- Ford Transit Custom M-Sport review – tested October 2016
- Ford Transit Custom MS-RT automatic review – tested July 2017
- Ford Transit Custom Ken Block Edition review – tested July 2017
- 208hp Ford Transit Custom MS-RT R-Spec review – tested October 2017
- 208hp Ford Transit Custom MS-RT R-Spec automatic review – tested February 2018
- 2018 Ford Transit Custom MS-RT review – tested May 2018
Skip to our full verdict on...
There’s a school of thought that suggests it shouldn’t really matter what a van is like to drive – since carrying stuff in the back with as little fuss as possible is the primary purpose of any LCV.
But ask Transit Custom owners and operators, and they’ll all tell you that one of the things they like the most about Ford’s medium van is how good it feels from behind the wheel.
Basic competence in this area is obviously essential – a van that’s easy to drive reduces driver fatigue. But the Transit Custom is actually fun.
Ford Transit Custom engines
The engines help. There was nothing particularly wrong with the performance of the older 2.2-litre units, so if you’re considering one of those don’t be concerned. But the newer 2.0-litre motors develop more torque much earlier, so feel more energetic and smoother while also being quieter.
Most buyers go for the middle power output – so the 125hp 2.2-litre or the 130hp 2.0-litre – but if you can afford a punchier model with either 155hp or 170hp you won’t regret it.
The less potent 100hp and 105hp models will cope with their stated weights ok, but expect them to be slow and thirstier for fuel when fully laden.
Ford Transit Custom handling and ride comfort
Where the Custom particularly impresses is in the corners. It isn’t quite on par with a car, but in van terms it's properly agile, resisting body roll like a champ while soaking up most bumps without complaint.
The Sport models take cornering a stage further, with upgraded suspension. However, while the stiffer dampers and revised anti-roll bars mean this is very effective at reducing the amount the van leans over, it also makes the otherwise impressive ride comfort somewhat more irritable.
So consider your priorities carefully before taking the plunge, rather than going all gooey-eyed over those stripes...
Ford Transit Custom refinement
This is a reasonably quiet van – with a further reduction in engine noise coming after the move from the original 2.2-litre turbodiesels to the 2.0-litre models in 2016 – which means you should reach the end of most journeys relatively unfatigued.
Road noise is well-suppressed, too. Although you will find there's more wind noise generated by high-roof H2 models.
It's also not entirely free from vibrations in the cab, which you may feel through the pedals and in some cases the steering wheel.
Ford has elected to give the Transit Custom a more car-like interior than you’ll find in many other vans – this is part of a deliberate attempt to appeal to a wider market, including lifestyle buyers.
As such, even if you’ve never driven a van before you should find yourself at home here. Depending on the exact model, there is plenty of technology, while the quality of the materials is higher than you’ll find in many rivals.
Forward visibility is good, and the large, split-view door mirrors ensure you get a reasonable view to the side and rear of Custom, too.
As for the driving position, even the entry-level Base model includes eight-way adjustment for the driver’s seat in addition to reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel – which is in turn covered with buttons, putting many secondary controls at your fingertips.
However, putting the heating and ventilation controls – including those for the air conditioning where fitted – on the far side of the gearlever pod is a bit of a fail from an ergonomics perspective.
And pre-2018 facelift models (above) suffer from fiddly radio controls and limited in-cab storage...
Significant interior improvements for the 2018 Transit Custom facelift
The Transit Custom’s cab has always looked smart, but it’s never been the most practical – or the easiest to use. For the 2018 facelift Ford has completely turned this around, boosting the functionality of the interior with what it claims is a ‘class-leading’ amount of in-cab stowage.
It’s also entirely revamped the way the Transit Custom looks inside the cabin, while also fitting what it says are much harder-wearing materials, especially in critical areas such as the seats. The seats themselves have been redesigned to be more comfortable as well.
As a result of all these changes, not only are there 25 litres of storage space in the instrument panel alone, but higher-specification versions also get a ‘floating’ touchscreen infotainment system like the latest Ford Fiesta.
While we applaud the additional storage, it is a shame the three new bins on the top of the dashboard don't have lids, meaning everything in them will be on display (and reflecting in the windscreen). They're also not that easy to access when driving.
The new interior door trim design is a triumph, however. Now offering three levels of storage and a sensibly placed grab handle, we think most owners will appreciate this added practicality, even if the lowest level is only accessible when the door is open.
2018-onwards Transit Custom radio and infotainment options
Running Ford Sync3, the new Fiesta-style 8.0-inch tablet-style screen upgrade is a vast improvement over the pathetically pokey little offering available in pre-facelift Customs – though perhaps still not as user-friendly as the system fitted in the VW Transporter.
Sync3 includes logical voice control – you can literally press a button and say ‘I need fuel’ or even ‘I need coffee’ and it’ll give you a list of the nearest options – and features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Can’t stretch to the 8.0-inch screen? There’s also a lesser 4.0-inch screen running what’s been dubbed Sync Light; this does without touch control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, however, and can’t be paired with built-in sat-nav (which remains only optional on the full-fat Sync3 system).
Given that, if the full Sync3 set-up isn’t available to you, we’d probably stick with the entry-level DIN-slot sized radio, paired with the new MyFord Dock accessory. This sits on top of the dashboard and has been designed to flexibly mount (and charge) all kinds of smartphones, tablets and sat-navs safely.
With so many businesses revolving around smartphones these days we think this is an inspired innovation from Ford for the 2018 Transit Custom facelift.
Taken as a whole, this interior upgrade plugs the only significant chink in the Transit Custom’s armour; now there’s finally somewhere to put stuff in the cab, there’s one less reason to consider any of the Ford’s rivals…
Ford Transit Custom standard equipment
Here’s a basic rundown of the key items of kit you get as standard with each of the Custom’s trim levels; all items are in addition to the trim level before unless otherwise stated.
Ford Transit Custom Base standard equipment:
- Remote locking
- Bluetooth with steering wheel controls
- Dual front passenger seat with underseat storage
- Eight-way adjustable driver’s seat
- Reach-rake steering wheel adjustment
- A4 file storage in the glovebox
Ford Transit Custom Trend standard equipment:
- Body-coloured front bumper
- Power-adjustable and power-folding door mirrors
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Automatic lights and wipers
- Cruise control with speed limiter
- Driver’s seat lumbar adjustment
- Dual passenger seat with fold-out table
- Quickclear heated windscreen
- Leather-trimmed steering wheel
- Map lights
- Lockable glovebox
Ford Transit Custom Limited standard equipment:
- Body-coloured side moldings, rear bumper, door handles and mirrors
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Heated seat for the driver and outer passenger
- Leather-trimmed gearknob
- Front passenger airbag (with deactivation switch)
Ford Transit Custom Sport standard equipment:
- Sport styling kit, including lower front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, bonnet stripes and front and rear wheelarch extensions
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Partial leather upholstery
- Rear-view camera
- Lane Keeping Assist (lane departure warning)
The Sport is only available with the most powerful engine (originally the 155hp 2.2-litre, later the 170hp 2.0-litre); every other version is available with all three engine power outputs.
Ford Transit Custom running costs
Ford has always aimed for competitive running costs, and the Transit Custom should be no different.
Parts are well priced and dealer servicing is the same; Ford even has service vans that can come to you now, avoiding the added inconvenience of a trip to the dealer.
Ford Transit Custom service intervals
The move to the 2.0-litre EcoBlue engines has seen official service intervals extended to once every 36,000 miles or two years – whichever is sooner.
This distance is technically variable depending on usage, however, and Ford does still recommend an annual ‘safety inspection’.
Some Euro 6 engines have proved rather keener on oil changes than expected, and Ford was forced to do some recalibration work (see the Reliability section).
The 2.2-litre Euro 5 engines fitted prior to this require a service every 30,000 miles or two years.
Ford Transit Custom fuel economy
General fuel economy is okay, rather than spectacular, with the Transit Custom ranking well behind the best rivals for mpg in the medium van sector. If you top 40mpg in real-world driving you’re a saint, and most are lucky if they see mid-30s.
This kind of thing is very dependent on driving style, journey type and load however – click here for further advice.
As with most Euro 6 vans, the 2.0-litre EcoBlue Transit Customs also have an AdBlue tank for exhaust gas after-treatment. This is 21 litres in size and will need refilling every 5,000 miles or so – again depending on how and where you drive – adding to your running costs
Fuel-saving Ford Transit Custom Econetic and PHEV
All that said, the 2018 facelift also sees the launch of a new Transit Custom Econetic, specifically engineered to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy,
With a claimed 49.6mpg, this is designed to give you the lowest possible running costs, using a special engine calibration, low rolling resistance tyres and a system to manage acceleration for maximum fuel savings. We'll report back with more info once we've driven it.
Ford is also launching a Transit Custom PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), but this won't go on sale to the public until 2019.
Ford Transit Custom warranty
All Transit Customs get a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty as standard.
You also get a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty; make sure the inspection for this is recorded during every visit to the dealer, however, or you may find it difficult to claim.
Ford has considered the cost of body repair after minor accidents. The rear bumper, for example, is made from multiple pieces rather than as a single part, so if you accidentally reverse into something you will hopefully only need to replace the area that’s damaged, rather than the whole thing.
After an insurance quote for a Ford Transit Custom? Try mustard.co.uk.
At launch in 2012, Ford revealed it had done the equivalent of three million miles of testing with the Transit Custom prior to sending it to the market – 250,000 of those were undertaken with customers.
And generally speaking, this appears to have worked – this van has a reputation for being tough and dependable, something that’s usually borne out by strong showings in the FN50 van fleet reliability survery; click here for details.
That said, the Custom does seem to have blotted its copybook somewhat in the transition to the new Euro 6 engines.
Ford Transit Custom Euro 6 reliability
These 2.0-litre engines are more powerful, refined and smoother than the 2.2-litre motors they’ve replaced. But it’s also clear that quite a few owners have experienced issues with the oil service intervals.
According to Ford, the Transit Custom should only need servicing once every 36,000 miles (though this does partly depend on driving style and usage); however, many of these vans have been requesting fresh oil after just a few thousand miles – an issue some owners have experienced more than once.
There is a fix in place involving an engine software update and a revised dipstick, but it is unclear at this stage whether this has fully resolved the problem, with some owners also reporting problems with fuel injectors and other components.
Ford is aware that problems particularly continue for owners who only do short journeys, resulting in clogged diesel particular filters (DPF). We were told in November 2017 that there is another engine software re-calibration coming to try and help with this, too.
Before all this puts you off entirely, you should remember that the Ford Transit Custom is the UK’s best-selling van – by a considerable margin.
So although there have been complaints, it’s hard to gauge if this is impacting a higher than average percentage of vehicles given that simple maths suggests there will be more people to complain about the Transit Custom because more people have bought them.
The Ford Transit Custom places a great deal of emphasis on safety.
Ford carried out over 4,500 simulated and 30 real-world crash tests during the Transit Custom’s development – resulting in a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating when tested in 2012.
Ford Transit Custom safety equipment
Euro NCAP’s standards have gotten stricter, but even so up to six airbags are available, and there’s a good selection of active safety electronics as well.
For example, in addition to load-adaptive electronic stability control (ESC), since 2016 the Transit Custom is one of few vans to get crosswind assistance technology (what Ford calls Side Wind Stabilisation) as standard. All models also get a Roll Stability Control system and Trailer Sway Stabilisation.
Optional extras include a degree of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a forward distance monitoring system that alerts you to dangers ahead, handy should your attention start to wander at the end of a long day.
The 2018 facelift added further safety options, including Intelligent Speed Assist – which can automaticaly adjust the speed limiter to make sure you stay legal (protecting your livelihood in the process) – and a new Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.
Both of these latter systems are particularly helpful in vans, where rearward visibility is particularly limited. Upgraded sensor technology means they can also judge the speed of other vehicles more accurately for further improved safety.
The 2018 AEB system has also been upgraded, including the ability to spot pedestrians in the dark using the reflection from the headlights.
Ford Transit Custom security concerns and recall
While safety levels have generally been highly commended, Ford has faced some criticism about the Transit Custom’s security.
A spate of thefts from these vans has shown the door locks to be relatively easily compromised. This subsequently led to a recall in 2017 in order to change the way the central locking functions in order to make it more difficult for would-be thieves to access the load area from the cab.
For more details on this, click here. Security upgrades such as reinforced locks and doors and comprehensive alarm systems are always recommended, whatever the van.
Better yet, don't leave anything of value inside if you can avoid it.
Ford considered upgrading security for the 2018 Transit Custom, but found that fleet customers who had done this themselves were now being broken into by criminals using power cutting tools – a form of attack that it is sadly almost impossible to prevent.
Which Ford Transit Custom is best for me?
The Ford Transit Custom has sold so well it is easily the most widely available medium van, and whether you’re shopping new or used, you’ll certainly find there are plenty to choose from.
The range is also broad enough to cater to a variety of uses, so whatever you want a mid-size van for, there is likely to be a Transit Custom to suit you. Here are some examples.
Best Ford Transit Custom for running costs
The smaller (and therefore lighter) the van, the further it will go on a tank of fuel; however you may find picking the cheapest engine a false economy, as you also need a bit of muscle to get the load moving easily.
Though do note that the entry-level 105hp Euro 6 engine has more torque than the middle-ranking 125hp Euro 5 engine, so for newer versions of the Transit Custom this rule isn’t so clear cut.
Euro 6 2.0-litre engines are supposed to be more fuel-efficient than the earlier 2.2-litre Euro 5 engines, regardless, and they also have longer service intervals. But don’t be too put off if Euro 5 is all you can afford, as these have proven reliability, which should mean less downtime.
Neither age of engine is likely to get better than late 30s mpg anyway.
Ford is planning to re-introduced a fuel economy focused Transit Custom Econetic later in 2018, however, which promises nearly 50mpg on paper. There was an earlier Econetic version available at launch in 2012, but this didn’t last very long (we have a review of it below).
Don’t like diesel? Currently only the rival VW Transporter offers petrol engines in this segment of the van market, but in 2019 Ford will launch the Transit Custom PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), which combines an electric motor with a small turbo-petrol engine.
Don’t expect this to be cheap to buy, though.
Best Ford Transit Custom for payload
If it’s maximum payload you’re after, look for a Transit Custom 340 – the number signifies a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 3,400kg – or 3.4 tonnes.
This gives the Transit Custom one of the best payload ratings of any medium van.
You can find more payload and load capacity details on our dedicated Ford Transit Custom Dimensions page.
Best Ford Transit Custom for value / standard equipment
The Transit Custom is relatively well-equipped on even the most basic Base model, but the upgrade to Trend brings a number of useful extras – including DAB radio, power folding heated mirrors, decent projector headlights, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control and a heated windscreen.
This makes Trend our best-value choice.
However, you’ll need to upgrade further to Limited to get air-conditioning, alloy wheels and an alarm as standard.
Since doing so also nets you Sync 3 infotainment with 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, a passenger airbag and more body coloured exterior elements as well, Limited is also strong value.
Best Ford Transit Custom for lifestyle / image
Easy – go for the Transit Custom Sport Van, complete with bodykit and stripes, part-leather trim and the maximum amount of standard equipment.
Want a Transit Custom with even more visual impact? Then try an MS-RT version, a third-party conversion that’s currently available through a select number of Ford Transit dealers.
Most popular Ford Transit Custom engine
The bestselling Ford Transit Custom engine is always the middle output version.
In Euro 6 terms that’s the 130hp / 385Nm 2.0-litre variant.
For Euro 5 it’s the 125hp / 350Nm 2.2-litre engine.
Ford Transit Custom individual model reviews
Still looking for the perfect Ford Transit Custom? We also have the following individual model reviews for you to consider (click the name to jump straight to the review):
- Ford Transit Custom SWB low roof 2.0-litre TDCi 170 (Euro 6) Sport automatic - tested April 2017
- Ford Transit Custom LWB low roof 2.0-litre TDCi 170 (Euro 6) Trend - tested September 2016
- Ford Transit Custom SWB low roof 2.2-litre TDCi 155 (Euro 5) Sport - tested June 2015
- Ford Transit Custom SWB low roof 2.2-litre TDCi 100 (Euro 5) Econetic - tested June 2015
We've also got several reviews of customise M-Sport and MS-RT Transit Customs, whcih are dealt with on a separate pages. Click the links below to view these reviews:
- 2018 Ford Transit Custom MS-RT review – tested May 2018
- 208hp Ford Transit Custom MS-RT R-Spec automatic review – tested February 2018
- 208hp Ford Transit Custom MS-RT R-Spec review – tested October 2017
- Ford Transit Custom MS-RT automatic review – tested July 2017
- Ford Transit Custom Ken Block Edition review – tested July 2017
- Ford Transit Custom M-Sport review – tested October 2016
Tested April 2017 by CJ Hubbard
- New Ford Transit six-speed auto driven
- Tested in Transit Custom Sport with 170hp
- Snappy performance, improved ease of use
Judging by the number of people we see looking at our original news story, there is plenty of interest in the new Ford Transit SelectShift automatic gearbox.
And just to really get those juices flowing, the first new Transit auto we’ve been able to test – the day before the official UK launch at the CV Show 2017 – is this Custom Sport, powered by the latest 170hp 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine.
This new model is part of the expanded Custom Sport range for 2017, which has gone from one variant to six in response to the seemingly ever-increasing demand for sexier-looking medium vans – demand driven both by lifestyle customers and businesses who want a light commercial vehicle (LCV) that helps them stands out.
The integration of the Euro 6 (or Stage 6, as Ford often has it) 2.0-litre EcoBlue engines, in place of the old 2.2-litre Euro 5 (or Stage 5) units, means that the Transit Custom Sport is now available with the go to match the show. Its 170hp makes this the most powerful Sport van Ford has ever offered.
Combine this potent – and refined – motor with the new quick-shifting six-speed auto, and the result is an exceedingly punchy, front-wheel drive mid-size van.
Tested here in the shorter L1 body length with the standard H1 roof height, it’s almost a match for the performance of VW’s pokiest Transporter Sportline models; the contest between Ford’s in-yer-face stripes and Volkswagen’s extra-aggressive bodykit is probably only won on personal preference.
Although given the steep price of the VW, your bank manager may also have something to do with it…
What’s the Ford Transit Custom Sport SelectShift automatic like to drive?
Keen – almost to the point of over-excitement. The new 2.0-litre engine produces 20% more torque at 1,250rpm than the old 2.2-litre, and this 170hp version wallops a full 405Nm into the road at its peak. To say that’s enough to get you out of busy junctions in a hurry is an understatement. This is a quick van.
The beauty of the SelectShift transmission – which is making its way into European-market LCVs after a decade-long apprenticeship in Ford’s larger vehicles in the USA – is that this performance becomes a point and shoot affair.
No need to worry you might fluff the gearchange into second and get rammed by that on-rushing artic lorry as a consequence; in the auto you simply plant your foot and go, and the ’box does its absolute best to wring the maximum oomph out of the engine.
The downside is it swaps cogs so fast that it sometimes forgets to add any finesse into the action – banging through the next ratio with a jolt. And it does like to make the most of its faculties, often changing down to a lower gear when all you wanted was a little more gentle acceleration from the current one.
Nit-picking, we’d also mention it’s all too easy to select Manual mode when setting off instead of regular Drive, due to the design of the dashboard-mounted shifter.
But with manual changes easily activated by the flip switches on the side of the shifter when required, and the promise of reduced maintenance costs (automatic vans generally have a far lower appetite for clutches than thrashed manual equivalents, even if their thirst for fuel may be higher), the SelectShift feels like a very successful adaptation on this initial experience.
How’s the rest of the Transit Custom Sport package?
In addition to the obvious bonnet stripes, all Custom Sport models get a full colourcoded bodykit, including redesigned wheelarch extensions, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, part-leather seats and the latest Ford Sync infotainment system (which is tolerable, if little more).
More significantly, they also get an upgraded chassis. The Sport is the only Transit Custom with a factory-fit rear anti-roll bar, which works together with a thicker front anti-roll bar to reduce cornering lean.
Plus you get firmer rear shock absorbers for sharper handling, combined with softer rear springs to improve the unladen ride – Ford’s way of acknowledging that many of these vans are bought to look good rather than carry stacks of kit.
The changes are largely successful. Although we still found the ride quality somewhat fidgety at the rear, and the Transporter Sportline rolls even less through roundabouts, this is a van you can drive both quickly and safely, and enjoy yourself while doing so.
On top of which, in-cab refinement is far better than the VW’s, with a greater sense of solidity about the Custom’s whole structure. It feels genuinely quite premium inside.
Verdict on the Ford Transit Custom Sport automatic
Overall, this is an impressive addition to the Transit Custom line-up. Crucially, the SelectShift automatic works very well; coupled to the most powerful engine in the range it’s arguably a touch too aggressive, but most importantly it is far more of an enhancement to the driving experience than it is a hindrance.
If you’re one of the many who’ve been eagerly awaiting the Transit auto’s arrival we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
And as ever, the Transit Custom Sport remains one of the most characterful, fun-to-drive vans available – that you can now get one with 170hp and 405Nm only adds to the appeal.
Tested September 2016 by CJ Hubbard
- Efficient and quiet new 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine tested
- Brings more power with up to 13% increase in mpg
- 1,392kg payload in 170hp low-roof, long-wheelbase guise
The Ford Transit Custom was the UK’s best-selling van in 2015, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down in 2016.
Ford has an enormous dealer network, which helps, but the Transit Custom is also one of the most user-friendly vans on the market – and that goes for everything from the way it drives to the thought that’s gone into its load-carrying capability.
Now the old 2.2-litre TDCi turbodiesel engine that powers the Transit Custom (and the larger Transit) has been replaced by an all-new, state-of-the-art 2.0-litre TDCi turbodiesel badged EcoBlue.
Designed to comply with the latest, more stringent Euro 6 emissions regulations, you might expect the new “downsized” engine to have strangled performance and dulled responses.
But in fact it brings increased power, 20% more torque at 1,250rpm for improved driveability, and promises 13 percent better fuel economy to reduce your running costs. On top of which it’s also less noisy.
We’ve put the most powerful 170hp EcoBlue engine to the test in a Trend specification long-wheelbase Custom with the standard roof height.
New EcoBlue diesel in the Ford Transit Custom
You probably don’t want to dive too deeply into the technical details of the new 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine, but it is worth noting that Ford has spent a great deal of effort reducing friction to improve efficiency, and fitted a “low-inertia” turbocharger for improved response. The turbo uses rocket-grade materials, apparently.
Out on the road, the first thing you notice is that the 20% increase in torque at not much more than idle makes a useful difference. Pulling away from a standstill is smoother, and you can creep along in traffic with much less concern that you’re going to be caught out if the cars in front suddenly start moving quickly again – the new engine really does respond very quickly.
But it’s the smoothness that really stands out. Compared with the previous 2.2-litre engine – we tried one back-to-back with the new motor – the 2.0-litre is far more linear and much less gruff.
It's also got extended service intervals, meaning you can go up to 36,000 miles or two years between visits to the dealer – though Ford does recommend an annual safety check. The 2.2-litre engine has 30,000-mile intervals.
As quiet as a car?
Together with enhancements to the sound deadening under the bonnet, Ford reckons the new engine matches passenger cars for refinement; while we wouldn’t go quite that far, we have to admit that vibration and harshness are very well suppressed, and the EcoBlue motor is both much quieter and more pleasant to the ear.
Of course, with 170hp and 405Nm this is by far the most powerful version – it’s also 15hp and 20Nm more powerful than the old 2.2-litre equivalent. But we’re confident that even if you opt for the lesser 105hp/360Nm (up 5hp and 50Nm) or the 130hp/385Nm (up 5hp and 35Nm) alternatives you’ll be able to appreciate the improvements. After all, the torque gains are even greater on these EcoBlue variants.
EcoBlue fuel economy and AdBlue consumption
Claimed fuel economy for the 170hp engine is between 43.5 and 44.1mpg, which is impressive for a van of this size and power. We’ll need to spend a longer period with the new engine to find out how close it gets to these figures in real life, however.
As with most Euro 6 vans there is an AdBlue tank you need to keep topped up; this is a huge 21 litres in the Transit Custom, large enough to last around 6,000 miles. The filler is located next to the diesel neck for convenience, while Ford’s EasyFuel system should prevent you from putting the wrong stuff in the wrong hole…
Interior comfort and driving experience
There are no changes inside the cab to accompany the new engine – but that’s hardly an issue.
This is a comfortable van, and it’s easy to drive with very nicely-weighted controls that give you plenty of confidence behind the wheel. There’s even room for the middle-passenger’s knees thanks to the height of the mounting position for the gearlever, which is also close to the steering wheel for further ease of use.
Verdict on the Ford Transit Custom Euro 6
Ford’s new 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine gets the thumbs-up from us – it’s smooth, powerful and relatively silent (for a van), making an already great product even better.
While we still need to test the real-world consumption claims and the lower-powered variants, on the evidence of this 170hp model it further strengthens the Transit Custom’s already well-rounded appeal.
Tested June 2015 by Liam Campbell
- Sport model gets big wheels and a bodykit
- Powered by the top 2.2-litre diesel engine
- Available as short wheelbase, single cab only
We’re driving the new Ford Transit Custom Sport Van on a test route through Essex. Coming the other way in slow-moving traffic, a shirtless man in an older Transit winds down his window and motions that we do the same.
Stopping alongside he leans forwards. ‘That’s pimped, mate,’ he grins, gives us a thumbs up and drives away.
Not the typical reaction you might expect to a short wheelbase Transit, but then the Custom Sport Van is a bit of a head-turner. With 18-inch alloy wheels, a body kit and, most noticeably, a pair of racing stripes across the bonnet, it definitely stands out.
History of the Transit Custom Sport Van
The 2013-on Custom Sport Van is the latest in a line of limited-run Sport models that goes back to the larger two-tonne Transit Sport Van first launched back in 2006.
They’ve all followed a similar formula: take the short wheelbase, low roof bodystyle Transit, give it the most powerful engine of the range and top it off with extra equipment, more aggressive styling and, of course, stripes.
It’s a formula that’s been incredibly successful, with all previous Sport Van models selling out fast. Now it’s the turn of the smaller one-tonne Transit Custom, launched last year, to get the Sport treatment.
What is the Transit Custom Sport Van based on?
The Custom Sport Van is based on the existing Custom Limited model, but gets part-leather seat trim and a couple of extra bits of equipment: a reversing camera incorporated into the rear-view mirror with Trailer Hitch Assist (which helps guide you up to the tow ball of a trailer); and a Lane Keeping Alert system, which vibrates the steering wheel if you cross a white line without indicating.
This system is useful if you’re feeling very tired during a long drive but can be turned off if you find it irritating on a short trip.
Under the bonnet is the most powerful engine available for the Transit Custom, a 155hp 2.2-litre TDCi turbodiesel unit with a six-speed manual gearbox. There are no mechanical changes under the Sport Van’s skin: this van is all about styling and image.
That exterior body kit includes an extra spoiler lip on the front bumper, side skirts, an extension to the rear bumper and wider wheelarches.
Everything’s body-coloured (except the stripes), including the mirrors and rubbing strips. There’s a choice of colours: white with black stripes, black with white, or a Dennis the Menace-tribute red with black stripes.
What's it like?
Just like the regular Custom, it’s a nice machine to drive on the road. The manual gearbox is a highlight, with a short, snappy shift that feels more like the sort of gearchange you’d find in a Fiesta than a large-ish van.
The interior feels car-like too, with a dashboard design that looks smart and engaging but still feels hard-wearing.
Like the regular Limited version, it comes with DAB digital radio and the Ford Sync connectivity system, which enables you to access functions on your phone on the move.
The 2.2-litre TDCi engine has plenty of torque and moves the vehicle along fairly swiftly. Unladen, the Sport Van can get a move on well enough to justify the ‘Sport’ bit in its name.
On the economy front, Ford says it’ll manage average fuel consumption as high as 42mpg.
Verdict on the Ford Transit Custom Sport Van
It’s hard not to like the Custom Sport Van.
It has all the good points of the regular Transit Custom – of which there are many – and it’s extra equipment over the Limited makes it a vehicle you’d be happy to spend time in and live with every day.
That body kit takes an already good-looking van and gives it an extra dose of personality – it’s characterful.
Some might even say it's 'pimped'.
Tested June 2015 by Liam Campbell
- Frugal-focus for Transit Custom ECOnetic gives 44.8mpg
- Stop-start and other systems reduce thirst for diesel
- Version tested cost £20,470 excluding VAT
In today’s economic climate, where many businesses are starting to nurture shoots of growth, fuel-saving vans like the Ford Transit Custom Econetic appear to make sense.
At least they do on paper - but does it equate to an advantage in the reality of the Transit’s life as a workhorse?
Practical and spacious workhorse
Externally the ECOnetic model looks similar to other basic versions of the latest Transit Custom. Short and long wheelbase versions are available with a range of three payloads, priced from £18,695 to £20,395 before VAT.
We tested the short wheelbase ‘310’ model which has a payload of up to 1,295kg in its 5.36 cubic metre cargo area. In layman’s terms even this shorter Transit Custom can still accommodate three wooden pallets and their loads.
Carrying long items doesn’t faze the Ford either – a flap low down on the passenger side of the bulkhead opens to allow materials up to 3.08m long to be transported - an additional 53cm over the main cargo area.
Our test van had optional LED lights (£80 plus VAT) in the load space area which were dazzlingly effective when rummaging around at night time. For the relatively low outlay, this is one extra we’d recommend.
In basic specification, much of the exterior mouldings are rugged, unpainted plastic, designed to take a bit of rough and tough over the van’s lifetime. That said, front and rear parking sensors look a tempting extra at £295 plus VAT, especially when they come with front fog lights.
More efficient than ever
Under the Econetic’s bonnet is a revised version of the 100hp 2.2-litre diesel found in other Transit Customs.
Assisting with the frugality crusade is a stop-start function, a system that charges the van’s battery more efficiently, and an ‘Acceleration Control’. This latter reduces the accelerator pedal’s effect when the van’s empty, promising a fuel saving of up to 15%.
Although the engine produces a useful 310Nm of torque at just 1,300rpm the surge of power soon drops off, requiring much changing between the Transit’s six gears to make any sort of comfortable progress.
It can be disconcerting on motorways where overtaking manoeuvres feel glacial unless two gears are dropped.
Positively, all these techniques improve the Econetic’s average fuel economy to 44.8mpg, improving on the standard equivalent’s figure of 42.2mpg. This gives a theoretical range of 788 miles in the Econetic versus the regular Transit Custom’s 742 miles between refills.
With differences that small it means the Econetic will have to be driven 2,347 miles further before it pays for itself.
Reality will require a greater distance though: factor in that on test our Econetic managed a best of 36.7mpg, with a mixture of urban crawls and motorway cruising, and the range dropped to 645 miles.
Should you buy one?
With the Transit Custom Econetic, Ford is targeting a very specific demographic of business users where the vans would predominantly have a working life in slower speed, urban areas.
Here the fuel saving measures and stop-start function would come into their own.
But if you regularly transport heavier loads or commute greater distances, you would be far better served with an admittedly thirstier 125hp or 155hp-engined version.