The new Ford Transit Custom, our 2013 Van of the Year, has finally hit UK shores. The company’s third-best selling vehicle in the UK – behind only the Fiesta and Focus passenger cars – the Transit range is now split in half with the arrival of the Custom and a new larger Transit, dubbed two-tonne, following at the end of this year.
The raw figures for the Transit are impressive: 700,000 of the 2.3 million so far sold here since 1967 are still on the road, and it is the reason for Ford’s 47 consecutive years of leadership in the UK light commercial vehicle segment.
The new one is a giant leap forward on anything that has gone before, and is particularly impressive in terms of interior quality and kit, as well as the innovative, clever functionality in several areas.
The interior is recognisable to anyone familiar with Ford’s car range. Standard equipment on this admittedly top-spec Limited includes dual sliding rear doors rather than the single one found on Base and Trend levels, body-coloured rear bumpers and door handles, 16-inch alloys and the load area protection kit, all of which will make it appealing for owner-drivers despite the £1440 step up from middling Trend trim. Disappointingly, an alarm and passenger airbag only become standard at this top trim level.
For most operators, the Trend will be the one to go for, offering auto lights and wipers, DAB radio, sealed load floor, front and rear parking sensors, and cruise control over the Base model, which though £1140 cheaper, still gets Bluetooth and the clever through- load system. Opening a flap in the bulkhead allows an extra 530mm of load length and Ford claims another 93 litres of load space, but it’s that extra length that’s useful, taking the short-wheelbase version to over three metres of load length and pushing the long-wheelbase driven here to 3452mm. The only way you’d not get the through-load system as standard is by de-speccing the dual passenger seat, which less that 1% of buyers feel the need to do, according to Ford.
This long-wheelbase Custom costs £840 more than its shorter sibling, and that cash buys an extra 367mm of length and another 0.9m3 of load space, while losing a little on the otherwise good payload front because of the increased weight of the extra metal.
Our part-loaded Custom with the Dagenham-developed 125hp 2.2-litre TDCi diesel felt perky enough but needed some work uphill, yet overall wasn’t far away from the 155hp model. Unless you’re up at the higher end of load weight or doing major miles, it’s not worth the additional £1200 for the power, although the £900 to go from 100hp entry engine to 125hp is a different matter.
The Transit also leads in its driving experience, offering good ride quality, great steering feedback and body control and a solid gear change. The only criticism is that other rivals offer better interior storage, but none in the sector excel, while a couple of our test vehicles were already developing the odd rattle and squeak. Otherwise the Transit Custom is an excellent entrant that jumps straight to the top of the class.
Excellent, innovative and clearly market leading.