Between 2012 and 2014 Ford renewed and to a large degree reinvented its line-up of vans bearing the legendary Transit badge.
At the lighter end of the scale the brand introduced the Transit Courier to sit below the Transit Connect but it was further up the weight range that the most significant change took place. While the manufacturer had always (for half a century) produced a medium-sized one-tonne van as well as its large two-tonne model, they traditionally both carried the Transit name.
But in 2013 Ford made a clear distinction between the two lines by badging the one-tonne van the Transit Custom.
The Custom was an instant hit – raising the bar for innovation and driveability and, arguably, toppling the VW Transporter as the benchmark model in the sector by matching its quality and beating it hands down for exterior and interior styling.
The Custom impressed us so much that we crowned it the What Van? Van of the Year in both 2013 and 2014, making it the first model ever to win the prize two years running.
So when Ford pledged to improve an already outstanding package with new engines in advance of the Euro6 emissions regulation (requiring a 55% reduction in NOx) that comes into force in September we were eager to put the brand’s promise to the test.
We got the chance on the international launch of the Euro6 Transit Custom in Munich at the beginning of June. Although the vans were left-hand drive and not matched to UK trim levels they corresponded closely to the Limited specification band that sits above Base and Trend and below the niche Sports Van version with standard equipment in addition to Trend including alloy wheels, DAB radio, heated seats and air-conditioning.
We opted to test the new 2.0-litre 130hp Ford Ecoblue powertrain in an L1H1 (short-wheelbase, low roof) Custom. This engine replaces the 2.2-litre, 125hp TDCi unit and as well as offering 5% more horsepower it also provides maximum torque of 385Nm at 1500-2000rpm – an increase of 35Nm over the outgoing engine.
This model has a gross vehicle weight of 2740kg, an increase of 40kg to compensate for the addition of the 21-litre Ad blue tank necessitated by the SCR (selective catalytic reduction) technology needed to meet the Euro6 standard without compromising payload.
“We want to make it invisible for the customer,” says a Ford spokesman.
The manufacturer reckons customers will need to top up with Ad blue every 6000 miles.
The 130hp Custom L1H1 has official fuel consumption of 49.6mpg and CO2 of 161g/km – Ford claims the Euro6 2.0-litre engine is 13% more efficient than its 2.2-litre predecessor.
By comparison the Euro6 SWB VW Transporter 2.0 102hp claims consumption of 47.9mpg and CO2 of 153g/km.
All Custom variants are front-wheel drive with a six-speed manual gearbox for the time being but a six-speed automatic transmission will be added to the range towards the end of the year.
Dave Petts, Transit product manager, predicts the 130hp-powered derivative will take about 50% of Custom sales due to it offering the most popular combination of performance, economy and price.
He says the 130hp engine adds about £1100 to the van’s price compared to the125hp unit it replaces while there is an uplift of £950 on the 105hp engine next to the old 100hp 2.2 litre powerplant.
Upon its launch the Custom was much praised for its good looks and Ford has not messed with its appearance, the only exterior visual difference being the addition of a thin chrome strip beneath the front grille.
The class-leading interior, which is based on the passenger car line-up, also remains intact although the 3.5-inch screen on the dashboard has now stretched to 4.0-inches.
Unlike in the big Transit, touchscreen controls are not yet available, but will come with future updates, promises Petts.
The new engine is a revelation in improving the performance of a van that was already very impressive on the road with slick gear changes and precise steering contributing to exemplary handling. The biggest change is in the extra helping of torque on tap low down in the rev range – up to 20% more, according to Ford. This results in a more flexible and responsive drive, particularly in busy traffic, making it far easier to overtake slow moving vehicles.
The van we drove was loaded to half its 874kg payload capacity (the Euro6 Transporter offers 886kg) – the weight hardly caused the 130hp engine to break sweat but may have contributed to the pleasantly smooth and even ride quality.
|Ford Transit Custom Euro6 2.0 130hp L1H1 with start/stop|
|Price (ex VAT) £ 23,345|
|Price range (ex VAT) £19,245 - £27,895|
|Insurance group tbc|
|Service intervals 37,000mls|
|Load length 2555mm|
|Load width min/max 1775mm/1390mm|
|Gross payload 874kg|
|Load Volume 6.0m3|
|Engine size/power 1996cc/130hp|
|On sale July 2016|
|Combined fuel economy 49.6mpg|
Ford has succeeded in making its class-leading medium van even better in terms of refinement and efficiency