The Custom range’s flagship Sport van comes with considerably more bling than its stablemates, but the first thing you notice when you hit the road is the extra zip provided by the 155hp powertrain. This extra power, also available on lower-spec models as well as the Sport, works particularly sweetly with the six-speed manual transmission that is common across the entire Custom model line-up. Even when driven hard, we didn’t find the noise inside the cabin became intrusive.
Despite the extra grunt on tap the 290 Sport still turns in a respectable 42.2mpg on the combined cycle, according to Ford, and emits 178g/km of CO2.
The van is immediately distinguished from the rest of the range by the signature twin bonnet stripes. In our model’s case these were white on a black background. Riding on 18-inch alloys with locking wheel nuts clad in low-profile 235/50 tyres the Sport has a kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 12.2m. Meanwhile, an exclusive styling kit imparts a more muscular presence to the Sport version with body-coloured side skirts, front lower-bumper spoiler, rear bumper skirt, front and rear wheel arch extensions and mudflaps, and a fog light bezel.
All of this means the Sport is not likely to blend into the background and its less-than-subtle appearance can polarise opinions. Within the course of a day we received an instruction from my better half not to park the van outside the house, but later on, while waiting at traffic lights, we were assailed by an employee of a second-hand furniture shop declaring the vehicle to be a thing of rare beauty indeed.
Ford has plundered its car line-up for technologies for the Sport even more than it has for the rest of the Custom range. For example, to keep drivers on the straight and narrow it has Lane Keeping Alert as standard, which warns the driver if the van drifts out of its lane. An impressive feature is the rear-view camera that comes with the Sport, in addition to parking sensors. When reverse gear is engaged a clear image of what is behind the van appears in the rear-view mirror.
Cabin comfort is enhanced by partial-leather seats and a leather- trimmed gear lever and steering wheel. The middle passenger seat can be folded down into a desk featuring a pen holder, two cup holders and a strap to secure paperwork.
The Sport gets a DAB radio/CD featuring Ford Sync with Emergency Assist, remote audio controls and four front speakers as standard, although our van came with the ICE Pack 11 option, which includes all the above but throws satnav into the mix too. It costs £690 excluding VAT so may be better value on a less well-specced van, as everything bar nav is already standard on the Sport. Other standard kit includes cruise control, aircon, an instrument panel dimmer and heated seats.
Despite all its luxury and style the 290 Sport van is not without substance – it is still a practical commercial vehicle with more- than-respectable workhorse credentials that is sure to appeal to both retail and fleet operators wanting to stand out from the crowd.
Ford has sold almost 4400 Transit Customs in the first seven months of 2013 as the model gradually takes over from the previous-generation medium-sized Transit.
While the Econetic and Sport versions will be niche players in volume terms, with forecasts for 500 Sport and 1000 Econetic sales next year, both derivatives raise the profile of the Custom range and offer buyers significant alternative choices to the mainstream models.
A sophisticated flagship model that will appeal to operators who want to stand out from the crowd.