In bidding farewell to our long-term crew van James Dallas concludes that it has many strengths and a few areas for improvement.
A few weeks ago my resident Transit Custom crew van departed our long-term fleet, and with a facelifted model on the way this year, the next time we get behind the wheel of the UK’s most popular van we are likely to see some changes.
Apart from its sales volume success, which is almost a given when it comes to market leader Ford, the Custom was met with almost universal critical acclaim upon its launch in 2013, so the question for the manufacturer is how to improve upon a winning formula.
Well, perhaps Ford could start with the interior.
We found our Custom’s cabin to be probably the most pleasant and certainly the most stylish of any in its class to spend time in, but it did lack a little when it came to functionality.
Overhead shelves above the windscreen in van cabs can be ugly, but they do provide somewhere to store paperwork out of sight, and the absence of one in our van tended to result in folders, documents and other bits and pieces accumulating on the passenger seats.
The lower storage bin in the front door is difficult to reach from the driver’s seat while the one above it is not big enough to hold a large (2.0-litre) water bottle, so it’s advisable to take a smaller one when planning journeys.
An open shelf on the passenger side of the dash occasionally shed its load on the floor when cornering or negotiating uneven surfaces, while a lidded compartment in front of the driver is awkwardly positioned, but does house one of two useful 12V power points in the cab.
The central dashboard display is attractively designed but perhaps veers too far towards style over practicality. The buttons are fiddly to use while other controls, such as the temperature dials, are off-centre and difficult to reach from the driver’s position. Last but not least in my opinion, DAB radio was not included, but for the revised model it surely will be.
Of undoubted practical use, however, is the desk that appears when you fold down the middle seat back. Along with a handy work surface it provides a pen tray and an elasticated band to hold documents in place and a pair of cup holders.
A further couple of cup holders are found at either end of the dashboard and also useful are the lockable glove box and the generous stowage space underneath the passenger seats that can accommodate a briefcase, tool box or work boots if not being used to slide in over-length items from the load bay.
The big, heavy tailgate takes some manhandling to open and close but conceals a generous cargo space for a double-cab van. The long-wheelbase provides the length but it is nearly high enough for an average-height adult to stand in too. So as well as being able to carry six people in relative comfort our custom also impressed with its load-lugging ability. One gripe for rear seat passengers is that there is only one sliding door – thankfully on the nearside – through which to get in and out.
When it comes to performance, handling and driveability, the Custom is in a class of its own. The 130hp 2.0-litre powertrain in my van provided plenty of zip and grunt and combined harmoniously with the slick, precise six-speed manual gearbox, while the steering was reassuringly well weighted and direct.
Equally impressive was the ability of the adaptive cruise control to take the strain out of long motorway slogs. Having set the desired speed you can then programme the space you want the van to keep from the vehicle in front. Without requiring the driver to use the foot brake, unless the traffic slows to a stop, the engine then dutifully brakes automatically to keep you at a safe distance.
Load space 4/5
The double-cab can carry six people in relative comfort and also offers an impressive load-lugging capacity.
Customer service 3/5
Helpful staff and efficient service, including the provision of a courtesy vehicle, took the pain out of a visit to the workshop.
Interior storage 3/5
The Custom DCiV cabin is attractively designed but falls a little short when it comes to practicality.
Driver Assistance features 3/5
Comprehensively equipped but alerts are over-zealous.
Six can travel in comfort but having just one rear door lets the double-cab-in-van down
Both have set the standard that rivals must strive to match.
OVERALL SCORE 70%
V362 Transit Trend D/Cab In Van 2.0TDCI 310LWB
Official combined consumption 44.8mpg
Our average consumption 33.3mpg
Price (ex VAT) £27,140.83
Price range (ex VAT) £21,240–£32,461
Service intervals 36,000mls
Load length 2,922mm
Load width (min/max) 1,390/1,775mm
Load bay height 1,406mm
Gross payload 884kg
Load volume 6.2m3
Engine size/power 2,000cc/128hp
On sale September 2016
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