It was a long time coming, but with lockdown restrictions lifted I have finally managed to put some miles under the Custom Sport’s 17in alloy wheels with a series of long drives beyond the city limits.
One of the most notable consequences of this new freedom has been a dramatic improvement in fuel economy, with the miles per gallon achieved going from around 24mpg to above 30mpg.
On long motorway hauls the adaptive cruise control installed in the Sport is a boon to improving economy and facilitates a relaxing drive, ensuring you arrive at your destination (or leave the motorway) feeling as fresh as possible.
The system, which includes an adjustable speed limiter, is easy to use by way of steering wheel-mounted buttons. It features settings to determine how close the van gets to the vehicle in front before the brakes are automatically applied to maintain a safe distance.
Using the speed limiter is a simple way to ensure you don’t stray above legal limits, particularly on the vast stretches of the UK’s motorways that are restricted to 50mph.
Press the eco mode button on the dashboard and economy is improved still further, but there is a noticeable dip in performance. Acceleration is muted and, with or without cruise control engaged, top speed is restricted to 70mpg. Selecting eco mode with a full payload in the back would not be recommended. However, most of my van’s loads have been bulky rather than heavy; a couple of armchairs are currently strapped down in the load area waiting to be ferried to a new home in Gloucestershire.
Out of eco mode performance is impressive: the Sport can easily hold its own in the fast lane and acceleration is swift enough to make overtaking a straightforward procedure. The six-speed automatic gearbox delivers power sharply from the 185hp engine, although it can get a little noisy in the cab when picking up speed as the system can feel as if it hangs onto gears for a fraction longer than necessary. As one would expect with a Ford, handling is exemplary with well-weighted, precise steering helping the van to move smoothly around corners. The leather-trimmed steering wheel is chunky and comfortable to hold and the gear lever is within easy reach. It also includes a manual mode if you prefer a more engaging drive.
Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights come as an extra-cost option on my van and the projector-style headlights are particularly useful when negotiating dark, overgrown country lanes at night. The headlights also dip and return to full beam automatically when approaching and passing traffic from the opposite direction.
The cabin is a comfortable environment in which to pass long journeys, although I would appreciate a second armrest on the driver’s door side to complement the one to the left of the seat.
The Custom Sport’s cab comes with Sync 3 connectivity, DAB radio, an 8in touchscreen and a pair of USB ports – but not satnav, either as standard or, in my case, as an option. This is no loss, however, as Apple CarPlay allows you to use a smartphone instead. Once it’s plugged in, the route map and directions appear on the screen. You can also access other services, including the option to hear and reply to messages without touching your phone.
Report card: Handling/performance – 4/5
Sharp steering and transmission are well matched to ample power
Ford Transit Custom Sport DCiV
Official combined fuel economy 38.2mpg
Our average consumption 30.7mpg
Price range (ex VAT) £23,040-£43,925
Price (ex VAT) £35,177
Service intervals 25,000mls
Load length 1,577mm
Load width (min/max) 1,351/1,775mm
Load bay height 1,406mm
Load volume 3.5m3
Gross payload 904kg
Engine size/power 1,997cc/185hp
Gearbox 6-spd auto