Since the Ford Transit Custom Sport DCiV took its place on What Van?’s long-term fleet in January, the UK has been held under a strict lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with long-distance road trips prohibited.
This has meant my journeys in the Custom have been confined to within London city limits. While it has been frustrating not to give the 185hp powertrain its head out on the open road, fortunately the Custom Sport is great to drive in all conditions.
The precise steering is as good as it gets in the medium van sector, ideal for manoeuvring around and about tight residential streets – which are further narrowed and clogged with parked cars because so many people are confined to their homes.
Although the six-speed automatic transmission takes the strain out of the footwork, it will be interesting to find out whether six cogs feels sufficient when we finally get to take the van on faster routes, bearing in mind that Ford now equips rear-wheel drive versions of its Transit and flagship examples of its Ranger pick-up with a ten-speed auto gearbox. It’s also worth noting the strength of the competition; Volkswagen’s seven-speed DSG is still going strong in the Transporter while the Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert, Vauxhall Vivaro and Toyota Proace all employ an excellent eight-speed auto system in top-of-the-range models.
My urban missions in the Custom Sport have included carrying camera equipment and various items of couture to a budding designer’s fashion shoot and, contrastingly, carting a load bed full of garden waste and household junk to a council recycling centre.
The excellent rear-view camera and parking sensor proved invaluable while reversing into the tight bay before I swung open the tailgate and unloaded. Passing over the weighing ramp on the way out, the reading was 2,280kg, a few hundred kilograms less than on the way in.
The driver is well protected against potential urban mishaps – front sensors come in handy when negotiating some of London’s vicious traffic calming installations, Blind Spot Information lets you know when cyclists are lurking either side of the van, and Cross Traffic Alert can be crucial in preventing serious accidents when backing out of car park spaces or out of driveways on to busy streets.
A rare welcome consequence of lockdown has been to drastically reduce the traffic in London, meaning journeys that would have been undertaken at a snail’s pace can now be driven briskly, illustrating the Custom Sport’s lively performance. I have occasionally selected the Eco driving mode to curb the engine’s (and my own) enthusiasm.
Despite this and the reasonably efficient stop/start system (although I find these work better on manual than automatic vehicles), the monopoly of city driving has resulted in fuel consumption of 24.4mpg to date, which is well short of the claimed WLTP combined-cycle figure of 38.2mpg. I look forward to a considerable improvement when the Custom Sport gets some motorway runs under its belt.
Report card: Driver assistance features – 4/5
The Transit Custom Sport is well-equipped to keep you out of mischief.
Ford Transit Custom Sport DCiV
Official combined fuel economy 38.2mpg
Our average consumption 24.4mpg
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