Better built, better equipped, better designed and more driveable than any of its predecessors - good though many of them were - Ford's Transit Custom is the well-deserved recipient of What Van?'s Medium Van of the Year award for 2014.
At the heart of a complete renewal of the Big Blue Oval's light commercial line-up, Transit Custom is up for grabs with two wheelbases, two roof heights and three variants of the 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel; 100hp, 125hp or 155hp.
Load cubes run from 5.95m3 all the way up to 8.3m3 while gross payload capacities range from nudging 700kg to a tad above 1500kg.
The variety of specification levels leaves buyers somewhat spoilt for choice. You can order your Transit Custom van in Base, Trend, Limited or Sport guise.
It is produced as a Double Cab in-Van, a Kombi and a Tourneo too. Ford is, quite rightly, laying great stress on safety. As well as ABS the mainstay of Ford's van range is equipped with load-adaptive Electronic Stability Programme, Roll-Over Mitigation, Emergency Brake Assist, Emergency Brake Warning and Hill Start Assist.
If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a major collision then Ford Sync with Emergency Assistance, which is fitted to most models, will immediately call the emergency services. The same package also enables most MP3 players, USB drives and Bluetooth-enabled phones to be operated with voice commands and will read out text messages.
Opt for the Sport Van and you get to benefit from Driver Alert and Lane Keeping Alert. The former nudges you awake if you start to nod off at the wheel while the latter reminds you to concentrate if you daydream and start wandering out of lane on the motorway.
You can order your Transit Custom with low-CO2 Econetic technology and stop-start to keep fuel bills and emissions under control. Visits to dealer workshops for regular servicing should be few and far between given that intervals are set at two years/30,000 miles plus the three-year/100,000-mile warranty should help keep costs manageable.
Having spent several months with a long-wheelbase Transit Custom we can testify its ride and handling are top-of-the-class, its gear change is smooth and
glitch-free, in-cab noise levels are well-suppressed and its overall quality is to a high standard.
It is almost as though Ford engineers have taken a Transporter apart to see how Volkswagen do it.
The Volkswagen Transporter receives our Highly Commended accolade. Though nowhere near as stylish as Transit Custom, it gets our vote as a solid, dependable workhorse with rock-solid residuals and exemplary diesel engines married to a smooth-shifting gearbox.
Ride and handling are both top-notch and - unusually for its size - you can order it as a 4x4.
Load volumes run from 5.8m3 to 9.3m3, gross payloads from 650kg to 1340kg while output from its 2.0-litre diesel goes from 84hp to 180hp dependent on the model you pick.