The Transit Custom sits right in the middle of the LCV weight band, but it covers the widest range of applications and trades. Two wheelbase models are available, giving overall lengths of 5.0 metres and 5.34 metres respectively. The short wheelbase low roof has 6.0m3 of load volume, thanks to a load bay length of 2.55m and a width between the wheel arches of 1.39m, while the largest version with high roof offers 8.3m3 of load space and with the optional load-through bulkhead, load lengths up to 3.4 metres can be accommodated. Payloads range from 88kgs to 1,40kgs on gross vehicle weights from 2.6 to 3.4t. 

Power came initially from Ford’s Duratorq diesel at 2.2l and from 2018 the more efficient 2.0l EcoBlue version. The 2.2l offered three power outputs of 100, 125 or 155hp with impressive torque figures from 310Nm to 385Nm in the 155hp version. When the 2.0l replaced the 2.2l unit it offered 10hp, 130PS and 170hp power outputs. The  ‘SelectShift’ auto gearbox was then also up for grabs with the 130hp and 170hp models.

The latest development saw the MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) version of the Custom enter the late-used market sector. It offers a 130hp or 170hp 2l diesels combined with a 48-volt system where the starter motor and generator are combined. It boasts improvements in economy and drivability and takes this great all-rounder further down the future eco-driven route.

The excellent driving position with high-mounted gear lever offers walk-through potential, but unfortunately, legroom for both passengers is rather tight. The 2018 facelift also improved  the interior of the van adding more storage pockets and cup holders, Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system option, with an 8.0ins touch screen, voice control, and a raft of USB and connectivity options. 

Adaptive cruise control was an option with side wind stabilisation while rear cross-traffic sensors are a boon if you have to reverse out of a parking space or gateway. 

On the road the Transit Custom is great to drive. The seat comfort is good, in-cab noise levels are low and steering feels as good as most rear-drive vans, even if the turning circle suffers slightly due to front-wheel-drive lock angles. 

The gearchange is slick, the auto useful – if slightly tardy – while deep widows and large mirrors make is easy to place in city traffic. The dynamics compromise is well-judged, even when unladen, the ride is not bouncy and the long wheelbase version further benefits the ride comfort. This is quite simply, one of the most driver-focussed vans you’ll ever find. 

The Transit Custom first gave Ford a prime contender against the dominance of the Volkswagen Transporter and Renault Trafic in the sub-3.5t class, but it now stands on its own merits.

With excellent payload and volume, cab comfort, stacks of kit and good economy, this is an impressive package and worthy of the class victory. A comfortable drive that’s hard to fault.

Highly Commended: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

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The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is all about choice, with four overall lengths, three roof heights, load volumes from 8.0 to 17.0m3 and payloads ranging from 880 to 1500kgs. It’s powered by four-cylinder or V6 turbo-diesels boasting up to 250bhp and muscular torque. That flows through manual or automatic gearboxes of up to nine speeds with front or rear-wheel drive. What more could you want? 

How about a 10in, touch screen, with  Bluetooth connectivity for phone and music, excellent navigation, reverse camera and links to Android Apps for personalised driver profiles? Mix-in excellent seats, light controls, great visibility, first class refinement, more storage than you’ll ever use and the recipe is almost complete. The final ingredient has to be  the three-pointed star’s well-deserved reliability and longevity reputation and all this means that the Sprinter is simply one of the best used vans on the market.