It is hard to exaggerate the impact Ford’s all-conquering medium van has had on the market. Not only is it streets ahead as the UK’s best-selling LCV, it is also frequently the nation’s most popular vehicle overall, as was the case in 2021 when more than 53,000 buyers chose new Ford Transit Customs to support their businesses while a further 3,750 customers bought Ford Tourneo Custom people carriers. The combined total represented a 10% rise on the previous year. 

Great to drive and a practical load lugger, an excellent range of 2.0L Ecoblue diesel engines are complemented by a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) Custom. Ford has announced that its next generation Transit Custom, due to come to market in 2023, will be available as a fully-electric vehicle and the brand has revealed the new E-Tourneo Custom – the passenger-carrying version of the upcoming E-Transit Custom van.

It features a 217hp electric motor, and a 74kWh battery, from which Ford is targeting up to 230 miles of range. A 125kW charging capability will allow a 15–80% recharge in 41 minutes. The model will have a maximum towing capacity of 2,000kg. Alongside the electric version, Ford has also announced the new diesel-powered Tourneo Custom will have a choice of 136hp, 150hp, and 170hp outputs. Ford will continue to offer a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), with a petrol engine paired with an electric motor, allowing an electric driving range of 31 miles.

While a new generation Transit Custom is on the horizon, Ford has augmented the current vintage with additional derivatives.

The traction-enhanced front-wheel drive Transit Custom Trail gets additional grip from a mechanical limited-slip differential (mLSD) to enable it to cope with loose, slippery or soft surfaces.

To differentiate it from the regular Custom’s appearance, the Trail features enlarged Ford lettering in the matte black grille with additional black cladding around the front and rear lower bumpers and side panels, complemented by 16in alloy wheels and Trail logos on the front doors. The van can also be specified with roof rails and running boards.

Developed in partnership with driveline technology specialist Quaife, the mLSD automatically transfers engine torque in low-grip conditions to the wheel with the most traction, allowing Trail models to tackle surfaces like unpaved roads, grass lanes and gravel tracks. The Custom Trail’s interior features leather seating, aircon, power-foldable door mirrors, Ford’s Quickclear heated windscreen and auto lighting as standard. The model is powered by Ford’s 2.0l EcoBlue diesel engine with a choice of 130, 170 and 185hp power outputs. It is to Ford’s credit that the Trail drives as well as the regular two-wheel drive Custom, albeit with a tad more road noise from the bigger wheels.

Ford also markets a mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) version of the Custom, with a 130hp or 170hp 2.0L diesel and 48v system where the starter motor and generator are combined. It offers a tangible – if moderate – improvement in economy and drivability. It increases the engine braking downhill as the load on the generator replenishes the battery, and then it uses that to give a motorised boost to hill climbing or acceleration.  

The mid-sized Custom’s cab is excellent, with interior space and storage to rival any larger 3.5t LCV. Unlike most rivals, the three-seat layout is actually usable, with enough knee room for the middle occupant and a fold-down mini ‘desk’ when unoccupied. All the major switchgear is grouped around the driver and the touchscreen for audio, navigation and phone is logical and simple. This is, quite simply, one of the best driver-focused vans on the market.

Highly Commended: Renault Trafic

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Updated in 2021 with a smart new look, the refined, versatile Trafic is one of the best medium vans in a competitive segment of the market. Sophisticated, comfortable and a capable load lugger, the Trafic can hold its own against the best in the sector when it comes to handling and performance. There is a choice of 110hp, 130hp, 150hp and 170hp diesel engines. All come with manual transmission as standard, but the 150hp and 170hp engines are also available with an optional dual-clutch auto. The Trafic panel van is available in two vehicle lengths and two heights, with a loading area measuring between 5.8m3 and 8.9m3. Maximum load length is 4.15m thanks to a hatch in the bulkhead that provides extra space. There is a choice of Business, Business+, Sport, and Sport+ trim levels. Inside an 8in touchscreen infotainment system features satnav and Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, and there’s a 4.2in colour display in the instrument panel.