Ed Higginson investigates the latest Ford Transit Custom in its various versions.
When it comes to vans, the Ford Transit is one of the oldest names on the market and has experienced years of success with the number-one sales spot in many countries around the world since its debut in 1965.
While it might not have reached number one in Australia, with the new generation Transit hitting showrooms at the end of 2019, Ford are hoping to get closer. With more than eight-million Transits built over this time, and with Ford claiming a new Transit is purchased every 180 seconds, you have to take notice.
Over two weeks, Ford kindly loaned Delivery Magazine two versions of the new Transit Custom so we could see for ourselves how the latest updates have improved a classic.
There are a long list of updates with the new model, from the more aggressive styling on the outside, fresh dash, new infotainment system, Ford’s Driver Assist Technology with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, all standard across the range. The entire range has also received a powertrain upgrade with the new 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission option, with a claimed 30 per cent increase in power, more torque and the reduced emissions of Euro6.2 using Adblue.
Buyers also have over 100 paint options to choose from too – if you’re bored with the standard white and are willing to wait.
The Transit Custom range starts with the 340S SWB Van, which offers 5.7 cu.m of load space with the bulkhead fitted, and a towing capacity of 2500 kg with the manual transmission, or 2000 kg with the automatic.
Next, you move up to the 340L LWB Van, which increases the load space to 6.6 cu.m and raises the towing capacity to 2800 kg with the manual, whilst the automatic again remains at 2000 kg. The 340 denotes the GVM of 3400 kg.
If you need a few more seats, then you can opt for the dual-cab in a Van option and the 340L DCiV, which is one of the Custom Models that Ford offered for our review. With more room taken for the crew of six, the rear load space drops to 4.3 cu.m as you’d expect. However, the towing capacity reduces considerably for both the manual and automatic versions, down to just 1800 kg.
The top of the Custom range is filled by the Sport van and this was certainly one of the versions I was looking forward to trying out. The Sport version gets the full treatment both inside and out, to take the Custom from being a works van to something much more.
Importantly, the power also gets the sports treatment with maximum outputs of 136 kW and 405 Nm. The trade-off here is that fuel economy drops slightly from 6.5 litres per 100 km, to 7.3 l/100 km.
You can choose between the van, the 320S SWB, or the dual-cab for the whole family and the 320L DCiV. The Sports van has a cargo volume of 5.7 cu.m, but again the towing capacity is just 1800 kg for the manual, while the auto comes in with a payload of 1040 kg. The dual-cab’s load capacity is down to 3.5 cu.m with towing the same and GVM drops to 3200 kg for a 969 kg payload.
When the taxi dropped me off at the old Ford factory in Melbourne’s north, I was impressed to see they had brought out the Sport 320S Van ready for me in a striking dark blue, with black stripes running down the bonnet.
Priced at $48,490 plus on-roads, the 320L Sport van gets a small price increase for a lot of extras.
The Sport variant really stands out with several performance enhancing sporting touches, such as the 17-inch alloy wheels, racing stripes, body styling kit featuring sports front and rear bumpers and side skirts. The side mirrors are colour matched, the front three-bar grille is in glass black, plus you have bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights.
As you climb inside, there is no mistaking this is a special van with its leather-accented driver’s seat and 10-way electric adjustment, gloss-black interior highlights and chrome touches to the vents.
Ford’s updated dash across the range has really modernised the look of the Transit whilst still making it practical. It has updated instruments, new control panels and a full-colour 8.0-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen which replaces the previous 6.5-inch display.
The new infotainment system now has voice-activated features and you can opt for the voice-activated sat-nav for improved safety to let the driver keep their eyes on the road, a feature that I found worked easily.
Ford’s SYNC 3 system also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, adding even more options to enjoy while out on the road.
After grabbing the keys to the new Sport and heading north towards Sydney, I was surprised by how sporty the new drivetrain feels. You don’t expect the 2.0-litre engine to get going but the new EcoBlue diesel engine does a fantastic job.
Ford’s advanced new-generation engine features a high-pressure direct fuel-injection system, producing 136 kW of power and 405 Nm of torque in the Sport. With its high-performance variable-geometry turbo, matched with the new six-speed transmission, which changes gears smoothly and quickly, the Custom feels sporty with great acceleration.
Ford has done a great job with build quality too, with no sign of any rattles or vibrations. In the first 10 minutes out on the road I was already impressed and looking forward to the rest of the drive to Sydney.
Along the highway, the Sport van is a little firm, but as you turn onto the country roads it’s worth it for the handling which is much better than you would expect from a typical load-carrying LCV.
When it comes to safety features, Ford has a long list of features that arrive in standard kit on the Transit range with what the company calls the Driver Assist Technology (DAT). Features here include AEB with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot information system (BLIS) with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, automatic high beam and front and rear parking sensors along with a coloured reversing camera.
In terms of the load space, Ford has demonstrated its experience by making it easy to load and secure whilst protecting the inside of the van from parcel damage. It’s well thought out with plastic floor liners and MDF protection on the internal walls along with eight tie-down anchors. The Sport also gets four internal LED lights and a rear 12-Volt accessory socket.
After a week and a couple of thousand kilometres, it was time to swap Sports van over to the dual-cab Custom, the 340L DCiV.
With a slight drop in power and now without the sporty touches, it feels much more like a commercial vehicle but the plus point here is that many of the features I liked in the top-of-the-range Sports Custom come as standard.
The seating allows for the driver and two passengers up front and three in the rear comfortably. Again, the rear-seat area is well configured and doesn’t feel like a cheap conversion that lacks comfort. In the back, the loading space is well thought out just like the standard vans, but through the inclusion of the seats it offers less volume for cargo.
In terms of servicing, Ford Transit Custom has 30,000 km or 12-month service intervals, which is better than most of its competitors and reduces downtime off the road. Combined with Ford’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty it offers a strong package for small businesses.
After two weeks of living with two of the Ford Transit Customs, we were impressed with the design, build quality, performance and long list of standard features. Australians may prefer buying utes in place of a van but broaden your horizons and take one for a demo drive the next time you are looking for a new work horse. It may make a lot more sense to be able to conceal your cargo from prying eyes and keep your tools out of the weather.