Ford’s annual new vehicle registrations in the UK are enough to make other manufacturers weep. Not only is it the best-selling car brand here, it also dominates the commercial vehicle world, too.
And the model right at the helm of this success is the Ford Transit Custom. Last year, it was twice as popular as any other van, with more than 50,000 being registered. And yes, it was the regular Ford Transit that was in second position.
The most recent major update for this workhorse came in 2018, when Ford gave it a smart facelift, along with a new touchscreen. More recently Ford has also introduced a plug-in hybrid version, which has its own separate review here, as well as a revised engine line-up that adds a new mild-hybrid powertrain offering small efficiency benefits.
But what exactly is it that makes this model so popular? We get behind the wheel to find out.
While Ford may have introduced a new petrol-electric plug-in hybrid model to the Transit Custom range, it’s the diesel variants that continue to dominate in the van world, and which make up the rest of the line-up.
It’s Ford’s latest 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine that’s used here, and there is no shortage of derivatives available. Outputs include 103bhp, 128bhp, 168bhp and then at the top of the line-up a 182bhp option that’s just offered on the ‘Sport’ grade. All bar the entry-level 103bhp version are also offered with the choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, too.
The 128bhp engine is the one to go for, as it delivers plenty of punch for most scenarios, and you’re also able to choose this with mild-hybrid engine tech, which helps to improve performance and enhance efficiency. It adds just £200 to the price of the van, and is worth choosing.
Ride and handling
If you’re looking for a van that you won’t mind driving, the Transit Custom is undoubtedly one of the best choices. While, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t feel like a car behind the wheel, it’s one of the least van-like models to drive. It handles well and there’s very little body roll, which is seriously impressive for a commercial model. The suspension is also comfortable and soaks up bumps and potholes with ease.
Just be aware that if you’re going to drive around for a lot of the time with nothing in the back, the ride can be rather bouncy.
On the whole, though, refinement is good, while the latest 2.0-litre diesel engine is quiet and easily capable of driving at motorway speeds without feeling flustered.
Interior and equipment
Hop up into the Transit Custom and you’ll be surprised at just how car-like the interior of this model is. Sure, it’s all hard plastics utilised throughout, but the quality and durability impresses. High-spec models come with an eight-inch touchscreen, which is just about identical to the systems found in the Fiesta and Focus, while also coming with the bonus of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
Various length and heights are available, with a gross vehicle weight ranging from 2.6 to 3.4 tonnes. With a payload of 1,459kg available, it means the Transit Custom Custom is one of the best in its class for load carrying.
Four grades are available on the Transit Custom – Leader, Trend, Limited and top-spec Sport.
The Leader gets electric windows, Bluetooth, remote locking, selectable drive modes and a trip computer.
Upgrade to Trend and this brings electric folding door mirrors, body coloured bumpers and useful front and rear parking sensors. It also comes with a heated windscreen, a leather steering wheel, cruise control and the aforementioned eight-inch touchscreen – making it our pick of the line-up.
If you fancy a few more luxuries, go for Limited, which includes air conditioning, LED interior lighting, 16-inch alloy wheels and heated front seats, while the top-spec Sport comes with part-leather seats, the choice of 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera and a sportier body kit.
Prices for the Transit Custom kick off from £23,910 (excluding VAT), which makes it an affordable prospect in this sector. It’s worth upgrading to the Trend version, though, because while it is £3,000 more expensive, the extra kit will prove exceptionally useful if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
High-end Limited and Trend models are quite expensive, with prices stretching well beyond £30,000.
Thanks to the Transit Custom’s enjoyable driving experience and spacious and durable cabin, it’s not surprising that this model has proven to be such a success.
While high-end models aren’t cheap, choose your trim and engine wisely and you’ll have a very efficient and affordable van that is also one of the best in its segment for load carrying.