Sunday, 29 September 2013

REVIEW - Ford Transit Custom Limited

Without a doubt, one of the most successful commercial vehicles to ever grace the roads has been the Ford Transit. When it was launched in 1965, it drove like a car- in fact it was faster than many in production at the time- and yet it could be used to transport the builders favourite; 8'x4'. Well, decades later, the latest Transit has arrived. Called the Transit Custom, it is less for builders, and more for those looking for a family van. I managed to grab one for a week, and aimed to see if a van really could be a substitute for a car...

Looks - 10/10

Well I know one thing for sure, the Transit Custom certainly looks the part. My test vehicle was a 'Limited' which meant colour coding, alloy wheels and power-folding mirrors. Finished in 'Race Red' the colour coding stood out as a great feature. The exterior lines are bold and at the front you can see the trademark Ford mouth which is making its way around the range at present. If you can get high enough to look at the roof, you will see indentations where the optional 'integrated roof rack' can lie flush to the bodywork. I even think the rear lights are rather stylish, and with my test vehicle being the Double-Cab-in-Van (DCiV) it even got tinted windows for the sliding rear doors.


Step- well, climb- inside the Transit Custom, and you would be forgiven for forgetting it was based on a commercial vehicle at all. The dashboard is similar to most Fords in the range at the moment, and the seats are fantastic. And with having the optional leather seat pack the interior in my Transit was particularly brilliant. All the plastics are nice, and there are some nice handy storage compartments too. Into the load area and the easy clean load liner adds a sense of toughness and practicality to the vast space that can swallow up just about anything, whilst the optional LED lights provide useful illumination in the back.



Handling/Performance - 9/10

All the Customs get a 2.2-litre TDCi engine and a 6-speed manual box. There are 100PS, 125PS and 155PS versions, of which mine fell into the latter category. As well as this, there is 385Nm of torque on offer. Ford don't quote a 0-62mph time or a top speed, and frankly it isn't important. I can tell you that the Custom feels more than adequately powered, and thanks to the 6-speed box there's always a gear to move you forward should you need it. The engine in my Custom was an ECOnetic version, which means there is an 'Eco' mode. This aims to save fuel, and has a limiter of 71mph in place so as to optimise efficiency on a longer run. Turning 'Eco' mode off removes this limiter, but I didn't see why this was necessary.

The Transit Custom handles well too. I would liken it to a large car more than a van, and I found it very pleasant to drive. Thanks to the torque-vectoring control, traction control and an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) there is very little drama even if you decide to chuck the Transit around a few corners. There's a new stiffer suspension set up, and the steering is much more direct than you would expect from a vehicle like this. The ride is good, and comfortable on the motorway, yet rides well on bumpier roads too.

Economy - 10/10

Now this is where the ECOnetic technology comes into its own. If you go for an ECOnetic, you get a lot of features as standard which help you to save fuel. Acceleration control stops faster acceleration when unladen and saves this for when there is a heavy load. There is a shift indicator, which tells you when the best time to shift is, and works for both up and down changes. The Custom even has auto start/stop which can really help save fuel in traffic. The Transit has something called Smart Regenerative Charging which means the batter is only charged when you're not pressing the accelerator, and this is aided by Ford's Battery Management System which can improve battery life and save fuel too. Finally there is the Eco mode mentioned above, which limits the van to 71mph in order to get the best fuel return on a longer trip. All of this add up to a combined fuel consumption of  42.8mpg. which is rather good all things considered. Road tax is £215 as the Custom is classed as a Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) but just for completeness emissions are 183g/km CO2.

Practicality - 10/10

It's hard to know where to start with the practicality of the Transit Custom. I guess I should explain that mine was a long wheel base, and had being a DCiV meant there were two rows of 3 seats. Behind there were a contained load area which could potentially be used for a whole host of things. You can fit a stack of euro pallets in it, and then some. We managed to move a double mattress and a host of other things with absolute ease. All passengers get more leg room than they could ever dream of, and there are many hidey-holes around the cabin for many things. Most notably the front passenger seats have a storage base which is rather large indeed.

On top of all this there's the van itself. You have cruise control, heated seats, power fold mirrors, and one of my favourite features was the power inverter. Granted, this is optional. But at a mere £36 it's worth every penny in my books. The Transit is Comfortable and usable every day. Whether it be a long drive or a country excursion it will get you there no problem, and I found myself reaching for the keys whatever the drive. And being able to chuck just about anything in the back makes it the perfect vehicle when you need to move a sofa. I really found the reversing camera useful as guidance during manoeuvres, but this too is an optional extra.

Fun - 8/10

As well as all the economy features, the Transit Custom has good media available too. There's the DAB radio and iPod connectivity which mean you always have the appropriate soundtr
ack available. It's also good to have all the creature comforts in such a vastly practical vehicle. The Transit Custom I was driving seemed to get a lot of attention from fellow van drivers. Maybe this was because it's still new, or perhaps it was the race red paint, but people were turning to have a glance, and I like that. Being able to seat six people was a huge bonus too, and came in useful for just piling into the van and heading out to wherever.

Concluding Remarks

I really enjoyed my time with the Transit Custom. I didn't know what to expect, but what I discovered was a very rounded vehicle indeed. There are that many combinations of the Transit that there really is one to suit everybody. I particularly like the look of the Custom Sport, which adds some really nice skirts and wheels to the already nice body lines. So if you're looking for more space than your average large family car, then why not look at a DCiV? Or if you need to
transport 8'x4's then get the regular Custom. And there are that many options and practical choices available you really could find your perfect match. For more information visit your nearest Ford dealer, or visit their website.

Total Score - 47/50

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