heycar editorial team
- Refined and quiet on the move
- Offers a plug-in hybrid model
- Brilliant cabin
Not so great
- Transit Customs are a common sight, meaning your business won’t stand out if you turn up in one
- Air conditioning not standard until higher trim levels
- Weak headlights
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
"The Ford Transit Custom is a regular feature at the top of the UK best-seller charts and with good reason – it is an excellent medium van that is practical, cheap to run and great to drive."
There is also a wide selection of different versions available to choose from, so there is a high chance that the Transit Custom will have what you are looking for in a van. With different heights, long and short wheelbase versions, single, crew and kombi cabs it has pretty much every base covered. There’s even a campervan version with beds for four.
The standard-length panel van model is 4.97m long while the longer models are 5.34m, with the tallest and longest providing up to 8.3 cubic metres of interior load space. With the optional load-through bulkhead you can slide longer items – ladders, pipes, planks etc – of up to 3.4m in length.
The interior space is one of the best in the class width-wise, too, with enough room for 8x4 foot boards to be loaded flat to the floor. The gross vehicle weights range from 2.6 to 3.4 tonnes, so all models can be driven on a standard licence. Payloads go up to a decent 1450kg.
The double cab models will be able to take up to five, while there is also a minibus version that works out as a more affordable method of carrying nine people than the Tourneo Custom.
Inside the front part of the cabin, the Transit Custom provides the perfect working environment, with a fantastic level of interior quality and plentiful storage such as big door bins and coat hooks – something that isn’t too common in the medium-van sector.
The most recent update to the Transit Custom came in 2018, when the interior was thoroughly revised. Firmer, more comfortable seats, the latest infotainment system and updated technology brought the Ford up to date.
This tech included systems such as lane assist, adaptive cruise control and the must-have cross-traffic alert system that warns the driver of approaching vehicles when they are reversing out of a parking space or driveway. Other safety kit, including crosswind stability and adaptive cruise control, is also available
One of the Transit Custom’s strongest suits is its on-road ability, with the strong 2.0-litre diesel engines providing a refined and economical driving experience. Older models, from before 2017, came with a 2.2-litre diesel engine that was equally strong and still economical despite its larger size. The other addition in the 2017 update was a six-speed automatic gearbox. The overall refinement was tweaked to bring the noise on the move down, while the vibration through the steering wheel pedals is at a minimum.
The Transit Custom has a model that is unique in its class, in the form of a plug-in hybrid. In fact, it is the only plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, van on sale and it pairs a 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine with a battery-powered motor. This provides 35-miles of electric-only driving and the same payload as the diesel-powered model.
Comfort and design
"The driver’s seat in the Transit Custom is one of the best available in a van, with eight-way adjustment available as standard even on the most basic models, which allows drivers of different shapes and sizes to get comfortable. The firm cushioning provides a level of support that will be welcomed by those that spend long days behind the wheel, too."
The only thing that stops them being perfect is the large steering column, which cuts into kneeroom a little and it is possible to catch your knee on it while getting in and out of the cabin. When in the seat, you get the commanding view you would expect of a higher-riding vehicle, without feeling as though you are perched up precariously.
The styling of the dashboard and cabin in general is smart, too, with the look echoing the design of Ford’s passenger car range. The steering wheel, audio controls and air vents are all familiar to those who spend their leisure time in, say, a Focus. The high-set gear lever is more reminiscent of a van, though, but it sits in an easily reached position where you don’t have to twist and reach down regularly in stop-start situations.
One often underappreciated addition is a small one – coathooks. They are a rarity in vans for some reason, and the Transit Custom’s pair of hooks mean that you can keep a wet and dirty jacket off the seats and the floor. The extra storage space under the passenger seat means that there is somewhere to stash your boots, too.
The one thing that might annoy some is the top of the dashboard, which isn’t totally flat so documents or clipboards are more likely to slide off.
Handling and ride quality
"The Transit Custom’s driving ability is arguably its trump card, which is highly impressive given it holds such a strong hand of cards otherwise."
The steering is nicely weighted and responsive, which means it’s quick to react when you need it to but it holds its line at higher speeds on the motorway. If you do drift out of the lane, then the optional lane-keep alert will warn you.
There is a good amount of grip which means it’s handy around corners, too, especially if you accelerate away from one on a slippery surface.
The suspension is excellent. It controls bumps in the road and body roll really well which means the Transit Custom is remarkably well settled. This is the case even when it is unladen, which is impressive given vans normally perform their best when they are carrying a load. The plug-in hybrid version enjoys a low centre of gravity which makes it particularly agile on bendy roads.
It’s great in town, too. The turning circle is really tight, while that sharp steering means it’s easy to nip in and out of traffic. The big door mirrors help with around-town visibility too, while the optional blind-spot warning system will pick up pretty much anything that appears down either side of the van. Carrying a load around town is made easier by the smooth and responsive brakes. Because of their progressive nature you can slow the Ford down steadily rather than with a jolt when you stop.
MPG and fuel costs
"Because it isn’t a full electric model, the Transit Custom PHEV will recharge to full relatively quickly – it takes around five hours on a domestic power supply and around three hours on a 240V 16-amp or 32-amp socket."
The most efficient of the diesel models is the 130PS mild hybrid, which claims an official efficiency of up to 53mpg, which is around 6mpg better than the same engine without the battery backup. The rest of the range are all in a similar ballpark when it comes to economy, all offering official mpg figures in the mid to high 40s.
This is not the most efficient in the class, with models like the Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch capable of edging into the 50s for mpg.
How much should you be paying for a used Ford Transit Custom?
"Transit Customs hold their value slightly better than rivals, but vans are still not renowned for being worth vast amounts after a hard life. On average, they hold on to around a third of their value after three years and 60,000 miles. The Volkswagen Transporter is the model that is likely to hold onto more of its value at the same point, but this puts the Ford on a par with the Mercedes Vito and better than other rivals."
Higher specified vans tend to be in demand on the used market, so expect to pay proportionally more for the Sport trims and for those with lots of added extras that will appeal to second hand buyers.
Is the Ford Transit Custom right for you?
The chances are that the Ford Transit Custom is the right van for you, if only because there are so many versions that it is likely to have the sort of thing that you are after in its range.
But variety of range aside, the Transit Custom is hard to beat in many areas. Chief among these is how it drives. Vans are not bought for how enjoyable they are to drive, but it is a real bonus that the Transit Custom is refined and comfortable on the move.
With even the short wheelbase able to take three Euro pallets, and a load-through hatch allowing you to take longer items, it is practical too. It’s hard to think of a big question that the Transit Custom doesn’t answer.
What's the best Ford Transit Custom model/engine to choose?
The model that makes the most sense in the Transit Custom line up is the Trend, which sits one up from the basic Leader model. Leader isn’t the sparsely equipped working vehicle of old, with DAB radio and USB inputs, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and the load-through hatch, but Trend adds kit that will potentially save money as well as enhance comfort.
The front and rear parking sensors will help cut down expensive bumps, cruise control can help reduce potential speeding fines while the lockable glovebox keeps items in the cabin out of sight and secure.
The Quickclear windscreen will be a bonus in winter while the Sync3 infotainment system is a real boost too. It’s just a shame it doesn’t come with air conditioning.
The engines are all strong but it is the 130PS version that makes the most all round sense.
What other cars are similar to the Ford Transit Custom?
With so many Transit Customs sold you might be forgiven for thinking it was the only option in its class, but all the major manufacturers have an alternative if you are not keen on going down the Ford route.
The Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert, Toyota Proace and Vauxhall Vivaro are the most common rivals, with all four essentially slightly rebadged versions of each other. The Renault Trafic and Fiat Talento are likewise different and are the alternatives to consider if you want a high-roofed version – the Citroen/Peugeot/Toyota/Vauxhall quartet are only available in one height.
The Volkswagen Transporter is the one to look at if you want a slightly posher cabin, while the current version of the Mercedes Vito doesn’t quite offer the levels of luxury that its premium badge promises.
Quality and finish
The basic design of the Transit Custom’s cabin remains the same solid arrangement across all models, although you get more styling flourishes as you go higher up the range. There is a load more black on display in the entry-level Leader trim, with the steering wheel, gear lever and air vents all finished in the same monochrome tone.
The step up to Trend brings touches that brighten up the cabin, with chrome surrounds to the gear lever, on the door handles, steering wheel and brake lever. The steering wheel is trimmed in leather, too. Limited adds flashes of chrome around the air vents and blanks off the glove box, which remains open in the lower trims, while the gear lever is also finished in leather. Sport doesn’t get a vastly different dashboard, but it does get a bespoke information display and part leather seats.
All models are designed to take a battering, with high-quality materials that feel well put together and capable of taking the odd whack from an errant tool or piece of wood.
If you set aside the budget-focused Leader model, every Transit Custom gets an impressive looking eight-inch touchscreen that can be operated in a manner similar to a smart phone with pinch and swipe gestures needed to navigate between the different menus. Voice control is another option for those that want to do everything truly hands free.
The navigation itself is easy to follow, and the addition of a few physical buttons to control things such as the volume makes the system easy to adjust at speed without taking your eyes off the road. Some of the menus are a little fiddly to access, but it is gets easier with familiarisation.
If you’d rather use an alternative, such as Google Maps or Waze, then Apple Carplay and Android Auto are both available as part of the Sync 3 system too.
Space and practicality
Every Transit Custom comes with three seats across the front bench, whether it is a diesel model or a plug-in hybrid. The two passengers either side get plenty of head room and a decent amount of legroom – the only exception to this is the slightly large steering column that can impose a little on the driver’s space in the footwell.
The middle seat is slightly narrower than the other two, so while getting three across the front is possible and more comfortable than in smaller models like the Vauxhall Combo/Citroen Berlingo etc, it is still a little tight.
The high-positioned gear lever means that you don’t have to reach in between the middle passenger’s legs to change gear, but it also means that they may well bash their knees on the piece of dashboard that juts out around the lever.
That middle seat passenger might end up tasked with holding your phone if you have it plugged into the USB socket, too, as it’s a shame that there is no little tray to slot it into in the lower part of the dash – it’s ditched to make a bit more leg room. Elsewhere there are plenty of cubby-holes and bottle holders, though, with Ford having added 25 litres of extra storage space in the form of open bins, deeper door pockets and cup holders. Not all of those on the top of the dash are covered, though, with only higher-level models getting a door to the glovebox for example.
The loading bay is one thing that hasn’t changed over recent updates, largely because it does a good job, holding three Euro pallets even in the shorter model. The extra loading length brought about by the load-through hatch is a bonus, too.
Payloads range from just under 700kg to not far shy of 1500kg, which matches the better performers in the class. One notable bonus is that the plug-in hybrid offers the same payload as the equivalent diesel model, at more than 1100kg. The batteries might weigh more but the lighter petrol engine makes this possible.
Engines and gearboxes
The engine range in the Transit Custom offers much more choice than is often available in a van range.
The quartet of diesel engines come with a wide range of power outputs, including 105PS, 130PS, 170PS and even a 185PS model. The 105PS model is the more town-centric model and if you plan on having any sort of variety to your driving then it is worth upgrading to the 130PS, which is the sweet spot of the range.
It offers plenty of punch low down, which means it isn’t fazed by hauling heavier loads or pulling off the occasional overtake.
The 170PS provides more of the same. While the difference in performance is noticeable, it isn’t notable enough to worry about upgrading if you can’t justify it financially. The 185PS model is the preserve of the Sport Van and the Nugget – the Transit Connect’s campervan version. In the former it is a little more indulgent, but it is the only option if you want all the visual bells and whistles that come with the Sport Van. The upgrade seems more worthwhile in the Nugget, though – the percentage increase in cost from the 130PS to the 185PS engine is relatively small on the camper.
The Transit Custom range really stands out for its micro-hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, though. The former is not a full hybrid, as it uses a battery to take a little bit of the strain off the engine, which provides a minor boost in economy but doesn’t have the feel of a full hybrid with electric-only running. It’s more of a silent guide that sits there helping in the background.
The plug-in hybrid is a totally different prospect. It uses a 1.0-litre petrol engine and a battery-powered motor that provides up to 35 miles of electric-only driving. It’s a remarkably smooth setup, with the instant torque at low speeds making for swift getaways from standstill possible. It comes with an automatic gearbox, so is relaxed and easy on the move, and several driving modes. You can switch between EV only, EV Charge, which sends power back to the battery, or EV Auto, which switches between the two forms of power where appropriate.
The majority of Transit Custom models come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with a smooth shifting action that makes changes relaxed. In 2017 a six-speed automatic ‘box was added to the majority of the range – it’s an option on all but the 105PS engine.
Refinement and noise levels
All of the Transit Customs are refined on the move, but king of them all is the PHEV model. When it is running on electric only there is next to no noise at all, particularly at lower speeds around town. The petrol engine adds a little noise in, but very little. There is a touch more noise when the engine is trying to power the van and recharge the battery, but it’s still so much more relaxed than a diesel engine. The automatic gearbox is smooth and quiet, too, but there is no need for any gearchanges at all when it is in electric mode, which makes it even more relaxing.
The diesel models are naturally not as relaxed as the PHEV, but they are still remarkably chilled out for a diesel van. The engine noise is on a par with a family SUV at higher speeds, thanks in part to the improved sound deadening brought in in the 2017 update.
The large door mirrors might kick up some wind noise from time to time, but not enough to make the Transit Custom a noisy cabin in which to cover long distances.
The technology brought about in the 2017 update took the Transit Custom to impressive heights with regards to safety. Side-wind stabilisation is now a standard feature, with the system acting to counter the forces of large gusts of wind that might otherwise blow a van out of its lane. Trailer sway control is also standard, but only if you get Ford’s towing attachments fitted. Hill start assist is the other beneficial standard fit piece of kit.
As is the case with many vans, the other key pieces of safety kit are all available as optional extras. They include a lane keep assist system with driver alert, auto high beam lights and blind spot warning lights.
The best piece of kit is the rear crossing alert, which sounds a warning if you are reversing out of a blind parking spot or a driveway and someone is driving across behind you.
The Transit Custom’s most recent update wasn’t sufficiently comprehensive to bring about a retest by Euro NCAP, though, so the most recent assessment is back in 2012. At that point it scored a highly impressive five stars, which is made all the better by the fact that its contemporaries at the time managed two or three stars. Of course, it has to be factored in that the test has since got much stricter, but the Transit Custom could only pass what it was presented with at the time.
Maximum EV range
The PHEV model is officially capable of a 35-mile range on pure electric, but this is going by the old NEDC test and the real-world results are likely to vary depending on a wide range of factors.
Load it up, drive it in the winter and treat yourself to plenty of that instant acceleration and you are likely to see that fall to somewhere around 20 miles, but those who drive carefully and made judicial use of the brake regeneration might get more.
Insurance groups and costs
The Transit Custom is one of the cheaper medium vans to insure, with groupings starting at 5E. This isn’t quite as low as the previous Citroen Dispatch, which is in a group as low as 3E, or the Renault Trafic, which starts at group 3E.
That low group is for the 105PS in L1 length, but that’s not a one-off special, as the rest of the range are in groups 6E to 9E depending on the exact model you go for.
VED car tax
The Transit Custom qualifies for the commercial vehicle tax bracket, which means that it is eligible for the low flat rate of VED that all van owners pay. It also gets the flat rate of BIK company car tax, so it is cheap to run as a private company vehicle, too.
Trim levels and standard equipment
The sweet spot in the Transit Custom engine range is the 130PS diesel. The more powerful engines are excellent, but the strength of the lesser powered one is such that you don’t really need to upgrade unless you want to.
Likewise, mid-level Trend trim is the one to go for – it adds a few desirable bits of equipment like the touch screen, cruise control, lumbar support, the Quickclear windscreen and a lockable gearbox. The options that would be worth adding to any Transit Custom include air conditioning (disappointingly it isn’t standard until Limited) and the rear cross traffic alert system.
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
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