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Ford Transit Custom review 2023

Overall Rating: 10/10

The Ford Transit Custom has always been one of the country’s best-selling vehicles but post-pandemic it hit the big time, becoming the UK’s best seller for two years in a row.

Since its launch the mid-sized Transit has been a runaway success, rocketing the Custom to superstar status. If the Ford Transit Custom was a Hollywood blockbuster it would be up there with the most sucessful titles of all time. It's the Avatar of the van world and its sequel has been just as highly anticipated.

Changes made to the latest model are radical, not least because the Ford Transit Custom has been primed for electrificaiton.

You'll find details of the diesel vehicle in this Ford Transit Custom review, but the fully electric Ford E-Transit Custom and revised Ford Transit Custom PHEV hybrid will be launched in 2024. You'll find details of the first generation Ford Transit Custom here.

How many versions are there of the Ford Transit Custom?

That's almost like asking how long is a piece of string, because there's almost an immeasurable number of combinations. Depending who you ask, and how specific you are, the answer will be anywhere from a few hundred to several million. If you were to count each unique item as a new variant there are in excess of two million combinations, but if you're talking about a more simplified body, engine, gearbox, trim type calculation there's around 550.

That's still an awful lot of Transit vans, but with a total of 42,762 sales in 2022 (a third of the van market) it clearly covers many options for many people.

This time around at launch there's still a mind-boggling number of variants. Starting with vehicle size, you can get the Ford Transit Custom in two body lengths - short and long or L1 and L2. There's no high-roof model - but that may come, as it did further down the line with the first generation van.

Then there are three gross vehicle weights of 280, 300 and 320 - the equivalent of 2.8-tonnes, 3-tonnes and 3.2-tonnes.

The Ford Transit Custom is available as a cargo panel van, a double cab-in-van, combi van, and as a Ford Tourneo Custom.

At launch the panel van will get five trim levels, starting with Base, Trend, Limted and Sport, along with the more off-road focused Trail. There'll also probably be an MS-RT version and Ford Transit Custom Active, as there was with the previous generation, and we wouldn't put it past Ford to add in a few more just like they have done with their blossoming Ranger line-up with Ford Ranger Wildtrak X, Ford Ranger Tremor and Ford Ranger Raptor. Could we see a Ford Transit Custom Raptor? Probably not, but that would be a massive hit.

What about the engines and gearboxes?

Power comes from a 2-litre EcoBlue engine with outputs of 110PS, 136PS, 150PS or 170PS and claimed fuel savings of up to 6% compared to the previous model.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but a new 8-speed automatic made by Ford is available across all models.

What's changed then?

The big news is that it's been made 100kg lighter over the previous generation. The Transit Custom has also been stretched by 200mm in the wheelbase. That might not sound like very much (or be particularly sexy) but its in order to accommodate batteries and other electrical components in the alternative fuel models that are due to arrive throughout 2024.

It's also had a noticeable redesign. The front end now has a lower drag coefficient - it's more aerodynamic - which has been improved by 13% over the old model. The roof is also slightly lower too. That means that all Transit Custom models now come in below the 2m height mark. Useful to know if you're going into a height restricted underground car park.

New suspension means the van sits 15mm closer to the road. This helps marginally with access, but an even greate improvement is the inclusion of a scalloped entry step at the side door. Previously there was no proper step into the van, and drivers were stepping on the guiding rail for the sliding door, causing no end of problems when mud and grit got into the mechanism. Now there's a proper step that has lowered the entry height for that all important first step in by 80mm compared to the previous van.

Doesn't it have some sort of clever new table?

Yes, this is the viral gimmick of the new van. Ford has developed a clever steering wheel table for the Transit Custom so that drivers can eat their lunch off it.

To make sure you don't try to drive the van with it in table-mode, it uses an electrical system to lock and unlock the mechanism. With the ignition on, you simply press a button underneath the rim of the bottom of the wheel, wait for an unlocking click and then push the wheel upwards into position. It can lock in at 45-degrees, to allow you to use it as a rest for a laptop or tablet. Or it can lock into position in the horiziontal position. You then simply add the table top insert - stored in a narrow tray to the side of the driver's seat - and hey presto you've got a flat surface to eat or work from.

Ford Transit Custom Mobile Office pack table, also known as the Transit Table in its flat position with a tray insert suitable for eating lunch or using a laptop

It's part of the Mobile Office pack and it's sure to become known as the Transit Table over time.

What's the rest of the interior like?

The Ford Transit Custom comes with a pretty high level of standard equipment that includes the colour touchscreens on the instrument panel. The Base trim level gets the high quality 13-inch landscape touchscreen in the centre console, as well as an 8-inch drivers display.

It is an impressive looking cabin with high quality plastics of differing texture and appearance. The central "rib" that stretches across the entire lenght of the cabin and separates the touchscreens from the air vents being particularly attractive with a carbon fibre like weave to it. Dash top plastics seem robust, while the lower sections are a little cheaper and less appealing. But it's a pleasant balance that is far from a drab monotone mass.

The piano black surrounds of the touchscreens add an air of passenger car class, but the usualy angles and lines don't quite marry-up in a coherent manner. The gloss frames for the 13-inch screen and the 8-inch display are of different thicknesses and with the Start button positioned on the corner between the two seems out of place.

However, it's not the only unusual button position, as the automatic parking brake is found between the air vents on the centre console and annoyingly there's a lack of sensible physical controls. Instead you'll have to use the touchscreen for heating and air conditioning controls.

Other notable changes see the floor made completely flat. The increased wheelbase has meant that the wheels are further forward giving driver and passenger more space, while repositioning the gearshift on to the instrument panel of the automatics frees up space around the central seat’s knee area.

A middle-seat passenger can now sit in far greater comfort. Drivers looking to exit the vehicle via the passenger door can now simply slide across the seat without encountering any obstructions.

Does it have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

Ford has installed the lastest version of its SYNC 4 system on the Transit Custom and added a new Amazon Alexa voice assistance. It's also made the smartphone mirroring wireless. That means your phone will effortlessly connect to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto each time you get into the van.

What about storage?

There's enormous storage potential. A cavernous compartment in the dash top, large enough to swallow your entire forearm, has been created by moving the passenger airbag into the roof but there’s also large door pockets and glovebox.

Enormous storage compartment replacing the airbag in the dash

Is the Ford Transit Custom any good to drive?

New independent rear suspension has settled the rear of the van, virtually eliminating any bounce when we tested it with around half of our test vehicle’s maximum 1275kg payload. The steering feels faster, more precise and slightly lighter, which are all positive changes albeit ones you wouldn’t normally expect from a van. Less welcome is the new “squircle”-shaped steering wheel, bringing the fashion for flat bottoms to the top of the rim. It feels unnecessary but is easy to adjust to.

The seating position, slightly altered roof line and more spacious interior that lets you sit less upright in the seat also makes the Custom feel even less van-like.

The ride is firm, but well dampened, adding to the Custom’s comfort, and although the diesel engine can be a little raucous, a noticeable lack of road or wind noise bodes well for the EV version.

Is the Ford Transit Custom safe?

There are plenty of new standard and optional safety systems on the new model making it a very safe van to drive. Standard features include: pre-collision assist, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed assist, auto high beam, front and rear parking sensors and a rear view camera.

Options that are available to enhance safety are intelligent adaptive cruise control, cross traffic alert, reverse brake assist, exit warning and a 360-degree camera.

One of the new highlight features, though, is Delivery Assist – designed to speed up deliveries by automating actions like switching on its hazard lights, closing windows, and locking the doors when the driver leaves the van.

Euro NCAP awarded the Transit Custom its highest safety rating in April 2024, giving it a Platinum rating with a test score of 96%.

How much load space does the Ford Transit Custom have?

Load volumes range from 5.8m3 to 6.8m3 depending on the body length. Maximum payloads are up to 1350kg.

The Ford Transit Custom has had 200mm added to the wheelbase length, but the length of the Custom's loadspace area has actually decreased by 160mm.

The Custom's width is still the same, but there’s now more space between the wheelarches. There’s also a small increase in the usable height of the loadspace.

Overall, that means the storage space as decreased from 6m3 to 5.8m3 for the short wheelbase van. But it has remained at 6.8m3 for the L2 model. Incidentally, that makes it the same size as the Renault Trafic dimensions - which in Europe, at least, is the closest rival for sales to the Ford Transit Custom.

There’s also a new side step through the rear sliding door, lowering the first step into the van by 80mm compared to the previous van. Ford is also claiming that it has a class-leading side load aperture of 1030mm x 1301mm.

There’s also an all-new derivative called MultiCab that allows you to transport up to five people, but still move larger items in a self-contained loadspace, thanks to an L-shaped bulkhead. That'll be the option lifestyle buyers probably go for, as it mixes the practicality of a van with the family friendly flexibility of a people mover.

Importantly, it also has a 2.8-tonne towing capacity.

Ford Transit Custom rear loadspace

Should I buy a Ford Transit Custom?

Ford has been segment leader since God was a boy, but the changes made to the new van are nothing short of exceptional. The Custom will be the best-selling van for years to come and if you're in the market for a medium-sized van we'd find it hard to tell you to look elsewhere.

Ford Transit Custom

Price: £32350- £43550

Power: 108 - 167
Torque: 310 - 390Nm
Payload: 1100 - 1350kg
Volume/Area: 5.8 - 6.8
Loadspace Length Max: 2394 - 3050mm
Things We Like:
Smart new interior, enormous glovebox, Transit Table innovation
Things We Like Less:
Squircle steering wheels
Overall: 10/10

Driving: 10/10
Interior: 10/10
Practicality: 10/10
Value: 8/10
First Published: October 30, 2023
Last Modified: April 25, 2024  
Written by: thevanreviewer

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