First Drive

Ford Transit Custom facelift

The story:
Ford's mid-life revision of its dominant Transit Custom mid-sized van, with a lightly revamped exterior, revised cabin and new technology
Category:
Key rival:Vauxhall Vivaro
On sale:Spring 2018
Ford Transit Custom 2.0 TDCI 105hp L1H1 Trend
Price:£23,600 (est.)
MPG:44.8mpg
Power:105hp
Payload:739kg
Load length/height/width:2555mm/1406mm/1775mm

The Transit Custom heralded Ford kicking off a total revision of its light commercial vehicle range when it was launched to critical acclaim in 2012, and this revamp of its biggest seller heralds Ford kicking off a mid-life refresh of its line-up.

Updated versions of the smaller Transit Connect and Transit Courier will come this summer, with the full-size Transit to follow, but once more the first model to get the attention is the biggest seller and a model that Ford describes as the cornerstone of its line-up.

The Transit Custom heralded Ford kicking off a total revision of its light commercial vehicle range when it was launched to critical acclaim in 2012, and this revamp of its biggest seller heralds Ford kicking off a mid-life refresh of its line-up.The numbers stand up to that billing, with more than 40,000 Customs having found UK homes in the first nine months of 2017 alone. It’s a van that took leadership of its sector in 2015 and is Ford’s biggest-selling van and fourth-biggest selling model overall in Europe.

This update focuses on three areas: a new front end; a heavily revised interior that is an answer to customer feedback saying extra storage areas would be handy; and the application of new technology.

The engine line-up is carried-over, which means 105, 130 and 170hp versions of the 2.0-litre diesel, while the range of two roof heights, two wheelbases, a gross vehicle mass ranging from 2.6t-3.4t and payloads up to 1450kg remain, as well as the van, kombi and double-cab-in-van bodystyles. The new engines were introduced last year, along with a new automatic transmission that is running at 11% of sales on vans.

The only change from an engineering perspective is the forthcoming addition of a new Econetic version of the Custom, with the 105hp diesel promising a 6% improvement in fuel economy thanks to the application of low-rolling-resistance tyres, engine stop-start, a 62mph speed limiter and Ford’s Acceleration Control feature that limits heavy throttle use.

The nose is the main place to find design changes for the revised Custom. The new three-bar grille tallies with the latest look for Ford’s car models, and is joined by new headlamps and new foglights that have been moved outward to give the van a wider stance. The daytime running lights on higher trim levels ape those on the new Fiesta.

Ford’s big-selling supermini also provides influence on the inside, because the layout is based on that of the new Fiesta launched last autumn. The brand says the whole cabin has been reviewed in line with the latest Fiesta’s design, including a new steering wheel and instrument cluster. The interior has a new horizontal element to it, with a break line splitting the clusters.

As mentioned, key feedback was that customers were keen to see more interior storage, and Ford has responded in a whole series of ways, including the addition of three new lidded compartments, a new central fold-out cupholder, new storage for smaller items by the gearlever, space for two-litre bottles at either end of the dash and revised door panels giving more space for stashing items. Users of the current van will really appreciate the noticeable difference, and Ford is claiming class-leading stowage space.

The final big change is in what was a pretty dated-looking infotainment system being replaced, depending on trim level, by Ford’s voice control Sync3 system. Audio, navigation if specified, and smartphones or tablets are integrated with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The exact specification make-up is still to be confirmed, but either Sport Van, Limited or both will get an eight-inch Sync touchscreen system, with a four-inch version also available. Below that, Ford offers  a connected radio or a basic radio, depending on specs.

The Transit Custom heralded Ford kicking off a total revision of its light commercial vehicle range when it was launched to critical acclaim in 2012, and this revamp of its biggest seller heralds Ford kicking off a mid-life refresh of its line-up.For vehicles without the touchscreen infotainment system, a dock has been positioned in the dash for smartphones, sat-navs or MP3 players.

Professional drivers will also appreciate the improved seats that feature both new foam and fabric.

The final area of improvement is technology, though again pricing of what is likely to be optional equipment is still to be confirmed. But new driver assistance features have made their way over from Ford’s passenger car range, including a claimed LCV first of Intelligent Speed Assist. ISA automatically adjusts the maximum speed of the vehicle depending on a windscreen-mounted camera reading road signs and gantries, adjusting accordingly if the speed set by the driver is higher than the limit at that point.

The revised Transit Custom is also the first Ford van in Europe to offer the Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, the latter element warning drivers reversing out of a parking space when it detects a vehicle or bicycle approaching. 

To drive, the Transit Custom is still excellent, and Ford is wise to have not tampered with something that was fine to begin with. The van is composed, comfortable and offers a more rewarding driving experience than its contemporaries, and this revision gives it a fresher front end, much more user-friendly cabin and the addition of new tech. All good things.

The verdict

Ford has wisely tinkered with only the bits that need to be tinkered with. The result is a great van.