Ford Transit Custom
Ready for the new decade
The reason for introducing an all-new Transit Custom is the arrival of an electric-powered version. The former platform could not accommodate the required batteries and the latest generation of luxury and safety features also require a new platform.
In addition: the previous Transit Custom shared the platform with the larger Transit (also known as "2 tonne Transit") and that resulted in limitations. The new Custom is on a completely separate platform and is therefore completely tailored to its task. For instance, the new base is 100 kg lighter, which benefits payload and/or battery capacity. Also, the wheelbase could be extended to accommodate more batteries and that in turn resulted in a larger cargo space (5.8 to 9 m3).
The latter sounds like progress, but could also be interpreted as bad news. Commercial vehicles stay on the market for so long because entrepreneurs invest in conversions tailored to their vans. If those modifications cannot be transferred to the new van, that investment is lost. Ford does say that well-known suppliers have been notified well before the introduction of the new Custom. Therefore, they are already offering customised racks, drawers, coolers and whatnot for the new Transit Custom.
And when it comes to the introduction of the Transit: it will take place in three steps. As this is still the most in demand worldwide, Ford will first bring the real workhorse on the market: the Transit Custom with diesel engine in the base version Later, the plug-in hybrid and the more luxurious equipment levels will follow. The third and final step is the introduction of the electric e-Transit Custom.
During the test drive of the base version, it is the equipment that stands out positively. This van now offers the same luxury and safety features as Ford's passenger cars. Most striking is the display screen that extends from behind the steering wheel to halfway up the dashboard. This controls a modern audio, communication and navigation system. To avoid unsightly buttons stuck on the dashboard later, the display can also be used to control accessories such as searchlights, beacons or a cooling system.
The new Transit Custom offers all the safety features required by the European Union from 2024, and that means belittling the driver for every little thing with loud warnings and disparaging notifications. The extra-large "wide-angle" mirrors and the reversing camera have been perceived as useful safety features.
Ford promises that the seating position in the new Transit Custom is more that of a passenger car, but the opposite was experienced during the test. More than in other vans, the driver of the Transit Custom sits high and upright. The test car is fitted with a two-seater bench and it is so small (short, hard seat) that the co-drivers really feel like second-class passengers.
For the new Transit Custom, the emphasis is on the electric-powered version. The diesel engine is therefore carried over from the previous Transit Custom, but with a new intercooler and more precisely metered injection. For this test, the 136 hp version with manual transmission was driven first. The engine's enormous suppleness is striking, making it easy to shift gears (even with a heavy load!). The clutch is easy to operate and the manual gearbox changes gears with precision. Consumption over a simple route with 400 kg and 2 people on board was 7.7 litres per 100 km.
Next, the Transit Tourneo was driven with a 170 hp diesel coupled to an 8-speed automatic. The automatic shifts almost imperceptibly, giving the impression that the Tourneo has one long gear. When driving along with the flow of traffic, little of the extra power over the 136 hp version is noticeable. This only comes in handy at high speeds on the motorway. However, the automatic and the extra power do translate into significantly higher (test) consumption: 8.9 litres per 100 km.
For both diesel engines, it is noticeable that they clearly do their job audibly. Despite the improved streamline, the driving wind is also clearly audible. In terms of sound insulation, Ford has unfortunately made no noticeable progress.
The new platform also accommodates a new chassis, which is why the Transit Custom and Transit Tourneo now have semi-independent rear suspension. In doing so, the van is now 30% stiffer than before, which provides better steering feel. In practice, it also ensures so-called linear behaviour: regardless of the speed, the Transit reacts almost the same.
During the test, a clear difference was experienced between the Custom and Tourneo. The Custom steers just a little tighter and even gives a distinctly confident feel for a van (again: 400 kg load, 2 people). The Tourneo, on the other hand, has a slightly softer suspension for the sake of passenger comfort. As a result, the driver has less feeling with the mechanics, which almost enforces a calmer driving style.
With a commercial vehicle, the manufacturer's support services are at least as important as the van itself. That is why the Transit Custom / Tourneo is equipped with an internet connection that allows fleet managers to keep an eye on their fleet. The vehicle can also contact the dealer itself when maintenance or repair is needed.
After the test drive, the test driver could check the exact route driven, including speeds driven, speed violations (1 second 1 km/h too fast is an "offence") and (emergency) stops. The web-based software is easy to use and it is simple to make selections based on vehicle and time period. Nevertheless, there is one point where the software clearly falls short. When data is exported for use in other applications, only a simple format (csv) is available and not JSON or XML. Moreover, the number of exported fields is limited and by no means all data is exportable.
Ford introduces the all-new Transit Custom and Transit Tourneo. The Custom and Tourneo no longer share the platform with the larger Transit (2 tonnes), offering many advantages. Because the platform is now bespoke, it could be made more spacious, lighter, stronger and more modern. That means the cargo space is bigger and the payload capacity is higher.
The new platform also accommodates a more modern suspension. This provides better handling, especially for the Custom. The Tourneo has a softer suspension for the sake of comfort. The existing diesel engine has been revamped, making consumption marginally more favourable. The diesel engine's performance and agility are excellent.
During the test drive, the driving characteristics were found to be minor improvements. The big gains are in the richer equipment, modern safety features and many ergonomic "gimmicks" (steering wheel as a table, loading through to under the passenger seat, step under the sliding door, delivery mode, online management) that make work easier. As the platform offers space for diesel, plug-in hybrid and electric propulsion, the new Transit Custom can last for at least another 10 years!
- Modern equipment
- Sophisticated ergonomics
- Good driving characteristics
- A lot of driving noise
- Hardly any advances in diesel technology
- Meddlesome and belittling safety features