Ford Transit Custom - First Drive - Motoring News - Motoring - The Independent

Ford Transit Custom - First Drive

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Ford has worked the very latest in-car technology and creature comforts into the Transit Custom from the beginning

Ford Transit Custom Tourneo Limited (Long Wheel Base)
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
Power: 155 PS at 3,400rpm
Torque: 385 Nm at 1,600rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 43.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 172g/km (average)
Top speed: N/A
Acceleration (0-60 mph): N/A
Price: £33,495 inc VAT on the road, Custom Tourneos from £28,285 inc VAT on the road (short wheelbase), Transit Custom vans from £18,316 ex VAT on the road.

Ever since the Ford Transit van first went on sale in the UK in 1965, British buyers have taken it to their hearts. A market leader from the start, it still out-sells its nearest four rivals combined and accounts for roughly a third of all van sales in its size bracket. Of the 6.8 million Transits sold so far, 2.1 million found a home in the UK.

But the Transit has never been quite as British as it looks. Ford’s UK and German operations each used to have their own separate ranges of vehicles which shared little in terms of components or looks but the 1965 Transit was the first jointly-developed trans-European model designed to break down the inefficiency and duplication involved, marking the first step in the long process of consolidation that saw our own distinctive British Fords – Anglias, Corsairs, Zephyrs and the rest – consigned to history. In fact, in one respect, the Germans have a bigger claim on the Transit than we do; our first Transit is their second-generation model because they had their own domestic market van of the same name before the pan-European version came along. And while the UK has always made lots of Transits – it’s the only vehicle Ford still assembles in Britain – most are now manufactured in Turkey.

It goes without saying, of course, that the arrival of a new Transit is an event of enormous importance for Ford, both in the UK and elsewhere – and new Transits don’t come along very often. In fact, if you look beyond all the facelifts and other tweaks that have taken place over the years, there have only really been three all-new models since 1965. The last one arrived in 2000, although it got a big update in 2006, and now it’s time for a full model change again. This time, though, there will be two new Transits rather than one; the mainstream model will get bigger, and the smaller versions are being replaced by a vehicle with a new badge, the Transit Custom.

The next “big” Transit will be unveiled for the first time at Hannover’s commercial vehicle show next month, but the Custom, is already here, and it should be of greater interest to mainstream car buyers than previous models because Ford is pitching the passenger-carrying Tourneo version as a serious alternative to mainstream people-carriers. There have always been mini-bus versions of the Transit and other vans, of course, but in the past, the seats and windows have sometimes been a bit of an afterthought, making for a less than thrilling passenger experience. Now, though, the passenger versions are developed in step with their load-carrying counterparts from the very beginning and the results are a lot better.

“Car-like” is an over-used term employed by motoring journalists to describe any old van or 4x4 that has had a few of its rough edges rounded off but the Transit Custom is one of the few models with roots in the world of commercial vehicles that truly merits the description. That starts with the driving position and the dashboard; if you’ve ever driven a Focus or any other modern Ford, you’ll immediately feel right at home behind the wheel of the Transit Custom. The general dash layout and many of the instruments and minor controls seem to be carried over from Ford’s car range, although there is a slightly chunkier feel to some of the switchgear, as if it has been designed to be operated by gloved fingers, and some of the plastics look as if they have been designed to withstand scuffs and hard wear, rather than to delight at the first touch - but these are minor concessions to van-style use. More impressive is the fact that Ford has worked the very latest in the way of in-car technology and creature comforts into the Transit Custom from the beginning, most notably its voice-activated SYNC technology, which has only just started appearing in the company’s European passenger cars in the last few weeks.

Three main body styles are being offered to start off with; a standard panel van, a “kombi” double-cab-in-van version with two rows of seats and a van-style rear, and finally the Tourneo, which has a fully windowed body and three rows of seats. All three body styles are available in either short or long wheelbase forms. The Transit Custom is unmistakably a Ford – no other manufacturer except for Audi has done more to establish a uniform across-the-range look – although its large wheel-arch mouldings recall those of one rival, the Hyundai i800. For the rest, the stylish curves and creases of Ford’s “Kinetic Design” philosophy do a good job of disguising the Transit Custom’s bulk.

I drove the top-of-the-range Tourneo passenger model with the long wheelbase and the most powerful 155 horsepower version of Ford’s 2.2-litre Duratorq engine (less powerful variants provide 100 or 125 horsepower). The base engine is a carry-over from previous Transits but has been honed over the years to provide improved power and refinement, and does a good job here – although I drove the Tourneo in an empty, rather than fully-loaded state. Apart from what felt like a slightly longer travel and heavier clutch, the Transit Custom is really just like a car to drive, an achievement that is all the more impressive when you consider that like most vehicles designed to carry a big load, it has old-style single-leaf springs at the rear.

If drivers have no need to feel short-changed when they switch from a car or car-based MPV to a Transit Custom Tourneo, it’s really passengers and their possessions that get the best deal. The seats are comfortable and even with the third row in place, there’s plenty of luggage space. That’s especially true of the enormous long-wheelbase version but even the shorter Tourneo does quite well here too. Ride comfort is very good indeed – or at least it was on the smooth Bavarian roads on which I drive the Transit Custom at its launch event yesterday.

Any drawbacks? Well if you’re expecting bargain basement pricing just because the Tourneo has van roots, think again. The long wheelbase version with top-of-the-range Limited trim tops out at a slightly giddy £33,495, which is pricey compared with the less polished Ssangyong Rodius and Hyundai i800 from Korea, but not bad at all compared with the expensive Volkswagen Caravelle and the surprisingly rough and ready Mercedes Viano. And the Custom should hold its value much better than previous Transits – at least according to estimates from residual value experts CAP.

The new Transits, large and small, are expected to sell more widely than previous versions. If the 1965 van broke down the barriers between the British and German Ford subsidiaries, the 2012 models will help to dissolve the dividing lines between Ford’s operations in Western Europe on the one hand and Eastern Europe and North America on the other as the company tries to sell the same products around the world under its “One Ford” programme. The Custom is good enough to win friends wherever it is sold or made, but British Ford fans can still claim a special link to the new model; it was designed in the UK, where the company maintains its main centre for the development of light commercial vehicles.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Manager with some Agile experience

    £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

    Data/ MI Analyst

    £25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

    KS1 Teacher Cornwall

    £23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

    Corporate Communications Manager - London - up to £80,000

    £60000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week