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Ford Transit Custom 2020 review: 340L LWB DCiV GVM test

Ford is advertising drive-away deals for its Transit Custom 340L ($48,190 d/a).

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The growing popularity of mid-sized commercial vans equipped with seating for five or six, generically known as crew vans, has seen an increasing number of rivals from mainstream manufacturers enter the market with a second row of seats.

One of the more recent competitors is the Ford Transit Custom DCiV, available in a choice of short or long wheelbase configurations and Custom or Custom Sport trim levels.

We recently put one of these six-seaters to work for a week to see how it performed and discovered numerous practical advantages over a dual-cab ute – and one or two shortfalls as well.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle is the Transit Custom 340L LWB DCiV which translates to 3400kg GVM, long wheelbase and Dual Cab in Van. It’s available only with a 2.0 litre EcoBlue four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and a choice of six-speed manual, or six-speed torque converter automatic transmission like our test vehicle, for a list price of $49,990.

So, it’s more expensive than Hyundai’s iLoad Crew Cab ($44,890), Toyota’s HiAce Crew Van ($47,140) and VW’s Transporter TDI 340 LWB Crew Van ($47,990), but undercuts European competitors including the Renault Trafic Crew Lifestyle ($52,490) and Mercedes-Benz Vito Crew Van ($57,650).

For that sub-$50K pricing you get 16-inch steel wheels with 215/65 R16 tyres and matching spare,  cloth seat trim, 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, dual front passenger seats (all heated), a delightful leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and reach adjustment, three 12-volt outlets, two USB ports and a single 230v (150W) power inverter to pluck just a few items from the features list.

Our test car came fitted with 16-inch steel wheels. Our test car came fitted with 16-inch steel wheels.

There’s also a four-speaker multimedia system with 8.0-inch touchscreen, steering wheel controls and SYNC3 connectivity with Applink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus DAB+ digital radio with optional sat-nav.

Ford offers numerous genuine accessories plus some factory options, including SVO or Prestige paint  (like the Moondust Silver metallic on our test vehicle) or a single-lift tailgate in preference to the standard rear barn doors.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

The LWB’s 3300mm wheelbase is a substantial 367mm increase over its SWB sibling. This results in a corresponding increase in overall length to 5304mm (or slightly shorter than a Ford Ranger ute) and a larger 12.8-metre turning circle.

The rest of the chassis hardware sticks to Transit’s proven workhorse formula comprising front-wheel drive, MacPherson strut front suspension, single-leaf springs/beam axle rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and power-assisted rack and pinion steering.

There’s hard-wearing black plastic body parts in the most vulnerable spots including the grille and front bumper, side protective mouldings, rear bumper and surrounds, door handles, hubcaps and those big truck-sized mirrors with the bottom thirds filled with wide-angle lenses.

The LWB’s 3300mm wheelbase is a substantial 367mm increase over its SWB sibling. The LWB’s 3300mm wheelbase is a substantial 367mm increase over its SWB sibling.

Rear seat passengers have easy access through sliding doors on each side, with opening privacy glass, generous 930mm-wide openings and big grab handles on the B-pillars. There’s plentiful head, shoulder and leg room in the second row, even for tall adults.

Being based on a commercial van also means the rear seat passengers have a spacious flat floor without the intrusive transmission tunnel found in dual-cab utes. Each of the three rear seating positions has its own lap-sash seatbelt and head restraint.

2020 Transit Custom Sport featured below:

Explore the Transit Custom Sport in the Ford Tradie Workshop

Discover new features of the Transit Custom Sport designed for a Tradie

The cabin bulkhead/cargo barrier is a plastic moulding with a small central window. This bulkhead tucks in closely behind the rear seat to optimise cargo space, but it also means that the seat backrest is fixed and can’t be reclined which can limit passenger comfort on longer journeys.

Engine and transmission – What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBlue four-cylinder turbo-diesel has Euro 6 emissions compliance using AdBlue fuel additive, while punching out 125kW at 3500rpm and 390Nm across a 1000rpm-wide torque band between 1750-2750rpm.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel produces 125kW/390Nm. The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel produces 125kW/390Nm.

The smooth-shifting six-speed torque converter automatic has intelligent features like shift protocols that adapt to suit different driving styles, automatic load and gradient detection and the option of sequential manual shifting.

Fuel consumption – How much fuel does it consume?

Ford’s official combined figure is 7.3L/100km and the dash display was showing 8.4L/100km at the end of our 336km test, which included about one third of that distance hauling a near-maximum payload.

Our own figure, calculated from actual fuel bowser and tripmeter readings, was higher again at 9.5L/100km.

That's still excellent for a van weighing more than two tonnes and given that we switched off  the annoying auto stop-start function. So, based on our figures, you could expect a useful driving range of around 750km from its 72-litre tank.

Practicality – How practical is the space inside?

Plentiful cabin storage options start with three levels of storage bins and a large bottle holder in each front door, plus pairs of large bottle holders on each side of the dash, three open storage bins in the dash-pad and a large single glovebox.

There’s also a small central overhead storage compartment for smaller items plus the front passenger seat base cushions can lift and tilt forward to reveal a big hidden storage area beneath. The centre passenger backrest also folds forward to reveal a handy work desk with document strap, two cup holders and a pen holder.

Up front are two large bottle holders in each door. Up front are two large bottle holders in each door.

Unfortunately, like most work-focused crew vans, this amenity is not shared with rear seat passengers. Although some open storage is provided beneath the bench seat (accessed via a removable frame), there are no cup holders or storage bins in the sliding doors, nor flexible storage pockets on the front seat backrests.

The best solution here would be a pair of aftermarket cabin organisers fitted to the front seat backrests, to provide the storage of drink bottles and other items that the sliding doors can’t. However, this amount of storage should be standard.

Being based on a commercial van means the rear seat passengers have a spacious flat floor. Being based on a commercial van means the rear seat passengers have a spacious flat floor.

The Transit’s 2251kg kerb weight and 3400kg GVM results in a big 1149kg payload capacity and up to 130kg of that can be carried on a clever trio of roof racks, which lie flat against the roof when not in use but can be quickly rotated through 90 degrees and locked into vertical positions.

It's also rated to tow up to 1800kg of braked trailer but its 4365kg GCM rating (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) would only leave 314kg of payload capacity, which could easily be used up by an adult crew of three - let alone six. Better to preserve the 3400kg GVM, which lowers the braked tow rating from 1800kg to 965kg. That's more practical and safer too.

There's enough cargo space in the back to fit a 1165mm-square Aussie pallet or two 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets. There's enough cargo space in the back to fit a 1165mm-square Aussie pallet or two 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets.

Ford claims a huge cargo bay load volume of 4.4 cubic metres which dwarfs any dual-cab ute with a canopy. And with its 1895mm load floor length (using our tape measure) and 1392mm between the wheel arches, it can carry either a 1165mm-square Aussie pallet or two 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets.

The cargo bay walls and rear barn doors (with 180-degree opening) are lined to mid-height and there’s six load anchorage points plus a handy 12-volt outlet in the right-side door pillar. There’s no protective liner on the load floor or rear wheel housings, but cabin noise emanating from the cargo bay is effectively muted by the bulkhead.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

It’s a comfortable driving position, with a well-placed left footrest and 10 manual adjustments in the driver’s seat including lumbar support and forward base cushion height. There’s also a fold-down inboard armrest on one side and ergonomic door lining on the other, which provide balanced elbow support. The dual front passenger seat can be a bit squeezy for three adults over longer journeys, but is acceptable for short urban trips.

Plentiful cabin storage options start with three levels of storage bins and a large single glovebox. Plentiful cabin storage options start with three levels of storage bins and a large single glovebox.

There’s also good braking response, sure-footed handling, smooth ride quality whether empty or full (thanks largely to the longer wheelbase) and excellent all-round vision. The sliding-door windows and large truck-style mirrors help here, boosted by the rear-view camera when reversing.

City and suburban driving keep the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel in its maximum torque zone between 1750-2750rpm, where the throttle response is always instant with impressive punch. Highway driving also optimises torque and fuel economy, with 2000rpm at 100km/h and 2100rpm at 110km/h.

Our only gripes are that the driver’s seat base cushion is a tad too short for proper under-thigh support on longer journeys. And rear-view mirror vision through the cluttered bulkhead window is virtually non-existent. It’s like looking through a letter box slot that’s full of mail.

What’s it like for tradie use?

A consummate load-hauler, thanks largely to the simple but proven design of its leaf spring/beam axle rear suspension. Large rubber cones mounted on the underfloor above the rear axle on each side can provide a second stage of springing to support heavy loads. These rubber cones were firmly engaged after we loaded 975kg into the cargo bay, which with our driver equalled a payload of 1080kg.

This also requires huge tyre pressures of 58psi front and 69psi rear, which are beyond the capabilities of most air-hoses on petrol station forecourts.

The Transit has a payload capacity of 1149kg. The Transit has a payload capacity of 1149kg.

Our load was only about 70kg short of the payload limit, yet the Transit proved its class by floating over bumps and other road irregularities with great composure and not a hint of bottoming-out. The longer wheelbase assisted here, as it allowed more weight to be carried forward of the rear wheels.

This payload didn’t touch the sides as far as the engine was concerned either, as it easily cleared our 2.0km long, 13 per cent gradient set climb at 60km/h in fourth gear at 2250rpm. Engine braking on the return journey, in a manually-selected second gear, wasn’t as strong but typical of 2.0 litre diesel engines trying to restrain one-tonne-plus payloads.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Maximum five-star ANCAP rating, albeit achieved back in 2012. Although the driver and front passengers are protected by six airbags, those seated in the second row have none, which is a surprising oversight on Ford’s behalf given the cutting-edge safety across the Transit fleet.

However, it also must be said that Ford is not alone here, so perhaps airbag protection for both rows of seats needs to become an industry standard in crew-type vans.

Even so, there are ISOFIX child seat fixtures on the two outer rear seating positions and a long list of active features including AEB, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors and an excellent reversing camera to name just a few.

Ownership – What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Compared to a typical one-tonne dual-cab ute, the Transit Custom 340L LWB DCiV offers superior enclosed load volume, rear passenger space and payload rating for around the same price. However, that needs to be weighed against a lack of storage options, seat adjustment and airbag protection for rear seat passengers, in what is otherwise a very competent crew mover.

$45,990 - $69,955

Based on 43 car listings in the last 6 months


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