The 2019 Ford Transit Custom 300S short wheelbase van arrives in an already busy market segment. It has always had a loyal following, however, the Transit has consistently been overshadowed by Toyota's HiAce and the like.
Sure, this new Transit is a nice-driving feature-packed van and it's more than ready for work duties, especially when optioned up with driver-assist tech, dual side load (sliding) doors and more, but can it really be considered an appealing potential purchase against such popular models as HiAce, Hyundai iLoad and Volkswagen Transporter? Read on.
Our test vehicle was packed with extra stuff so its MLP is $48,890.
Our test vehicle was packed with extra stuff so its MLP is $48,890. Our optional extras* included Blue Metallic paintwork ($650), dual side doors with windows ($1700), rear liftgate ($550), Tech Pack (including AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, blind spot information system, tyre pressure monitoring system, automatic wipers – $1600), and sat-nav ($600). (Note: according to Ford officials, a lot of the options on our test vehicle will be standard features in the updated Custom, due to arrive here in September.)
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
This van has a 2.0-litre EcoBlue four-cylinder diesel engine – producing 96kW@3500rpm and 385Nm@1500-2000rpm – and is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. And it's a tremendous combination: very gutsy when needed and always clever and smooth.
This van has a 2.0-litre EcoBlue four-cylinder diesel engine.
How practical is the space inside?
The interior of the Custom is very much a work-friendly space: hard-wearing plastic expanses and durable cloth seats, and a cabin full with a vast variety of storage spaces.
The interior of the Custom is very much a work-friendly space.
Our test vehicle does have great all-round versatility with regards to loading and load-carrying.
There is a claimed 7.2 cubic metres of load space in the short-wheelbase Transit Custom.
It also has bright yellow grab handles tucked just inside the side doorways.
There's a durable hard plastic liner on the floor.
Have you ever seen a van without a dash over-loaded with a plethora of bits and pieces? Me either. Well, the Custom's dash has shallow paper, pen and notebook receptacles to swallow up all of your job-related debris. Elsewhere, there is a deep glovebox, plus three levels of storage, including a bottle holder, in each door, cupholders and bottle-holders for driver and passenger bordering the instrument panel, and other receptacles here and there. It really is a well-thought-out space.
The Sync3 system is very easy to use on the move, the 8.0-inch touchscreen is clear and hooking up a phone is on the right side of simple.
The rear cargo area does not have any seats, but our test vehicle does have great all-round versatility with regards to loading and load-carrying, especially with dual side-loading doors and rear lift cargo door. There is a claimed 7.2 cubic metres of load space in the short-wheelbase Transit Custom, that's based on a load height (floor to ceiling) of 1406mm, a load width of 1775mm, and a load length of 2554mm* at floor height and 2400mm at a 1.2m-high load height. (*That figure blows out to 3037mm if you include the load-through bulkhead hatch that opens beneath the passenger seat at the floor.)
The cargo area has bright interior lighting in the upper corners and eight sturdy tie-down points/loops down low. It also has bright yellow grab handles tucked just inside the side doorways and hardboard lining on the walls and a durable hard plastic liner on the floor.
What's it like as a daily driver?
It's easy to spend a lot of time in this van because the seats are just so bloody comfy and roomy, with space enough for three adults.
The seats are comfy and roomy, with space enough for three adults.
Storage and controls are all easy to locate, access and operate on the move.
Driving position is nice and high – it is a van after all – and visibility in all directions is pretty good, due to all the glass on this van (part of the side loading door options), as well as its clear rear-view camera.
Steering is well-weighted and, for a van, the 2042kg Custom is very lively on packed city streets with quick-off-the-mark acceleration when needed – that punchiness also comes in handy when overtaking on the highway. The Transit Custom is also very nimble with an 11.6m turning circle.
The 2.0-litre diesel has plenty go about it and, while the engine mostly produces only a muffled in-cabin clatter, there is some wind rush around the big wing mirrors on the open road, which can be mildly annoying.
Ride is generally well contained with little skippiness evident, even with nothing onboard, but obviously the Transit Custom feels more at home shouldering a burden, so, of course, we loaded it up.
It has a claimed payload of 958kg. We threw* in 520kg, nowhere near its payload limit but enough to give the Custom a good workout on a stop-start run out of Sydney's Friday afternoon traffic snarl, onto the highway and up and down some long hilly stretches on the way to our destination. (*Okay, we used a forklift to gently place a pallet into the Custom.)
It was smooth driving all the way – ride and handing were unaffected and the slick engine-and-auto combination didn't miss a beat.
A high roof option is available (at an extra cost of $1500) but we were happy with our 2000mm-high Custom, whose height rises to 2124mm when the three roof racks are deployed into position.
How much fuel does it consume?
Claimed fuel consumption is 7.2L/100km (combined). We recorded 8.4L/100km after more than 300km of driving, including an almost 60km drive from Sydney, carrying 520kg of load weight, and a 95kg driver, onboard.
It has a 72-litre fuel tank and a 21-litre AdBlue tank.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
It has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing intervals are recommended every 12 months/30,000km. Maximum cost for each service (as per Ford's service price calculator) is $445 (for service No.1), then $590, $445, $590, and $445 for the fifth service (at the five-year or 150,000km mark).
The Transit Custom is very nice to drive, almost car-like, and it's as practical as a multi-tool. It's roomy, comfortable and functional and has real appeal in terms of drivability and workability.
Sure, at the moment, you have to throw down extra cash to make the Transit Custom even more versatile than it is as showroom standard, but if you have to spend many long hours in a van as part of your work life, then you may as well spend those many long hours in something that drives well, works well and is comfortable to boot.
If you can wait until September then you'll be able to climb into an updated Custom which is claimed to have a lot of the current optional extras as standard.
Can the Transit compete with the HiAce? Tell us in the comments below.
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