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Ford Transit Custom auto 2017 review


Daily driver score

4.2/5

Tradies score

4.2/5

Although Ford's Transit is Europe's most popular commercial van it has struggled to compete with the likes of Toyota's top-selling HiAce and Hyundai's iLoad in Australia's mid-sized (2.5-3.5 tonne GVM) van segment, largely due to the lack of an automatic transmission.

In June 2017 Ford Australia's patience was finally rewarded with the 2017-25MY (or first quarter 2017 model year) VN Transit Custom offering an automatic option for the first time. The new six-speed self-shifter also heralds the arrival of Ford's new generation Euro 6-compliant 'EcoBlue' 2.0 litre turbo-diesel engine.

CarsGuide had its first drive of the latest Transit Custom at Ford's official launch function in June but as always we were keen to get our hands on a suitable example to test its load-hauling ability at or close to its GVM rating.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

There's little to distinguish the latest 2017-25MY Transit Custom from its predecessor, with the only visual differences being full wheel covers in place of hub caps, different badging, and a subtle chrome grille strip.

Its 2933mm wheelbase, MacPherson strut front and leaf-spring beam axle rear suspension are well designed for load carrying, with hollow-core rubber cones mounted above the rear springs that engage with the chassis rails to provide additional support under heavy payloads. Kerb weight (1905kg) has increased by 37kg over the previous model.

One of the only visual differences between the latest 2017-25MY Transit Custom and its predecessor are full wheel covers in place of hub caps. (image credit: Mark Oastler) One of the only visual differences between the latest 2017-25MY Transit Custom and its predecessor are full wheel covers in place of hub caps. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering makes light work of using the excellent 10.9 metre turning circle, and four-wheel discs provide strong and predictable braking with or without a load.

The user-friendly cabin offers heated seating for three. Driver comforts include a height/reach-adjustable steering wheel, four-way adjustable seat including lumbar support and base cushion rake, swing-down inboard armrest and left footrest.

The steel bulkhead, which seals off cargo bay noise from the cabin and doubles as a robust cargo barrier, reduces driver fatigue and increases safety. We reckon all commercial vans sold in Australia should be fitted with these bulkheads.

The car-like cabin creates comfortable seating for driver and passenger. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The car-like cabin creates comfortable seating for driver and passenger. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

How practical is the space inside?

The addition of an automatic transmission has resulted in a 3.0kg increase in payload (now 1035kg) and a 40kg increase in GVM (now 2940kg) over the previous manual model, but a sizeable reduction in towing and GCM ratings.

Maximum braked towing capacity has dropped 700kg (now 1800kg). And the GCM, or how much load you can legally carry and tow at the same time, has seen a substantial 1160kg fall to 3940kg, hence our lower score.

Driver and passenger have numerous storage options with bottle holders and storage pockets in each front door. (image credit: Mark Oastler) Driver and passenger have numerous storage options with bottle holders and storage pockets in each front door. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

In simple terms, you would need to reduce the 1035kg payload by a totally impractical 800kg to legally tow 1800kg, leaving a payload of just 235kg. Maybe enough for a crew of two with an empty cargo bay. Useless. In real world driving, setting a maximum braked trailer weight of 1000kg would provide a more realistic payload capacity (like an extra 800kg!) and a better-balanced load  between trailer and vehicle when towing.

The cargo bay's (VDA) load volume is 5.4 cubic metres. The load floor is 1775mm wide, and 2555mm long, with an internal floor-to-roof height of 1406mm. With 1390mm between the wheelarches, it can easily swallow two 1160mm square standard Aussie pallets. Wall and floor protection comes standard along with internal lighting and eight tie-down points for securing loads.

Other useful features carried over from the previous model includes a load-through hatch at the front of the cargo bay, which accesses the empty space beneath the front passenger seats for carrying extra-long items. A combined load of 130kg can also be carried on the trio of hinged roof racks which sit flat against the roof when not in use.

  • The cargo bay's (VDA) load volume is 5.4 cubic metres. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The cargo bay's (VDA) load volume is 5.4 cubic metres. (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • The load floor is 1775mm wide, and 2555mm long, with an internal floor-to-roof height of 1406mm. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The load floor is 1775mm wide, and 2555mm long, with an internal floor-to-roof height of 1406mm. (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • It can easily swallow two 1160mm square standard Aussie pallets. (image credit: Mark Oastler) It can easily swallow two 1160mm square standard Aussie pallets. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Driver and passenger have numerous storage options with bottle holders and storage pockets in each front door, plus cup/bottle holders on each side of the dashboard, a shallow storage unit with clamshell lid set into the driver's side dash-pad (with internal USB and 12 volt connections) and a single glove box large enough to take A4-sized files.

The centre seat backrest also folds down to reveal two more cup holders and a handy, flat work surface with an elastic strap for securing paperwork. And there's a huge hidden storage area beneath the passenger seats (when the cargo bay's load-through hatch is closed) which can be easily accessed by lifting and tilting the base cushions.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle was one of several used at the launch and still wearing its bright yellow vinyl body wrap. That's why the roof and internal panels are white in our photos, in case you were wondering.

It's a 290S (290 for wheelbase in cm, and S for short wheelbase) equipped with Ford's optional 'City Nav Pack' which includes sat nav, 'SYNC1' upgraded multimedia with a larger 5.0-inch screen, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera (viewed through the SYNC screen) and front fog lights.

Pricing starts at $39,690 for the manual, with an additional $2750 for the new auto ($42,440). Add another $2100 for the City Nav Pack ($44,540). Other options available for the first time include a single swing-up tailgate ($550), dual side-loading doors ($1000) plus a huge choice of SVO (Special Vehicle Option) body paint colours with more than 100 to choose from ($1150). Non-SVO 'Prestige Paint' is also available ($550).

It comes with a Full-size steel spare. (image credit: Mark Oastler) It comes with a Full-size steel spare. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The new 2.0 litre engine is the first of Ford's new generation 'EcoBlue' turbo-diesels. It meets the latest Euro6 emission standards, with SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) using AdBlue.

Its 96kW at 3500rpm and 385Nm at 1500-2000rpm provides a 4.0 per cent gain in power and 10 per cent boost in torque over the 2.2 litre 'Duratorq' engine it replaces, along with a 13 per cent gain in fuel economy and 4.0 decibel reduction in engine noise at idle.

The new 2.0 litre engine is the first of Ford's new generation 'EcoBlue' turbo-diesels. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The new 2.0 litre engine is the first of Ford's new generation 'EcoBlue' turbo-diesels. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The new six-speed intelligent 'SelectShift' transmission is designed and built by Ford in the US, featuring unique shift calibrations tailored to the new EcoBlue engine and a fluid coupling (torque converter) for smooth changes and long service life.

Intelligent features include automatic load and gradient detection, adaptive shifting to suit different driving styles, the ability to lock out certain gears when hauling heavy loads, and an excellent sequential manual-shift option, which provides rapid fire 0.5 sec shifts via a small toggle switch on the gearshift operated by thumb.

How much fuel does it consume?

Ford claims a combined figure of 7.2 litres/100km and the dash read-out was showing 8.4, but our figures based on fuel bowser and trip meter readings came in at 9.8 litres/100km, which was a tad higher than we expected.

This was achieved in a variety of driving conditions and under different loads, with the auto stop/start function active. Based on these figures you could expect a driving range of around 730km from its 72-litre tank.

What's it like to drive?

The car-like cabin creates comfortable seating for driver and passenger, although a centre passenger would find the limited leg room uncomfortable on long journeys. The large door mirrors, with the bottom third in wide view, provide excellent rear vision combined with the rear view camera.

Our only criticism here is that when the equal-width rear barn doors are closed, their centre pillars combine to create a large blind spot right in the middle of the rear view mirror. Different width doors (one wide, one narrow), as seen on some rival LCVs, which off-set these pillars to improve the driver's rear view, would be a useful refinement here.

We loaded 830kg into the cargo bay, which, with a 100kg driver, equalled 930kg, or about 100kg under its maximum payload rating of 1035kg. The leaf-spring rear suspension compressed only 35mm with the nose dropping 17mm, leaving ample wheel travel.

Engine, tyre and wind noise are pleasantly low at highway speeds.

The suspension is well designed for these GVM loadings and the flexibility and pulling power of the new EcoBlue engine is also impressive, helped by the new six-speed auto with shift protocols that keep the engine operating at peak efficiency in stop-start city delivery work, or on the open road.

Engine, tyre and wind noise are pleasantly low at highway speeds. The cabin bulkhead is a big contributor to this, along with the six-speed auto's over-driven higher ratios which result in only 2000rpm at 100km/h and 2250rpm at 110km/h.

The Transit performed superbly on our 2.0km (13 per cent gradient) set climb with more than 900kg on its back. The auto shifted down to fifth and kept the engine right in the middle of its peak torque curve at 1750rpm, easily maintaining the 60km/h speed limit all the way to the top with minimal throttle angle.

Engine braking on the way down wasn't as strong, as we've come to expect from small capacity engines like these. We used the sequential manual shift option to hold second gear on the descent, with regular brake applications to stop it spinning freely to redline on over-run.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Transit rates a maximum five stars from ANCAP, plus an impressive armoury of active and passive safety features including, driver and passenger front, side curtain and seat airbags, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, but no AEB.

The dynamic stability control menu includes hill launch assist, roll-over mitigation, load adaptive control, trailer sway control, traction control and a new feature called 'Side Wind Stabilisation' (SWS), designed to help drivers stay in their lane if the van is buffeted by sudden cross-winds or turbulent air created by large trucks.

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

There is now a three year/200,000km warranty (previously 100,000km) and service intervals of 12 months/30,000km (previously 15,000km). A nice addition is 24/7 roadside assistance for the first 12 months.

You're looking at a capped price of $425 for first and third scheduled services, and $645 for the second scheduled service, which includes brake fluid replacement.

After our first drive in June we concluded the latest Transit Custom with EcoBlue engine and six-speed automatic had all the credentials needed to be a serious player in the 2.5-3.5 tonne van segment. After our GVM test, that conclusion hasn't changed. It's competitively priced, and well designed, with few faults. This van is worthy of serious consideration.

Would you consider buying a Transit Custom now it's available with an automatic transmission? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$30,888 - $40,988

Based on 22 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.2/5

Tradies score

4.2/5
Price Guide

$30,888 - $40,988

Based on 22 car listings in the last 6 months