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Ford Transit Custom 2021 review: Sport 320S SWB tow test


Daily driver score

3.9/5

Tradies score

3.9/5

The Ford Transit van has cemented its reputation as a go-to work van for small businesses and company fleets, and the Custom Sport variant adds to that rep.

In 320S* panel van guise it’s a nice-looking short-wheelbase van obviously set up for work duties, but offering enhanced drivability. (* In this case, the ‘320’ stands for 3200kg gross vehicle mass (GVM) – even though this vehicle’s GVM is actually listed as 3100kg. The ’S’ stands for short-wheelbase.)

This van may be engineered to carry loads onboard without hassle, but is it any good at towing a load? We hooked up a 1765kg cherry picker to this popular van to see how it’d perform.

Read on.

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

The Ford Transit Custom Sport 320S SWB (short wheelbase, low roof) has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder EcoBlue turbo-diesel engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and is front-wheel drive.

Price as tested, at time of writing, was $49,590.

Standard features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, partial leather seat trim, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated driver and passenger seats, Sports interior trim (gloss black IP insert, chrome vent surrounds), telescopic and tilt adjustable steering column, four-speaker sound system and more. 

Standard features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard features include an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Driver-assist tech includes AEB (with pedestrian detection), blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, side wind stabilisation, trailer sway control and more.

The exterior is frozen white paint (no additional cost), and it has 17-inch machined alloy wheels with a steel spare.

Other colours are Orange Glow and Blue Metallic (no additional cost for either), while Magnetic, Agate Black, and Moondust Silver are all prestige colours and as such incur an additional charge of $650.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

This is a nice-looking van and quite obviously engineered for work-life – the Ford Transit winning formula of blending appeal with practicality is well and truly on show.

In pure measurement terms, it is 4973mm long, 2272mm wide and 2000mm high. Kerb weight is listed as 2054kg

This is a nice-looking van and quite obviously engineered for work-life. This is a nice-looking van and quite obviously engineered for work-life.

The load space is 2554mm long (up to bulkhead), 3037mm long (that includes the load-through hatch in the bulkhead), 1775mm wide, 1392mm wide (between wheel arches), 1406mm high (from load floor to roof).

In Sport guise the van wears body-coloured bumper/rear bumper/bodyside moulding 

body-coloured mirrors, sports body kit (front/rear), and those distinct body stripe/sport decals.

This low roof, short-wheelbase variant has a more streamlined appearance than some of its bulkier, long-wheelbase stablemates and, replete with its fetching colour-scheme choices and racing-stripe design, it will help you immensely with any #vanlife aspirations you may have.

Explore the Transit Custom Sport in the Ford Tradie Workshop

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

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Ford Transit Custom Sport 320S has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder EcoBlue turbo-diesel engine – producing 136kW@3500rpm and 405Nm@1500-2000rpm – and a six-speed automatic transmission. 

It has Normal or Eco drive modes.

This smaller-capacity engine and auto work well together, a proven combination, though the match-up errs on the side of low-key efficacy rather than any white-knuckled zippiness.

This van is a front-wheel drive vehicle.

How practical is the space inside?

Upfront the interior is made for long work days: the seats (with partial leather trim) are comfortable, the plastic dash and other surfaces are durable, storage spaces are numerous and easy to access, and the touchscreen unit is simple enough to operate on the fly.

There are two USB ports, three 12V Sockets (interior and rear cargo area), as well as glove box, dash-top storage shelves and recesses, two cupholders, a two-litre bottle holder in each door, door storage pockets, and under-seat stowage compartment on the passenger side. 

Upfront the interior is made for long work days with comfortable seats and durable surfaces. Upfront the interior is made for long work days with comfortable seats and durable surfaces.

The six-cubic-metre load area is well-fitted out for work duties with a kerbside load door, 180°-opening rear twin barn door with window, eight tie-down points, protective wood panelling on the interior walls and doors, load floor lining, and load area compartment LED light.

As mentioned before, but just in case you missed them, here are the load space dimensions: it is 2554mm long (up to the bulkhead), 3037mm long (that includes the load-through hatch in the bulkhead), 1775mm wide, 1392mm wide (between the wheel arches), and 1406mm high (from load floor to roof).

When you need to throw some gear up top, the van’s three roof racks (130kg-capacity) can easily be flipped upright from their flat, stowed-away position and then locked into place to cop their burden.

What's it like as a daily driver?

Rather nice, actually. That may not come as much of a surprise to anyone who spends any time whatsoever in a Ford Transit but, for a commercial van, it really is easy to spend time in. 

The notion of long work days is not palatable at the best of times, but at least you’re afforded a lot more comfort in this van than perhaps in many others of its ilk.

There’s nothing miraculous here to make a note of, the van is simply a very successful combination of a low-key, stress-free engine and auto, smooth and settled ride, and the kind of rock-solid composure you might expect in a bigger vehicle.

With a leather-wrapped telescopic- and tilt-adjustable steering wheel, and a 10-way power-adjustable heated driver’s seat with an arm-rest, it’s bloody easy to get your driving position dialled in and ready for a long day in the saddle.

Visibility is decent, except for down through the middle to the rear (but more about that later), steering is light enough for hard-working (loading and unloading) hands, and for a work van with an 11.8m turning circle, it always feels like a smooth easy steerer.

It’s very easy to spend long work-hours in this van.

What's it like for tradie use?

This van has a listed maximum payload of 1046kg, a braked towing capacity of 1800kg and a gross vehicle mass of 3100kg. 

We attached a 1765kg cherry picker to tow over a 100km drive loop. We attached a 1765kg cherry picker to tow over a 100km drive loop.

But, remember, with regards to listed capacities, the trick to hauling a load and/or towing is to always keep well under your vehicle’s load capacities and that will ensure you’ll always stay legal and, more importantly, stay safe.

For this test, we towed a 1765kg cherry picker over a 100km drive loop that included suburban and highway driving, as well as rather steep uphills and downhills thrown into the mix. 

All the characteristics that make the 320S such a nice daily driver unladen – unfussed engine and auto, consistently smooth ride and handling and steady composure you can count on – are carried over when you are towing something substantial at the back. It really is impressive with that maximum towed load, much better than any dual cab we’ve towed the equivalent with

The engine and auto transmission generally work pretty well together. Engine braking, however, is a bit lacklustre, particularly on steep downhills, when it has to work and rev hard. That’s due to the smaller capacity engine, so it’s expected. 

The MacPherson strut front and rear leaf-spring suspension on a solid beam axle is quite basic, but works well, keeping everything stable and composed in a consistent way. 

There are one or two niggles though, including visibility to the rear being compromised. There are one or two niggles though, including visibility to the rear being compromised.

There are one or two niggles though, but they're not too serious. 

Niggle one: visibility to the rear is compromised. This van has a centre window in the bulkhead allowing you to see, via the rear view mirror, back through the windows in those rear barn doors but where those doors close together is right in your line of vision, obstructing a lot of what you can see. However, that strife is somewhat negated by the two big wing mirrors and each one has a wide angle lens in its at the bottom third. And that tends to give you a bit more vision down the side and a little bit to the rear.

Niggle two: Having towed the same cherry picker with this van’s LWB stablemate (the 320L DCiV – double cab in van) this is marginally more likely to chirp the front tyres, no doubt due to its shorter wheelbase, and it more readily experiences any kind of weight-transfer shift, and the same goes for fore / aft ‘bobbing’. It's not terrible, but it is noticeable – this is simply not quite as pinned down as the long wheel-base.

This van has a listed maximum payload of 1046kg, a braked towing capacity of 1800kg and a gross vehicle mass of 3100kg. This van has a listed maximum payload of 1046kg, a braked towing capacity of 1800kg and a gross vehicle mass of 3100kg.

How much fuel does it consume?

This van has an official fuel-consumption of 7.2L/100km (on a combined cycle).

Our actual fuel-consumption figures – for towing and not towing over the same loop – were 8.5L/100km (unladen) and 11.1L/100km (towing).

It has a 72-litre fuel tank and a 21-litre AdBlue tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Ford Transit Custom Sport has a five-star ANCAP safety rating from Ford Transit testing in 2012.

It has six airbags (driver, front passenger, front side curtain and front side seat) as well as driver-assist tech including AEB (with pedestrian detection), blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, side wind stabilisation, trailer sway control and more.

The Ford Transit Custom Sport has a five-star ANCAP safety rating from Ford Transit testing in 2012. The Ford Transit Custom Sport has a five-star ANCAP safety rating from Ford Transit testing in 2012.

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

You can easily see why the Ford Transit Custom Sport has such a good reputation as a light commercial vehicle. 

And it's easy to understand why the Ford Transit won our 2019 CarsGuide Tradie Car of the Year award because this van’s combination of ergonomics, functionality and convenience really make it a great total package and, as evidenced here, it’s also a very competent towing vehicle. 

$48,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Tradies score

3.9/5
Price Guide

$48,490

Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.