Ford's Transit has ruled the British large LCV market for around half a century, its very name synonymous with its purpose. In the past, this may have had a great deal to do with tradition and the vast choice of derivatives on offer but today's sales success is very much down to quality of product. Take this Transit Custom, now improved with smarter styling and more efficient EcoBlue diesel engines. It slots into the range beneath the largest model, known simply as 'Transit', and is there to take on Vito and Vivaro-sized Medium-sized vans in the volume part of the LCV sector. It's a very complete commercial vehicle indeed.
Under the bonnet, the important news is this LCV's 2.0-litre Ford EcoBlue engine. It's offered in 105PS, 130PS and 170PS power ratings and with this updated model, buyers of the 105PS variant also get the option of a frugally-focused 'ECOnetic' variant. Across the range, customers get the option of a smooth, efficient automatic gearbox, a 6-speed SelectShift set-up. The EcoBlue powerplant has been engineered to provide strong low-end pulling power - enough to be able to tow a braked trailer of up to 2.0 tonnes. The other thing you notice at the wheel with these engines is how relatively quiet they are, thanks in part to the 6-speed manual transmission with its long gearing. And of course, the provision of a standard bulkhead across the range helps further here.
The sprightly handling and performance makes it important that the brakes are up to the job - they are. You'll also want this vehicle to be manoeuvrable, hence a decently tight turning circle that varies between 11.6m (kerb-to-kerb) and 12.2m (wall-to-wall). And should you be at an uphill junction, standard Hill Launch Assist will help you get away smoothly.
This revised Transit Custom has a smarter look that's based around a high-mounted trapezoidal grille and dynamic, slim headlamps. The cabin has been completely upgraded, with an instrument panel based on Ford's latest interior design philosophy which offers a user-centric layout influenced by consumer interactions with smart devices and tablets. High-series models feature a floating, tablet-inspired eight-inch 'SYNC 3' colour centre-dash touchscreen for communications and entertainment. For models not equipped with the larger display, the MyFord Dock in the centre of the instrument panel provides the ideal location for drivers to mount, store and charge their smartphone, MP3 player or satellite navigation system.
There's class-leading interior stowage, with up to 25-litres of space offered in the instrument panel, including three convenient open bins on its upper surface with space for clipboards or mobile devices, and generous glove box stowage capable of storing hanging A4 files in the lower closed compartment. Further extra practical features include a fold-out cup holder beneath the gear lever, adding to the cup holders and 2-litre bottle holders at each end of the instrument panel. The seats are also new, smarter and more supportive. Most models get the option of being able to fold down the middle of the three seats to create an impromptu desk big enough for a laptop or a clipboard with two cupholders, a pen tray and an elasticated band that'll keep your paperwork in place. We also like the way that folding the base cushions of both the passenger seats forward opens up a roomy, concealed 93-litre storage area for hiding away valuable items like tools.
This may be the most sophisticated medium-sized Transit van we've yet seen but businesses will still buy it for the same reasons. This Custom model remains such a simple, straightforward one-stop choice and it'll help that it satisfies a wider variety of commercial needs than any other Transit derivative. Across the rest of Europe, Transit models enjoy none of the market dominance that they have in the UK but on the evidence of this improved Custom version, you'd have to wonder whether Continental buyers are missing a trick.
That wasn't always the case of course. Ford's dominance in the British LCV sector has traditionally been founded on little more than the fact that UK buyers tended to replace their Transits with another because that was what they'd always done. That may continue, but what is different today is the quality of the product those people are buying into. Very few rivals can these days beat either this Ford's practicality or its day-to-day operating costs. It is, once again, number one for a reason.Click here to find out more about our Ford Transit Custom range