The Ford Transit Custom van is enjoying the benefits of a midlife facelift in 2019. While this generation of Ford Transit went on sale locally in 2014 – and in Europe in 2012 – it still has a few years left in it yet.
Commercial vehicles such as utes and vans tend to have 10-year model cycles, whereas passenger cars and SUVs switch to completely new models in about half that time. So, although this facelift is a couple of years old, in the van world it’s relatively recent.
Since the arrival of the updated model, the Ford Transit Custom has come from the back of the pack and now sits comfortably in third place in the van sales race behind the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad.
While the top two sellers maintain a commanding lead, the Ford Transit has benefited from a suite of advanced safety tech – some of which is not available on rivals such as the Hyundai iLoad, Renault Trafic and Mitsubishi Express.
While the Ford Transit Custom range starts from about $45,500 drive-away in its most base tradie guise, what we have here is the flagship 2021 Ford Transit Custom Sport 320L LWB DCIV.
The name might be a tongue-twister but, translated, it’s the long-wheelbase version of the Ford Transit Custom, yet with a second row of seats, sliding doors on both sides, and barn doors at the rear.
Full retail is about $59,600 drive-away; however, as this road test was published there was an offer of $54,090 drive-away – including the first three scheduled services for free (valued at $1047).
This price puts the Ford Transit Custom Sport at the premium end of the two-row, five-seater van segment. The crew version of the Hyundai iLoad (diesel and automatic) costs from $47,600 drive-away, while the crew version of the Toyota HiAce (diesel and automatic) costs from $53,500 drive-away.
However, the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad lack the sporting flavour of the Ford Transport Custom Sport.
In addition to some additional go-fast stripes, the Ford Transit Custom Sport comes with a set of 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin tyres, bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, and a blacked-out grille.
Inside, there are partial leather seats, a leather steering wheel, 10-way electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, and a fold-down centre armrest. Heated side mirrors and a heated windscreen complete the list of fancy stuff, though this is probably only useful in cooler parts of Australia in the dead of winter.
Creature comforts such as a digital speed display in the instrument cluster, and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and digital radio, are standard across the Ford Transit Custom range – although embedded navigation comes with this model, whereas it’s an option on other variants.
Standard safety features include six airbags, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-zone warning, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, speed sign recognition, trailer-sway control, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and Ford’s 000 emergency assist (which, in case you’re incapacitated, will automatically contact emergency services if airbags are deployed, your phone is paired to the vehicle and you’re in mobile phone range).
A five-star safety rating from 2012 (adapted from European crash tests) still applies to the Ford Transit. However, it is unclear how the Ford Transit would score today if tested against the latest, more stringent criteria.
Warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres and service intervals are 12 months or 30,000km, whichever comes first.
Capped-price servicing for the first five years is as follows: 12 months/30,000km $349, 24 months/60,000km $349, 36 months/90,000km $349, 48 months/120,000km $349, 60 months/150,000km $465.
These routine servicing prices are among the cheapest in the van business – and Ford’s price certainty covers a greater distance.
The Toyota HiAce costs $245 per routine service visit, but the capped-price deal runs out after two years and 40,000km (the intervals are six months/10,000km), and the costs are anyone’s guess after this period.
The Hyundai iLoad has 12-month/15,000km service intervals and there are three pre-paid service plans available: three years/45,000km ($1083), four years/60,000km ($1597) and five years/75,000km ($1958).
Before we move on to drive impressions, here's how the Ford Transit Custom Sport 320L LWB DCIV compares against the numbers of its nearest rivals.
|Model||Length (mm)||Width (mm)||Height (mm)||Wheelbase (mm)||Turning circle (m)|
|Ford Transit Custom Sport 320L LWB DCIV||5340||1986||2023.4||3300||13.0|
|Ford Transit Custom 340L||5340||1986||2017.1||3300||12.8|
|Ford Transit Custom 340S||4973||1986||2020||2993||11.6|
|Mitsubishi Express/Renault Trafic SWB||4999||1956||1971||3098||11.8|
|Toyota HiAce SWB||5265||1950||1990||3210||11.0|
|Volkswagen Transporter SWB||4890||1904||1990||3000||11.9|
|Mitsubishi Express/Renault Trafic LWB||5399||1956||1971||3098||13.2|
|Toyota HiAce SLWB||5915||1950||2280||3860||12.8|
|Volkswagen Transporter LWB||5290||1904||1990||3400||TBC|
|Model||Length (mm)||Width (mm)||Width between wheel arches (mm)||Height (mm)|
|Ford Transit Custom Sport 320L LWB DCIV||1944||1775||1392||1406|
|Ford Transit Custom 340L||2767||1775||1392||1406|
|Ford Transit Custom 340S||2400||1715||1392||1406|
|Mitsubishi Express/Renault Trafic SWB||2537||1662||1268||1387|
|Toyota HiAce SWB||2530||1760||1268||1340|
|Volkswagen Transporter SWB||2555||1700||1244||1410|
|Mitsubishi Express/Renault Trafic LWB||2937||1662||1268||1387|
|Toyota HiAce SLWB||3180||1760||1268||1615|
|Volkswagen Transporter LWB||2938||1700||1244||1410|
|Model||Manual (kg)||Auto (kg)|
|Ford Transit Custom Sport 320L LWB DCIV||NA||969|
|Ford Transit Custom 340S SWB||1387||1339|
|Ford Transit Custom 340S LWB||1330||1282|
|Mitsubishi Express SWB||1150||1115|
|Mitsubishi Express LWB||1200||1150|
|Model||Manual (kg)||Auto (kg)|
|Ford Transit Custom Sport 320L LWB DCIV||NA||1800kg|
|Ford Transit Custom SWB||1500||2000|
|Ford Transit Custom LWB||2800||2000|
|Mitsubishi Express SWB||2000||1715|
|Mitsubishi Express LWB||2000||1630|
|Toyota HiAce diesel||1900||1500|
On the road
Vans aren’t supposed to handle corners particularly well. They’re designed to carry goods, not cut lap times, which is why the suspension is still a touch on the firm side, making it busy over bumps.
So, despite the appearance of the Ford Transit Custom Sport, it still drives like a van. Fortunately, however, you’re treated to a little more comfort.
The partial leather seats with 10-way power adjustment combined with tilt and reach steering help you find the ideal driving position. Bi-Xenon headlights turn night into day (I reckon more vans should have decent candles, given the time they spend on dark country roads).
As is the case with most vans, there is ample storage space on the top of the dash and in the doors (why don’t utes and SUVs have this level of practicality?).
The main cabin has two USB ports and three 12V sockets, though a household power point is not available on this model (it’s standard on top-end Ford Rangers and heavy-duty Ford Transit vans).
The back-row seats are rather upright but have ample head room and leg room, and there’s a sturdy cargo barrier to block out noise and loose objects from entering the passenger compartment.
Worth noting: the windows on the side doors slide open horizontally (and manually) rather than winding down at the press of a button as per a conventional car. But the convenience of being able to open the side sliding doors in tight parking spaces is not appreciated until you experience it.
Visibility is excellent (for a van) thanks to the wide-view side mirrors and vast windscreen.
The turning circle is surprisingly broad (at 13.0m it needs more space than a double-cab ute to make a U-turn).
The steering is light and easy, although it gets heavy and then unwinds too quickly at times, likely because it’s front-wheel drive and responding to accelerator input.
The six-speed torque converter automatic transmission shifts intuitively. There are buttons on the gear lever if you want to shift up or down manually.
Vans aren’t known for their refinement and quietness, and after a week in the Ford Transit, it’s fair to say empty vessels do make the most noise. The Ford Transit is not raucous, but I found it easier to make and take phone calls when wearing ear buds rather than trying to yell above the road noise and into an embedded microphone.
The 2.0-litre single-turbo diesel four-cylinder has a little more pep than the standard version: outputs have risen from 125kW/390Nm to 136kW/405Nm for this model. And it requires AdBlue (there’s a 22L tank to supplement the 72L diesel reservoir).
Given the promise of extra power, we put a VBox on it to see what the fuss was all about. The Ford Transit Custom Sport stopped the clocks in the 0–100km/h dash in a leisurely 11.5 seconds unladen (similar to other vans but a touch slower than the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux and Isuzu D-Max double-cab utes).
Emergency braking performance from 100km/h was disappointing, despite the fitment of quality Michelin tyres. The stopping distance of 44.4m is among the worst of any vehicle we’ve tested, and longer than the current crop of double-cab utes (39–42m). Room for improvement, then.
The official fuel economy claim is 7.3L/100km. On test we averaged between 7.0 and 8.8L/100km in a mix of city, suburban and freeway driving.
Overall, the Ford Transit Custom Sport is a decent alternative for double-cab ute owners who want a more spacious and more practical cabin – and a larger, covered cargo hold. The RRP is on the high side, but the current drive-away deal brings the cost back to earth.
The Toyota HiAce still feels like a more complete package (and it has among the best resale value of any vehicle in Australia); however, the short service intervals and limited capped-price servicing period weigh against it.
The Hyundai iLoad is holding its age well, but it lacks advanced safety tech now considered the norm.
For now, though, there is nothing quite like the Ford Transit Custom Sport.