The Transit Custom is comfortably the UK’s biggest-selling LCV and the May addition of an automatic transmission to the line-up is likely to see the critically acclaimed medium van tighten its grip on the market still further.
The Custom, in fact, was already the UK’s 12th best-selling vehicle, including cars, overall in April on 2,582 registrations, according to the SMMT, and in the first four months of the year Ford had shifted 17,849 units – more than twice as many as the second most popular van, its big brother the Transit.
The six-speed SelectShift automatic is available with the 130 or 170hp derivatives of Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, and the brand’s stop/start system comes as standard with a view to keeping fuel consumption in check, particularly on busy urban drop-off assignments. Official consumption for the 170hp automatic is 40.9mpg with CO2 of 178g/km, which compares to figures of 42.8mpg and 171g/km for the manual equivalent.
Prices for the auto kick-off at £25,340, excluding VAT, which is a steep rise of more than £5,000 from the starting price of the Custom range as a whole.
Ford claims it engineered the SelectShift auto specifically for the Transit Custom and Transit and adds that the system has a new torque converter and external casing to optimise refinement, with a maximum torque capacity of 415Nm. Also new to Ford’s LCV line-up is the latest Transit Custom Sport Van series. It is offered just with the 170hp engine in automatic mode and is the model tested here, with the short-wheelbase L1 body.
The Sport Van’s body kit includes a colour-coded exterior with body side mouldings and wheel-arch extensions. The exterior gets two-tone silver and black 17-inch wheels, front and rear bumper skirts, side skirts and twin bonnet stripes in a contrasting colour. On the inside you’ll find partial leather trimmings and standard tech such as a rear-view camera and lane-keeping aid.
Ford claims it has improved roll control with a new, thicker front anti-roll bar and the addition of a rear anti-roll bar, combined with softer rear springs and damper tuning with firmer setting on the rear.
Anyone familiar with the Custom range will recognise the similarities in the Sport’s stylish interior, and features include a 10-way manual driver’s seat with armrest, a fixed dual passenger seat with the Ford-pioneered load-through bulkhead, and heated driver and passenger seats. A four-inch touchscreen with DAB radio CD, USB connectivity, Bluetooth and emergency assistance comes as standard, but our van got the Ice Pack 40, which extends the screen to five inches and bundles in satnav too.
Practical additions in the load bay included a 150W power socket, a 12V auxiliary power point and LED loadspace lights. These extras increased the price from £29,590 to £31,270.
The Transit Custom range is rightly renowned as being excellent to drive, and on the road the auto Sport is everything you’d expect in terms of its fine handling dynamics.
The 170hp engine is unstintingly generous in its power delivery and there is a pleasing taut weightiness to the steering that other brands’ vans simply do not match. There is no delay between changes as the engine moves smoothly through the automatic cogs, and the firm suspension means corners can be taken without any alarming body roll.
With the addition of an excellent automatic transmission to an already high-quality line-up, the Custom’s dominance of the market is set to continue indefinitely.