2013 Ford Transit Custom

2013 Ford Transit Custom

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Not quite white van man

Robert Barry

The original rear-wheel-drive Ford Transit introduced in 1965 was a small delivery van with car-like handling but six generations later, it has grown into a considerably larger vehicle, and one that competes with large vans such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter, and Fiat Ducato.

image105883_bSo last year in an effort to crack the mid size van market (Hyundai iLoad, Mercedes-Benz Vito, Volkwagen T5) Ford New Zealand launched the front-wheel-drive, one-size-fits-all Transit Custom, a vehicle which harks back to the original Transit concept of being fun to drive and practical to use.

The short wheelbase low roof Transit Custom is available comes with one transmission, a six-speed manual transmission from $49,490, and Ford recently added a long wheelbase high roof version to the local market priced from $55,990.

The short wheelbase vehicle pictured here is exactly representative with rear barn doors, and one sliding door on the left hand side. Buyers can choose to add an additional sliding door on the right hand side of the Transit Custom and a top hinged tailgate instead of the rear barn doors.

71613-transit-bulkheadTo jazz up the presentation of this particular vehicle, Ford New Zealand added the racy silver bonnet stripes, the alloy wheels and the rear tow bar package, but in all other aspects it was stock standard. A writing colleague christened the van with the nickname ‘Stripey’, which seemed very appropriate.

It’s powered by a 2.2-litre inline-four cylinder diesel engine, maximum power is quoted at 114kW and maximum torque of 385Nm is available at 1600 rpm.

The stubby little gear lever sprouts out from the dashboard and has a very nice feel to it, with crisp changes, but we did find on the road that first gear is very highly geared, and when laden or moving off uphill, a good dose of revs are needed to get the Transit Custom off the line.

Fuel consumption for ‘Stripey’ hovered around the 9 to 10L/100km mark during our month long test period.

image105886_bSo why is Car and SUV testing a delivery van you ask? A very good question indeed.

The long story cut very short, was that over the Christmas break, I’d decided that some house renovations were in order, as well as a trip north to spend time with friends at a DOC camping site near Whangarei. The idea being that we’d throw a mattress in the back of our test vehicle as use it as a mobile tent, should inclement weather arrive at the camping site.

We also wanted to see how ‘Stripey’ performed as a daily driver and a mobile office for couriers, retailers and trades people.

Climb up into the driver’s seat (with a single adjustable armrest) and you find a user friendly dashboard with cup and bottle holders at each end of it, as well as a lidded storage area on top of the dash, directly in front of the driver where you can plug your cellphone into a 12-volt USB power supply, and enormous door pockets that will easily swallow clipboards and the like.

image105887_bThe passenger seat has a split seat cushion which allows under seat storage, and is an ideal place to stash laptop bags and other items out of sight.

One nice touch is the mobile phone holder found near the gear shift lever, which gives a secure place to stash an iPhone or a similar sized phone.

Other functions on offer include the Ford Sync infotainment system with a voice-activated Bluetooth telephone and audio system that can also read out text messages.

The leather bound steering wheel also contains remote controls for the phone and audio functions, as well as the trip computer and cruise control operation. Manual air conditioning is standard and effective, and because of the full steel bulkhead with a glass partition directly behind the driver and occupants, the cabin temperature can be easily controlled in hot and cold conditions.

image105888_bThe bulkhead also contributes to a quieter environment when on the move as well as separating the driver and passengers from the freight compartment and preventing any unnecessary movement of cargo.

Ford says the cargo area can accommodate three Euro sized pallets or six cubic metres of freight, as well as 2400mm x 1200mm sheets of wallboard or plywood. A flip up access panel in the bulkhead at the floor level will allow items of up to 3 metres in length to be carried.

One unique feature to the Transit Custom are three integrated folding roof racks which can carry up to 130kg but fold down when not in use, which allows the van to be parked in underground and building car parks, and also contribute to better fuel economy, unlike permanently fixed roof racks which do not.

Tie down points are positioned on the side of the load space rather than the floor, which leaves the floor clear of obstructions- and its easier to keep clean. Ford has installed a vinyl moulded floor liner, which allows freight to be slid across it without damage, and it can be easily hosed out after the delivery of a particularly dirty load.

We also didn’t need to worry about sand and other detritus from the camping trip and the renovation project scratching the floor of the Transit Custom, a sweep out with a broom, followed by a wet mop and it was as good as new.

As a daily driver the Transit Custom was quiet and powerful, once you were underway. As mentioned earlier, first gear is quite tall, and moving off, especially when laden, needs a firm prod on the accelerator.

There is very little difference in its on-road behaviour whether laden or not, it handles very well for a light commercial vehicle and the big side mirrors, with integrated repeaters provide good visibility while on road.

The only issue we had with the vehicle was reversing out of an angled car park or trying to parallel park in a tight space. Thanks to the bulkhead and the lack of rear windows the Transit Custom can be a challenge to park occasionally, and this is one vehicle that should have a reversing camera and rear parking sensors fitted as standard.

As an economical and fun-to-drive day to day workhorse and mobile office, we think the short wheelbase Transit Custom is more than capable, just add some bonnet stripes for more character.

Price $49,490

Pros

  • Easy to drive
  • Quiet motorway cruiser
  • Easily cleaned rear cargo space

Cons

  • Rear visibility compromised
  • No reversing sensors
  • No automatic transmission available

Specifications:

  • 2198cc four-cylinder turbo diesel
  • Six-speed manual transmission
  • Max power 114kW/3500 rpm
  • Max torque 385Nm/1600 rpm
  • Fuel consumption 6.6L/100km
  • C02 emissions 174g/km
  • Twin airbags
  • Electronic Stability Control, ABS, EBD.
  • Manual airconditioning
  • Integrated roof rack system
  • Ford Sync with bluetooth and voice activation
  • 12 volt USB power outlet
  • Cruise control
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