Ford Transit Custom PHEV (2019 - 2023) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Full hybrid electrification was slow to reach the van market but uniquely, Ford offered it in plug-in form on its Transit Custom between 2019 and 2023. With this installation based around 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol power, there was a usable 35 mile all-electric range, decent load-carrying practicality and proper green credibility.

Models

5dr medium/large van (1.0 EcoBoost PHEV petrol)

History

Pollution in our cities won't be fully solved until vans as well as cars fully embrace electrification. But that won't happen until electrified LCV offerings become really credible. At the moment, there are a growing number of full-electric vans available, but their operating ranges are generally poor and their asking prices often unreasonably high.

So what can a city-based business working to reduce its carbon footprint do right here, right now to make a difference? Perhaps consider the Plug-in Hybrid version of the Ford Transit Custom. It's very expensive in brand new guise, but could be affordable if you find a rare PHEV example of the first generation model, produced in this form based around a 1.0-litre EcoBoost three cylinder engine from 2019. In 2023, the Transit Custom PHEV was replaced by an all-new model with a larger 2.5-litre petrol engine.

What You Get

There are no visual differences marking out the PHEV Transit Custom variant, so unless your customers happen to spot the unique badging or the charging flap, your company's green-minded LCV choice will go unnoticed. A van needs to look smart, modern and professional. This one does, with signature kinetic design features that bring quite a sporty stance and bold rising shoulder line, clearly marking out this design as a cargo carrier very much of its time.

Inside, the cabin design on better-specced models features Ford's sophisticated 'SYNC 3' 8-inch infotainment touchscreen. This offers 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring, Bluetooth, audio and, if specified, navigational functions and delivers intuitive voice control too. The seats have been designed for decent support, materials quality is vastly better than you might expect and there's plenty of interior stowage around the cabin, primarily through the provision of three dash-top open stowage areas. As usual on a Transit Custom, there's a three-person seating layout and the centre backrest folds down to create a desk-top area. In addition, the seat base lifts to reveal extra storage capacity.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

We've come across no reports of problems with the PHEV engineering here, so issues are really only those that apply to the ordinary Transit Custom. This LCV generally has a strong reliability record, but our ownership survey did throw up a few issues to look out for. The interior isn't the last word in sophistication but it is hardwearing. This Transit is built to be extremely tough, and has benefited from many years of continual development. Check for damage to locks, tired rear suspension and rogered brakes. Plus make sure that the load bay tie-downs aren't bent or broken. As usual, look for a full service history; with vans of this value, there's little excuse for skipped servicing or scrimping on maintenance.

Look out for rusting rear door hinges and check the outer CV joint rubber boot covers for splits. They wear and if they let water in, the CV joints will wear quickly. Underneath, check for oil leaks - there have been reports that the crank oil seal can let oil out between the engine and the gearbox.

Replacement Parts

[PHEV 1.0 EcoBoost - 2020 - ex VAT] You'll pay £8-£12 for an oil filter and £24-£27 for an air filter. It's £8-£52 for a wiper blade. Front brake pads are in the £25-£67 bracket. A pair of rear brake discs is around £110. A headlamp is in the £177-£259. A tail light is in the £127-£165 bracket. A water pump is around £50; a thermostat around £28. A shock absorber around £80-£98.

On the Road

A PHEV Transit Custom isn't very different to drive from a combustion-powered one, though if the battery's charged, you'll find it surprisingly quick away from rest, thanks to the instant torque of the electric motors. Enough to wear your front tyres quite quickly if you're not careful with your right foot. This PHEV variant comes in first generation form only with Ford's 124hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost three cylinder petrol engine, which usually you'd think would be a bit feeble to power an LCV of this size but which in this case, gets a little extra help. As part of the Plug-in hybrid set-up, it's paired with a 92.9kW electric motor powered by a 13.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack that's capable of providing for a 35 mile all-electric driving range. Overall range once the petrol engine kicks in is around 310 miles.

At the wheel, there are four drive modes to choose from. Most of the time, you'll use 'EV Auto' (which combines the engine and battery to best effect). If you're in town and want to use battery-only motion, you'll select 'EV Now'. There's also 'EV Later' (which stores up battery charge for later in your trip); and 'EV Charge' (which uses the petrol engine both to power the van and top up the battery, though that's not very economic).

Overall

We don't really understand why it's taking LCV makers so long to embrace the advantages of plug-in hybrid tech, but that's all good for Ford, who have been given a free run with that technology at the van segment with this Transit Custom PHEV.

Our biggest concern with this product when new was price and even when used, it's hardly inexpensive. But if you can balance that outlay against lower running costs, it could add up as a proposition. Certainly, it goes without saying that unless you really take advantage of its all-electric savings, that outlay won't make sense. But if you can and you use this Ford properly, its hybrid attributes might really benefit your business. Plus there are all the usual advantages of Transit Custom ownership - practicality that's unimpeded by the PHEV tech and great driving dynamics.

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