Ford Transit Custom PHEV review

RAC Breakdown Cover

RAC Breakdown Cover

Complete peace of mind for just £7 a month.

*Price reduced on vehicle based Basic cover on 16/02/24.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Ford pioneered PHEV technology in the van market with the original plug-in hybrid Transit Custom. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the MK2 model.

Ten Second Review

Full hybrid electrification has been slow to reach the van market but Ford offers it in plug-in form on its Transit Custom, now in second generation form. There's a usable 31 mile all-electric range, decent load-carrying practicality and proper green credibility for your business on offer here.

Background

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 wide range 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? Well, if a mid-sized LCV is required, they could perhaps consider this, the second generation version of Ford's Transit Custom PHEV model. It's not full-electric but it can, unlike the mild hybrid version of the full-sized Transit, be run solely on electric power.

Driving Experience

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 now comes with Ford's 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol powerplant (replacing the previous PHEV model's 124hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost three cylinder petrol engine). As part of the Plug-in hybrid set-up, this 2.5-litre unit's paired with an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack (now 11.8kWh in size) that's capable of providing for a 31 mile all-electric driving range. Overall range once the petrol engine kicks in is around 300 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).

Design and Build

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 prominent hexagonal front grille panel is flanked by angular, slim LED headlamps which are topped by wrap-around daytime running lights. Ford talks about the 'rebalanced proportions' and 'confident stance' of this MK2 design, which become more obvious as you walk around it. There's increased visual width both front and rear. As before, there's a lengthier long wheelbase body shape option too. And the E-Transit Custom gets its own unique front grille.

Inside, the key change over the MK1 model lies with the freshly installed 13-inch 'SYNC 4' centre touchscreen. It's angled towards the driver for ease of use and is powered by a 5G modem for superfast connectivity to the Ford Pro tech stack. The brand's designers went to such lengths when considering how owners would use this Transit Custom that even the grains on materials used in the cabin and load area are designed to use textures that avoid trapping dirt and water, giving the best balance between offering a firm footing for wet or muddy boots and enabling heavy items to be slid in and out easily. 

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.

As van drivers often occupy the cabin alone, the heating and ventilation system has a new 'Driver Focus Mode' option that uses sensors to direct airflow only to occupied seats. An intelligent windscreen monitors temperature and humidity, and automatically makes small heat and airflow changes to proactively keep the windscreen clear for improved efficiency and ease of use. 

Market and Model

This Plug-in hybrid comes in either standard-length (L1) or long wheelbase (L2) guises, but there's no option for the H2 high roof body style you can have on other Transit Custom variants. You can't have base 'Leader'-spec (as offered with the diesel versions), so the trim choice is between 'Trend' or plush 'Limited'. Expect prices starting from around £45,000 for the L1H1 'Trend' version, though from that you can deduct the government's £5,000 Plug-in van Grant, as this model is classified still as an 'electric vehicle'.

Auto transmission is of course standard with the PHEV drivetrain and all models get automatic headlamps, tinted glass and a 13-inch 'SYNC 4' centre touchscreen with a 5G embedded modem. Plus air conditioning, body-coloured bumpers and wheel covers. Along with clever vehicle-to-load power sockets up-front, allowing you to tap into the vehicle's battery in order to power devices up to 2.3kW, like lap tops or kettles. Top 'Limited' variants also get 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, a 'Sensico' leather-covered steering wheel and an alarm.

Practicalities and Costs

The Transit PHEV can't be had in H2 high-roof form, but you can at least now get it in long wheelbase L2 guise. And, as before, the way that Ford has packaged up the battery pack below the floor, the payload (of up to 1,327kg in 'Trend' spec) and the load volume (6.0m3 in the L1 version) are the same as for the equivalent diesel-powered version of this van. The cargo area load width is 1,777mm, narrowing to 1,392mm between the wheel arches. The door aperture height is 1,314mm.

What about running costs? Well a domestic 240V 10A power supply would charge this LCV in 4.3 hours; you could reduce that to 2.7 hours with a commercial type-2AC charger. The battery pack is covered by an eight year, 100,000 mile warranty. Ford claims that the total cost of ownership is 'comparable to or better than a diesel'. This PHEV variant's CO2 emissions are rated at around 60g/km.

Summary

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, challenged only with this tech by LEVC's VN5. Otherwise, the Blue Oval brand is being given a free run with that technology at the van segment with this Transit Custom PHEV, which in second generation form is a useful step on from its predecessor.

As before, our biggest concern with this product is price - at around £45,000-£50,000 ex VAT before grant deduction, 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.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Join the RAC and get Breakdown Cover. Our patrols fix most breakdowns on the spot, with repairs done in just 30 minutes on average.

RAC Breakdown Cover
RAC Breakdown Cover