Ford Transit Custom Plug-in Hybrid Reviewed

In Car Reviews, Electric, Ford, Hybrid by Tim Barnes-Clay

When is a Transit not a Transit? When it’s a Custom Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

Yes, Ford carries on its van offensive with the ushering in of this new model, offering efficiency and pragmatism in one package. But is it more than just an electrified box on wheels? Let’s dig a little further to take a closer look at this offering from the blue oval.

With its neat looks on the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Transit PHEV is all mouth and no trousers. Well, it’s quite the opposite. 

The Transit PHEV is a no-nonsense mode of transport, and space and practicality are the reasons the Transit exists. Inside, the trim is not only attractive but hard-wearing, too. Plus, you get lots of cubbyhole storage, and there’s decent shoulder room, legroom and headroom.

The Transit’s ride is astonishingly good and is much better behaved than Transits of old. It’s well sprung, so it copes with bumps and ruts very well. And considering its practical focus, the Ford steers with fantastic dexterity. The fact that the van houses a lovely sized, grippy steering wheel and a smooth single-speed transmission help with responsiveness. 

When it comes to corners, the somewhat tall Transit soon lets you know you’re going past its limits because body roll kicks in liberally. Even with Ford’s heavy battery pack weighing things down at the rear, grip runs out – so don’t get over-confident. But not many folks who will go on to buy or lease this Transit are going to want to push it past its limits.

The Transit Custom PHEV is also more refined than you’d ever imagine at first glance. The well-bolstered seating brings added luxury, as does the air conditioning. Indeed, the A/C guarantees a comfy environment, whatever the weather. As a result, it is relatively hushed on the road, even at speed. We thought it might sound echoey, considering the roomy and relatively high-ceilinged interior, but it was only the wind howl from the door mirrors that interrupted us on our drive.

You get a great view out, too; the raised driving position makes you feel on top of the world. And when you scrub off speed to park, things are just as agreeable. The van is easy to slot into awkward spaces, which is great if you’re, say, delivering goods under pressure in hectic environments.

The Transit Custom PHEV’s 13.6 kWh battery pack helps to give a zero-emission driving range of up to 35 miles. The onboard 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit can also charge the battery pack on-demand to extend its range to around 300 miles.

The vehicle can be totally recharged in less than four hours and thirty minutes from a standard domestic electrical socket, or in under three hours via a commercial charging station.

What’s more, the new Ford Transit Custom Plug-in Hybrid now comes with the option of geofencing technology to help enhance the air quality in urban areas. Using live location data, the van automatically shifts to its electric drive setting whenever entering predefined places, like congestion zones.

You can also create “green zones” for low-emission driving near playgrounds and schools. Then, when the Transit leaves a controlled zone, it automatically changes to the best drive mode for the next part of the journey.

Better still, the geofence feature in the PHEV records data about electric-only use. Then, the encrypted information can be shared with authorities to confirm compliance with low-emission zone rules, avoiding wrongful penalties.

The Ford Transit PHEV is solidly built, and the cabin looks like it will handle years of hardcore use. What’s more, the blue oval has a decent name for manufacturing reliable vans and cars. This means this new Transit should prove dependable. For extra peace of mind, Ford commercial vehicles come with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty.

The crash-test safety body, Euro NCAP, doesn’t usually test vans, but you’re in safe hands if you go for this Transit. You get airbags up front and electronic stability control to keep you on the straight and narrow. Ford also offers kit such as tyre pressure monitoring and lane-keeping alert. In addition, new electric power-assisted steering has recently been ushered into the Transit range.

When it comes to security, the Transit has suffered a little bit of negative press. This is because it hasn’t always stood up well to break-ins. Happily, Ford upgraded the central locking system back in 2017 to help stop would-be thieves. This doesn’t mean the latest Transit is bullet-proof (or villain-resistant), even though it looks like it is. So, it’s best not to leave anything in the Transit that means a lot to you. Then, of course, you could upgrade the locks. Ford makes any upgrading easy to do because it offers its own assortment of trade vehicle locks.

There’s also a FordPass Connect system that can send you an alert to your ‘phone if your Transit’s alarm is triggered. A smartphone app that works alongside this enables you to see your vehicle’s location at any given time.

Car reviewed: Ford Transit Custom 340 Leader PHEV

on the road price as tested £47,214

  • 0-62mph N/A
  • Top speed 75mph
  • Engine 999cc 3-cylinder unleaded
  • Electric Motor 92.9kW electric motor + 13.6kWh battery
  • Max Power 126PS
  • TorqueEngine/Motor 355Nm
  • Combined Mpg  91.1 mpg
  • CO2 emissions 69g/km
  • Transmission automatic
  • Load Volume 6000 1itres

Tim Barnes-Clay

Motoring Journalist

Tim Barnes-Clay qualified as a journalist in 1994 and is a member of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers. He initially trained in broadcast journalism and has worked as a reporter and news reader at various radio stations in East Anglia and the Midlands. He has also been a motoring journalist for the Mirror Group’s L!ve TV cable network and a presenter, reporter and producer at ITV Central in Birmingham. Tim is now an automotive writer, focusing on car reviews. He has media accreditation with all motor manufacturers’ press offices, and this enables him to test drive the latest cars. He also attends new vehicle press launches at home and abroad.