VANS aren’t always known for racy looks and alloy wheels but Ford is trying to change that with its 2020 Transit Custom Sport. We swung behind the wheel of the latest offering to see how the Sport model performs.
This writer is old enough to remember when utes were just workhorses and were the last things anyone customised or hotted up. That of course has all changed and utes are the new sports cars of the 21st century.
They’re still often workhorses, but just as often they are the personal transport of enthusiasts and customisers. The same hasn’t generally been seen in the van market though, with a few minor exceptions.
So we were really interested when Ford introduced a sporty version of its Transit, the Transit Custom Sport. It’s really just a styling exercise though and far from being a ‘hotted up’ van.
The main additions over the normal Transit Custom are styled ‘GT’ stripes and decals, added skirts and wheel arch flares, a special black trimmed grille, black 17-inch alloy rims fitted with Michelins, bi-xenon HID headlights and LED daytime running lights.
The Custom Sport package will cost you a $3550 premium over the normal $44,990 SWB Custom van. So the Transit Custom Sport will set you back $48,990 or $53,990 for the LWB Custom Sport. All plus on-roads of course.
It’s not just external trim changes either, there are also some significant interior additions, including a leather trimmed and heated ten-way adjustable driver’s seat, leather steering wheel, and some extra bits, as well as LED lighting in the load area.
At the risk of sounding like Tim the Demtel guy, but wait there is more. Under the front seats is a ‘tuned’ version of the Ford turbo diesel 2.0-litre, which delivers another 11kW and an added 15Nm of torque over the standard version.
That extra power takes it up to 136kW, with torque growing to 405Nm. It’s delivered down low to give the Transit Sport just that extra bit of agility and nippiness, an ideal quality for a van, most of which are used around crowded city roads.
In its Sport form, it’s only available with a 6-speed automatic, which is perfectly suited and well mated to the 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The engine is quiet and efficient, both in terms of performance and fuel consumption.
We had an average consumption across our week with the van of 8.1-litres/100km, which we think is pretty reasonable given it is a van, its weight, and the lack of aero profile. Thanks to a 72-litre fuel capacity, that means the van has a range of around 900km.
The Transit is Euro 6 compliant so it uses SCR with a reservoir of AdBlue to ensure the emissions are clean and free of NOx.
We have to confess we have liked the current gen Transit from the very first time we drove it, and its car like dynamics and handling make it different from most vans. With extra power and torque, great alloy wheels and those Michelin tyres, it’s very impressive.
Like any van, the ride when unladen can be a bit firm, but put 100kg or so in the back and it sits very nicely on the road indeed. But even without a load in the back the Transit steers, goes and stops with great aplomb.
The thing is, it feels like it has very good balance, with the engine set well back in its short bonnet and with the passenger compartment behind that. It feels more precise and delivers better handling than most vans.
The steering is also very precise, light and has pretty good feel. Its sharp and nippy and is really great in city traffic conditions, while the 11.8-metre turning circle is pretty impressive.
Safety has often been an after-thought in vans too, but not so the Transit Custom Sport. It gets a full suite of safety systems and boasts a 5-star ANCAP rating thanks partly to the six airbags it is fitted with.
As part of that bag of safety goodies, the Transit has autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward-collision alert, lane-departure alert, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
There’s also integrated trailer-sway control. Another interesting addition is Sync Emergency Assist, which is part of the Ford Sync infotainment system. It automatically sends your GPS position to emergency services if the airbags are deployed.
The cab is particularly quiet, thanks partly to the metal cabin divider that is fitted the passenger compartment. It provides added safety and peace of mind, as well as reducing the drumming noise that often makes vans loud and near intolerable to travel in.
It’s comfortable and easy to access, and both the driver’s seat and the steering wheel have a range of adjustment to make virtually any driver comfortable. Vision is also excellent, with large side windows, a big windscreen and narrow A-pillars.
The dash design is easy to use and well laid out, with a large speedo to the right and a tacho to the left, with a digital display showing trip computer details and other relevant info you can scroll through with the toggles on the steering wheel.
There is plenty of storage space around the cab too, with various nooks and cubby holes to stow things along the dash and in the doors. There’s also a storage bin below the passenger seats.
You’ll even find a panel that folds down from the back of the middle seat to provide a work desk for the driver. The Transit features plenty of auxiliary power as well, including a handy 240-volt power outlet, two USB slots and a normal 12-volt socket.
In the middle of the dash you get an 8.0-inch LED touchscreen which delivers satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, vision from the reversing camera, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Ford’s infotainment system is definitely one of the better ones too.
Back in the cargo area, there are plenty of tie downs, eight in fact, and access is via a left-hand side sliding door. At the back you get a pair of wide opening doors that can be released to swing all the way back on themselves.
The floor is fitted with a hard-wearing plastic cover, while the side walls a lined with a ply wood that didn’t look that hard wearing at all, and of course there is that rear bulkhead which stops cargo invading the cabin.
The bulkhead has a small window so that the driver can glance back through to see that all is right in the cargo area. The bulkhead has a fold up door that allows longer ladders and pipes to be safely pushed forward under the passenger seats too.
With an effective payload of just over one tonne (1046 kg), the very usable cargo space measures 2354mm long by 1406 mm high and is 1392 wide between the wheel arches. All that adds up to a six cubic metre load space.
Towing capacity for the auto Custom Sport is only 1800kg, compared with 2600kg for the Custom manual version, which may be a disappointment for many. That said, we enjoyed our time with the Transit Custom Sport.
If you’re looking for a van with a bit of attitude it certainly fits the bill, although there are less expensive and better value vans out there in the market.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Ford Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Ford Transit Custom Sport, contact your local Ford dealer. Pictures supplied. Overseas model shown.