While Ford is having a tough fight for sales in the new-car sector, its commercial vehicles are going from strength to strength. The Ford Transit Custom is a case in point, because even though it’s due to be replaced later this year, the current generation that’s been on sale since 2019 is still a top choice in the medium-sized van class.
It’s not just something we’re saying for effect, either, because the Transit Custom is one of Ford’s best-selling vehicles of all in Europe. It’s helped by the variety of versions that are available, with two body lengths, two roof heights and a versatile Double Cab In-Van, too. One particular highlight that we’re testing here is the Transit Custom Active, an upmarket version that offers SUV-style looks, much like the Fiesta Active and Focus Active from the passenger car division.
Ford Transit Custom Active range
The Transit Custom Active is a high-spec version of Ford’s medium-sized van, and is currently the most expensive model in the line-up. It comes in two guises, both two-seat panel vans, in two lengths. The L1 version costs €47,112 or €46,912 excluding VAT, while the L2 version is €48,010 (€47,810 ex. VAT). The L1 van is 4,973mm long and the L2 version adds 367mm, which is all between the axles. Both versions of the Transit Custom Active feature a single sliding side door, with the option to add a second sliding door at extra cost. Both the L1 and L2 versions have the same size of sliding door opening, measuring 1,030mm wide and 1,324mm high. At the back, there are double doors that open to 180 degrees to create access measuring 1,404mm wide and 1,347mm high. The double doors can be swapped for an unglazed top-hinged tailgate, again for extra cost.
Cargo capacities are among the best in the medium-sized van class, with a maximum of six cubic metres on offer in the L1 van, and 6.8 cubic metres in the L2 version. Cargo bay dimensions include a load space length of 2,554mm (2,921mm for the L2 van), a maximum width of 1,775mm, 1,392mm between the wheelarches and a load area height of 1,392mm.
There’s one engine option, which is the most powerful 170hp 2.0 EcoBlue diesel that’s available in the Transit Custom. It comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, but unlike some versions of the Transit Custom, Ford’s ‘mHEV’ mild-hybrid tech isn’t offered. Official fuel consumption is quoted at 7.5 litres/100km for the L1 van, while the heavier L2 version is slightly less efficient, at 7.7 litres/100km.
Ford Transit Custom Active interior
It’s familiar territory in terms of cargo carrying in the Transit Custom Active, but it’s in the cab where the biggest changes take place. Active spec is a two-seater – there’s a twin passenger seat option, though - but both seats feature part-leather trim, armrests and heating, plus there’s electric adjustment for the driver’s seat. Curtain airbags are also included.
The rest of the cab is a match for other top-spec Transit Customs, with air conditioning, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a digital rear-view mirror and a Category 1 Thatcham alarm all included. There’s also an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, two USB sockets, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus Ford Pass Connect online services. If you want navigation, that costs extra, while other options include a tow bar, rear ladder, lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control and xenon headlights.
The other Active elements are added to the exterior, where you’ll find diamond-cut 17-inch alloy wheels, full-length running boards, a unique grille design, black door mirrors and silver roof rails, plus lower bumpers, wheelarches and sills all trimmed in black plastic.
Ford Transit Custom Active driving experience
All of the changes made to the Transit Custom Active have done nothing to spoil the way the van drives, and in fact it feels a bit sportier courtesy of its wheel and tyre combination. Only the Transit Custom Sport comes with larger diameter wheels, but the 17-inch rims used on the Active version offer a good balance between comfort and grip.
Unlike the Fiesta and Focus Actives, there’s no increase in ride height for the Transit Custom version. However, it’s a tall enough van already, and the amount of body lean it creates means you’re not going to be pushing the limits too far - you’re certainly more likely to back off before the van loses composure.
The diesel engine is a punchy performer when the van is unladen. It’s not the most powerful diesel van on the market (the Volkswagen Transporter holds that title), but there’s enough here to cause the front tyres to break traction if you’re heavy with the accelerator pedal off the line. That slick six-speed manual means you can rattle through the gears quite easily, though, while the steering has enough feedback to let you know what’s going on at the front wheels - not many vans have the same ability.
Overall the Transit Custom Active is a good performer, and while the suspension is clearly geared towards cargo carrying, it’s far from being the bounciest medium-sized van when you’re running empty. Make the most of the van’s one-tonne payload, and you won’t be struggling for performance courtesy of that punchy diesel.
Alternatives to the Ford Transit Custom Active
Rivals don’t really make anything like the Transit Custom Active as most upmarket medium-sized vans are either sportier (such as the VW Transporter Sportline or Opel Vivaro GS Line), or pile on the equipment.
Some opposition could come from within the Transit Custom ranks, though, with the Sport or Trail models. The latter features black detailing that’s inspired by Ford’s US market pick-up trucks, right down to the big FORD lettering emblazoned across the nose. It also comes with a mechanical limited-slip differential, so it should be more accomplished in the rough. It’s not quite as upmarket as the Active model inside, but it does cost around €2,000 less than the Active and is also available with the 130hp diesel, as well as in 3.4-tonne guise.