Ford Transit Custom hybrid van review
|Van type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||26 miles||92mpg||70g/km|
If you’re looking to steer away from diesel vans, but think a pure-electric model is a leap too far, the Ford Transit Custom PHEV could be just the ticket. It’s currently the only plug-in hybrid van on sale in the UK – mixing the benefits of a short pure-electric range with the flexibility and versatility of a punchy turbocharged petrol engine.
Based on the familiar Transit Custom – a mid-sized van designed to rival the Volkswagen Transporter and Mercedes Vito – this plug-in hybrid sits alongside the diesel models in the Ford van's range and is aimed at customers who want to dramatically lower their tax bill and running costs.
Power comes from a 1.0-litre petrol engine paired with a 125bhp electric motor, both of which drive the van's front wheels. A 13.6kWh battery gives the Transit Custom PHEV a zero-emissions range of 26 miles (or up to 30 miles in city driving), with a full charge taking around two hours and 45 minutes using the Type 2 socket located under the front-left headlight. Plug the van into a standard three-pin outlet and you’re looking at a charge time of four hours and 20 minutes.
With the battery located under the floor, Ford hasn’t compromised on carrying capacity: there's still 6.0m³ of space to play with. The maximum payload is down on the diesel Transit's, but if you’re only carrying small packages or parcels, the Custom PHEV’s 1,130kg carrying capacity shouldn’t be sniffed at.
There are four driving modes to choose from – accessed using a button on the dashboard: EV Auto, EV Now, EV Later and EV Charge. The van defaults to EV Auto on start-up, allowing it to work out the most efficient mix of petrol and battery power for your journey.
The Transit Custom PHEV starts in silence and it’s extremely quiet on the move in electric-only mode. It’s so quiet, in fact, that it emits a low-level hum to alert pedestrians to its presence on the road: a feature made mandatory by regulations introduced earlier this year. The Transit Custom PHEV remains quiet even when the engine kicks into life, only getting noisy under harsh acceleration or when tackling a steep incline. At cruising speeds on the motorway, you’ll barely be able to distinguish the engine note from the road and wind noise caused by the mirrors.
Driving the Custom PHEV is extremely easy, with no gears to worry about. In electric mode, it accelerates surprisingly quickly, with the motor delivering instant torque. Meanwhile, slowing down is aided by two levels of regenerative braking, which recycles forward momentum back into electrical energy, topping up the battery on the move.
The official fuel-economy figure of nearly 92mpg looks like an enormous improvement over a typical diesel Transit, too. But – as is the case with all plug-in hybrids – this assumes you’ll make full use of the battery power, with regular charges when not in use. The more you can plug in, the better your fuel economy will be.
The CO2 emissions figure of 70g/km also relies on regular battery use, although Ford has a trick up its sleeve here: the Transit Custom PHEV uses 'geofencing' technology to work out when it has entered a low-emission zone (LEZ), such as the London ULEZ. You can pre-programme the software using the infotainment screen, and it means the van will automatically switch to electric-only mode in built-up areas, or where tailpipe emissions may incur a fee.
Available in Van and Kombi bodystyles (customers have the option of the eight-seat Tourneo Custom PHEV minibus as well, don’t forget), the Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid is a welcome addition to the manufacturer's line-up. Electric running with little compromise on carrying capacity is ideal, but the only downside is price: excluding VAT, it starts from a few hundred pounds shy of £40,000, which is a lot to pay up front. The prospect of low running costs – especially for those working in a low-emissions zone – should be enough to justify the initial outlay, however.
For a more detailed look at the Ford Transit Custom PHEV, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.