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Ford Transit Custom - The Ultimate Road Test

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Ford Transit Custom - The Ultimate Road Test

The North Coast 500 is a tourist trail circling the very northern tip of the U.K, and takes in the finest of what the Scottish Highlands has to offer. When three members of the vanleasing.com team decided to undertake the NC500 challenge on two wheels we knew the services of a support van would be required to cart around food, equipment, tools and provide some much needed moral support. We were happy to oblige, supplying the team with one of our most trusted vehicles - the Ford Transit Custom. As our biggest seller and Britain's most popular LCV since breaking onto the scene in 2014 it seemed the most sensible companion.

Setting off from Glasgow the route would take in almost every type of road. From the busy M8 motorway to Scotland's many A and B routes, not to mention single tracks and Britain's highest road on the infamous Applecross Pass.

This experience was going to be a challenge not only for our cyclists but also for the Transit Custom. We called it 'the ultimate road test'!



Ford Transit Custom Test

Day 4 of the trip - a fantastic view looking out over and beyond the Kylesku Bridge.

 

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'Travelling light' and cycling trips aren’t really compatible, so with six bikes, a weeks worth of food, tools, equipment, clothes and (for some strange reason) an ironing board, we were fully loaded and ready to go. The side and rear loading doors on the Transit Custom came in very handy as it meant we could put the bikes towards the front half of the load area for easy access from the side door and then leave the less frequently required items towards the back of the loading area to be accessed from the back doors. The bonus of fully loading the van was it gave an accurate representation of performance in a real life situation. Many vans are reviewed with nothing in the load area, which kind of defeats the purpose in our humble opinion! With the van fully loaded, the two-man support crew headed off for Inverness...



Ford Transit Custom Test

The Transit Custom at John O'Groats. Thank goodness for the rear parking sensor or we might
have backed into the sign!

 

On the motorway

 

As soon as we set off the first thing we noticed is how car-like the Transit Custom is to drive, more so than any panel van on the road today. It's comfortable, manoeuvrable and provides a quiet and refined drive on the motorway. The new 2.0 litre Euro 6 engine was more than capable even with a full load in the back. Ok, acceleration is hardly like that of a Ferrari XX, but it is smooth up to 70mph without feeling like you have to fight with the gearbox. The best gadget of all for motorway driving has to go to Cruise Control - it's not a feature that often comes as standard on panel vans but what a difference it makes on long journeys.

Ford Transit Custom Test

Probably the biggest passing place on the whole trip! After a whole day on single track roads it was time
for a well earned rest

 

On the A roads

 

When we got up past Perth and towards Inverness, the motorways turned into dual carriageways and before long into single carriageways. The Custom performed brilliantly again in these conditions, and as we began to drive through the city of Inverness and towards our hotel for the evening we realised just how manoeuvrable the van is. Driving a panel van around busy city streets can often be a chore, but it's amazing how small Ford have made the Custom feel. This doesn't feel like a cumbersome panel van with poor visibility and a large turning circle. It feels more like you're driving something much nimbler like a VW Caddy or Citroen Nemo.



Ford Transit Custom Test

See anything out of place? Look closer. Yes that is a live chicken in our van (we still have no idea how it got there)

 

Getting Remote (and Britain's highest road)

 

If you've never been north of Inverness before it doesn't take long to discover just how remote Scotland really can be. Over 200 miles of the 500-mile cycle route are on single-track routes where you're only friends as a van driver is the sparsely placed passing places. Your enemies, of course, are the car drivers coming the other way. There was many a standoff as we waited expectantly for the other driver to reverse rather than us... but this strategy wasn't always successful. Thankfully the Custom comes with a rear-parking sensor, which came as a pleasant surprise and certainly got us out of a few sticky situations. It's amazing to think that the now standard technology available on cars still isn't the readily provided in LCV's but Ford thankfully seem to be bucking the trend here.

On the third day we tackled the Balech Na Ba, otherwise known as the Applecross Pass. Wow, as the pictures show, this road is a crazy as it winds up back and forth until you reach over 2,000 feet. And yes, once again it is single track. There were a few hairy moments as we attempted to hold the fully loaded Custom on the clutch waiting for slow moving vehicles to pass. Thankfully there was no reversing involved, which is just as well as this may have been too stern a test for both the van and our driver to take.



Ford Transit Custom Test

At the foot of the Bealach na Bà - the highest road in the UK.

 

Really – are there no negatives?

 

The next 5 days took us over varied terrain, climbing an average of 5,000ft each day and changing between windy single track routes and more major A roads. In every case the Custom was a pleasure to drive and exceeded our expectations. It's easy to think that the Custom has achieved it's success due to its modern and stylish looks in comparison to its rivals, but drive it for a few days and you'll see it's so much more than just a pretty face.

But we can hear you asking 'there must be something bad about it, how much are Ford paying you to write this?'... And yes you are right; there is no such thing as a 10/10. Our biggest bugbear was the entertainment system. You might find this astounding but over the course of a 7-day trip none of us could even get the radio to come on. We all tried - the old timers and the tech-savvy twenty something’s but nothing worked! After a few more attempts we gave up and opted instead to use the Bluetooth to stream music through a phone. In general though the infotainment controls feel clunky and not particularly intuitive.

Despite our one bugbear this is without doubt the best panel van we have ever tested. If Ford can get that radio system fixed it might just reach that illusive 10/10.



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Overall Score: 9/10


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