Ford Transit Custom PHEV review

The Ford Transit Custom PHEV is the new plug-in hybrid version of Ford’s popular medium-sized van. With a punchy 126hp/355Nm motor, an all-electric range of 56 miles and a 1,130kg payload, the Transit Custom PHEV certainly has a lot to offer; but how does it perform in the real world? Liam Campbell put it to the test.

Background

Ford has been boasting about its PHEV for a while now. While other manufacturers have chosen to make the big jump to full electric, the Blue Oval is insistent that the plug-in hybrid is the vital steppingstone for the masses combining zero-emission driving of electric vehicles with the long range of combustion engine vans.

Trials have been conducted with major fleets in Valencia, Cologne and even London, with Sky, Vodafone and the Metropolitan Police getting in on the action. Ford consider the trials a success, with most – if not all – of the participants placing order for production models. The study found that 75% of the time, the vans were run in electric-only mode.

Ford Transit Custom PHEV specification

Ford Transit Custom PHEV interior

Ford will offer three trim levels on the Custom PHEV; the Leader, Trend and Limited. The Leader is the fleet-focused vehicle and includes just the basics like a DAB radio, 4.2-inch display, Ford SYNC, electric windows, air conditioning, an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat with armrest, cental locking and 16-inch steel wheels.

Moving up to the Trend, customers also receive power foldable and heated door mirrors, LED daytime-running lights, body colour bumpers, speed limited and cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wheel covers.

Meanwhile Limited models are furnished with heated front seats, alloy wheels, body colour rear bumpers and a Thatcham Cat 1 alarm.

Battery and motors

Ford Transit Custom PHEV range
Ford Transit Custom PHEV range

This is so far a unique solution in the van world so it may take some explaining. The Transit Custom PHEV has a 92.9kW (126hp) / 355Nm electric motor, a 13.6kWh battery pack from LG and a 140hp petrol EcoBoost engine. However, the petrol engine never directly drives the wheels; it merely acts as a generator to charge the battery which powers the electric motor.

There are four hybrid settings;

  • EV Now uses power from the battery until it has run out of charge
  • EV Later engages the petrol motor to keep the battery at full charge while it powers the motor
  • EV Charge uses maximum regeneration and the petrol engine so that the battery is charging while also powering the electric motor
  • EV Auto engages and disengages the petrol motor dependant on how full the battery is and the driving conditions.

The electric battery has a range of 56 miles and this can be extended a further 310 miles by charge generated by the petrol engine.

Ride and handling

Diesel versions of the Transit Custom have great driving manners anyway, but it excels in the PHEV. The even lower centre of gravity, combined with the instant torque and silent driveline (in EV mode) means the Custom PHEV was a pleasure to drive in both the city and on the open road.

There is an ‘L’ setting on the transmission which recovers electricity at a much higher rate, meaning the deceleration is much harsher but this helps extends the range of the EV only mode.

When the EV range reaches zero, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine cuts in to charge the battery but – because it is extremely refined – we only noticed it when we were at a standstill or the engine was providing both charge for the battery and the electric motor as it revved higher to generate more power.

The main drawback was that it cut in earlier than we thought as our all-electric range was only around 36 miles. This means it averaged only 2.6 miles per kWh compared with between 3.0 and 3.5 miles per kWh for an average medium-sized van. The petrol consumption is noticeably higher than petrol vans too; around   when increasing charge and providing charge to power the motor.

However, the end result cannot be grumbled with; an average fuel consumption of 3.08l/100km on the harsher WLTP cycle and a total ranger of 366 miles.

Transit Custom PHEV payload and dimensions

Ford Transit Custom PHEV dimensions
Ford Transit Custom PHEV dimensions

From the launch, Ford will offer only the Transit PHEV in short wheelbase, low-roof (L1H1) form providing a load volume of 6.0 cubic metres (read Ford Transit Custom dimensions for more). The Transit Custom PHEV retains its 1,130kg payload at 3.4t as the diesel engine and all the exhaust treatment systems weigh roughly the same as both the 1.0-litre petrol engine and the battery.

Ford Transit Custom PHEV price and availability

The Ford Transit Custom PHEV is priced between £39,145 plus VAT for the Leader and £42,950 for the Limited (Transit Custom PHEV is eligible for the 20% plug-in grant). This includes Ford’s 3-year, 100,000-mile warranty (the battery is covered up to eight years or 100,000 miles).

Deliveries are expected at the end of 2019 and Ford expects to sell 6,000 of these a year (making up 10% of all Transit Custom sales) by 2021; which is ambitious given there were only 985 electric and PHEV van sales in 2018.

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