Ford Transit hybrid van review
|Van type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||35 miles||92mpg||60g/km|
The Ford Transit Custom PHEV is, for the moment, a unique proposition: it's currently the only plug-in hybrid van on sale in the UK. Based on the mid-sized version of the familiar Transit Custom, it sits alongside the diesel powertrain in the Ford van's range and is aimed at customers who aren’t quite ready for the jump to full electric power.
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 35 miles, 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 in the load bay. The maximum payload is similar to the diesel Transit's, too, with the Custom PHEV capable of transporting up to 1,130kg of goods.
There are four driving modes to choose from 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.
EV Now switches the Custom PHEV over to electric power, while EV Later lets you save the existing battery charge for later in your journey; handy for those driving into urban low-emission zones.
Lastly, EV Charge uses the petrol engine to charge up the battery on the go, another useful feature if you haven’t had time to plug in overnight or during a stop. However, it uses a lot more energy than normal, so it should only really be used as a backup if electric running is a necessity later in the day.
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 this year.
Driving the Custom PHEV is extremely easy, with no gears to worry about. In electric-only mode, it accelerates surprisingly quickly, with the electric 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. In its strongest setting, this allows you to get around without using the brake pedal anywhere near as much, although you’ll still need it for sharper stops at junctions and roundabouts.
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.
Overall, there’s no perceptible difference between the standard Transit Custom and this plug-in hybrid version in terms of driving experience. In the latter, you’ll need to unlock the fuel filler cap from inside the cabin, but that’s the only noticeable change.
The official fuel economy of nearly 92mpg looks like an enormous improvement over a typical diesel Transit, but – as is the case with all plug-in hybrids – this assumes you’ll make full use of the battery power, with regular charges. The more you can plug in, the better your fuel economy will be.
The CO2 emissions figure of 60g/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, 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 drive in areas where tailpipe emissions incur fees.
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 the 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-emission 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.