Ford Transit Custom hybrid engines, drive & performance

The Ford Transit Custom hybrid is surprisingly fast, with the punchy electric motor delivering good acceleration

0-62mph Top speed Driven wheels Power
N/a 74mph Front 124bhp

The Ford Transit Custom PHEV is a little different to other plug-in hybrid models – including the maker’s own Kuga SUV. The van uses a range-extender setup, meaning when the batteries have run out of charge, the engine takes over to charge them back up; there's no direct connection between the petrol engine and the front wheels. Instead, drive is always supplied by the 13.6kWh battery and electric motor – making the Transit feel more like an electric van than a petrol one.

There are four driving modes: EV Auto, EV Now, EV Later and EV Charge. In EV Auto, the van uses both the engine and the motor to provide the most efficient mix of petrol and electric power, while selecting EV Now forces it to use all of the available charge in the battery while the engine is switched off.

EV Later conserves the battery charge, allowing the Transit to conserve its available battery power by calling the petrol engine into use, while EV Charge mode uses the engine to top up the battery on the move; a useful feature if you’ve not had the opportunity to plug it in.

Ford Transit Custom hybrid 0-62mph, top speed and acceleration

The 0-62mph figure for the Transit PHEV hasn’t been confirmed yet, but on our test runs we were pleasantly surprised by the van’s turn of speed. The electric motor gives good torque from a stationary start, meaning acceleration is never a problem around town. The throttle pedal does feel a little over-sensitive, however, which can make smooth getaways a little challenging.

The van is very quiet in electric mode, and it remains relatively silent even when the engine kicks into life. The only time it begins to struggle is on steep inclines, when the engine has to rev hard to deliver the necessary power. That said, it'd be interesting to see how the relatively small engine would cope with a full payload of 1,130kg on board – if you carry heavy loads on a regular basis, a diesel may better suit your needs.

Handling

The Transit Custom PHEV feels very similar to its internal-combustion-engined counterparts from behind the wheel, which is no bad thing. Performance is sprightly, and the way it goes around corners is more akin to a family SUV than a van has any right to.

On the motorway, you’ll barely be able to make out the engine over the wind and road noise, which isn’t that intrusive anyway. Beware, however, that a top speed of 74mph means you won’t be playing out any of your favourite white-van-man cliches by sitting in the outside lane just inches from the car in front.

The automatic gearbox means it’s easy to get around in, and the small steering wheel makes it easy to get from lock to lock during three-point turns. The accelerator pedal is a little sensitive due to the instant nature of the electric power delivery, but you’ll quickly get used to this and learn to mitigate it when manoeuvring.

The Transit rides well on the whole, ironing out both big and small bumps in the road. It does have a tendency to bounce about a bit without any ballast in the back, but that’s only really an issue if you’re taking speed bumps at breakneck speed.