Ford Transit Custom DCiV review: you can keep your Ranger, I've got a Sport van
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Ford Transit Custom DCiV Sport
- It’s a sports van!
- Great to drive
- More loadspace than SWB despite extra seats
- LWB model big for urban parking
- No air con outlets for rear
- Can’t match Ranger for towing
New Zealand buyers are obviously very comfortable with the idea of a double-cab ute being a recreational/lifestyle vehicle. Four of the top 10-selling vehicles for 2021 were utes and the most popular, the Ford Ranger, outsold the top non-truck by two-to-one.
While we like to think all of these ute buyers are hard-working tradies or farmers, the sheer numbers involved, the proliferation of double-cab body styles and the popularity of luxurious high-end variants like the Ranger Wildtrak and Raptor says otherwise. The number of new utes per-capita has risen dramatically over the past decade.
This one-tonne obsession is a very Australasian thing and an especially Kiwi thing. In the UK for example, the Transit van outsells the Ranger. Sure, most of those registrations are for commercial use, but not all. You can buy Transits over there aimed squarely at lifestyle applications, like the Custom Trail with Raptor-esque grille and limited-slip differential. Or the crossover-style Transit Custom Active. You can even get a fully body-kitted version from Ford-approved modification specialist MS-RT.
Any of the above swallow mountain bikes whole, whereas you can’t actually fit a whole one on a Ranger tray; it’s a wheel-off exercise.
This brings us to the Transit Custom Sport offered by Ford NZ. With more grunt and garnish than the standard van (up 11kW/10Nm, nice colours, matt racing stripes, sporty alloys) it’s been a real hit with tradies wanting to stand out from the crowd. And a little taste of the British/European van culture that we just don’t seem to understand here.
And that in turn brings us to the Transit Custom DCiV Sport, which takes the concept forward to be much more about weekends than work. “DCiV” stands for Double Cab in Van, by the way: you get a full five-seat cabin and decent refinement, because it’s sealed off from the cargo area with a fixed bulkhead. But because the DCiV is based on the long-wheelbase Transit, you still get a massive cargo area.
The SWB model is still more work-friendly, because the load area is 644mmm longer and there’s a further 530mm under-seat extension if you need it. But the LWB DCiV still offers bigger volume overall, with 6.6 cubic metres in the back compared with 5.5.
Canterbury | Christchurch
$306.53 p/w $1,226.12 p/m
The DCiV is still more awesome though, because it looks fantastic and provides genuinely spacious family transport for five, while maintaining vanny practicality.
The driving position is commanding of course, but the genius of the DCiV is rear-seat accommodation that ute people can only dream about: vast legroom and a flat floor that allows you to truly relax. The only big downside is mostly due to the Custom Sport’s commercial origins: no ventilation outlets in the back and the sliding rear doors only have pop-out windows. So it gets pretty hot back there, but our solution during a couple of summer road trips was simply to crank up the front air con and aim the vents rearwards. Worked pretty well, because it’s a pretty grunty system.
The DCiV is a bit of a challenge to park until you get used to the huge 3.3m wheelbase, but it’s still shorter overall than a Ranger. And there’s radar and camera coverage all-round. Given the basic design dates back nearly a decade, the Transit Custom is actually well up on tech, with Ford Sync infotainment and a “live” connection from vehicle to smartphone via the FordPass app.
The thing that makes the Custom Sport so popular with tradies is also the thing that makes it a great lifestyle machine: it’s full of character and fun to drive. An extra 10kW over the standard Transit is neither here nor except for a bit of a brag during Friday night drinks (okay, that is actually important), but the turbo-diesel engine and six-speed are a pretty perky combination and averaged 8.2l/100km over some pretty hard driving during our test time.
Handling-wise it’s another case of getting your head around that long wheelbase, but once you do the Transit really is quite sporty… for a van. It steers with authority and boasts excellent body control over tricky Kiwi backroads.
Okay, a dressed-up van is not for everybody. But in a rational world you’d say the same of double-cab utes. It’s all a matter of culture and attitude; as far as I’m concerned, the Transit Custom DCiV Sport is awesome.
FORD TRANSIT CUSTOM DCiV SPORT
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four
GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic, FWD