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Van of the Year 2020: Ford Transit Custom

The Ford Transit Custom is the 2020 Auto Express Van of the Year, with the Vauxhall Combo and Volkswagen Transporter T6.1 commended

Vans have played a bigger role than ever in keeping the country moving in 2020. With lockdown restrictions limiting travel for the public in general, the UK van fleet has provided a vital lifeline for businesses and families across the country, handling deliveries of food, goods and supplies. And in our opinion there’s no van better than the Transit Custom.

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Ford’s medium-sized van is a veritable Swiss Army knife of a machine, with a broad variety of options available, from the basic to the sporty or rugged. There are two body lengths, a pair of roof heights, and passenger-friendly double cab in-van and Kombi variants, while the Tourneo Custom is a plush eight-seat passenger model based on the same body. Ford even offers the Transit Custom Nugget, a factory-approved camper variant. Depending on which body style you go for, the Transit Custom comes in basic Leader, better-equipped Trend, and positively upmarket Limited trim.

If you want a model that stands out, the Transit Custom Sport adds racing stripes, while Welsh company MS-RT offers a Ford-approved bodykit that turns the Custom into an even racier-looking machine. If that’s not your thing, the new Transit Custom Active is aimed at lifestyle-focused buyers, and the Transit Trail features a mechanical limited-slip diff to give better traction in slippery conditions.

All of these models are powered by diesel engines, but Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBlue motor is an efficient and powerful unit that offers a great balance of performance and economy for cost-conscious business users.

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But the big news this year has been the arrival of the Transit Custom PHEV, a range-extending plug-in model that offers 33 miles of zero-emissions driving, courtesy of its lithium-ion battery. That range-extending tech doesn’t demand any compromise in the Transit Custom’s carrying ability, either, with the running gear stowed neatly under the cargo floor.

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Whichever model you choose, the Ford Transit Custom should be able to cope with everything you throw at it, while the back-up of Ford’s extensive network of Transit Centres will keep you on the road.

Our choice

Ford Transit Custom L1H1 2.0 EcoBlue mHEV Trend (£29,650 excl. VAT)

You can’t go wrong with the basic van, but upgrading to Trend trim adds some useful kit, like a Quickclear windscreen, heated mirrors, automatic lights and wipers, parking sensors and an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s six cubic metres of cargo space in the back, while the mild-hybrid variant helps to keep running costs in check without harming the performance.

Commended

Vauxhall Combo

In the small van class, the Combo (as well as its Citroen, Peugeot and Toyota siblings) offers car-like safety and a great driving experience. Add payloads of up to a tonne, and lots of practical touches, such as through-loading and cameras to monitor blind spots, and it’s a great pick.

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Volkswagen Transporter T6.1

This VW delivers an upmarket driving experience and tech normally reserved for the Golf or Passat. Adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking are standard, and you have a choice of powerful diesels or the all-electric e-Transporter.

New Car Awards 2020: the winners

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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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