The Ford Transit Custom and Volkswagen Transporter are incredibly popular vehicles in the UK market. Both brands have a reputation for reliability and both vehicles boast a number of height, length and engine options which make them flexible enough for a range of professions. But which is really the best?
If you’re going to buy based on payload, load length or width there are a few important numbers to note. In terms of payload, the Transit Custom offers 1,399kg, whereas the Transporter falls short of that, offering a maximum of 1,247kg.
There’s not much in the load length or width of the smallest version of either van. The Ford Transit gives you 2,555mm in length and 1,775mm in width; the Volkswagen Transporter 2,572mm in length and 1,700mm in width. A few millimetres isn’t much to worry about, so what about height? Well, the Transporter has three heights available, compared to just two on the Transit. That gives owners with a need for some extra room a maximum of 1,940mm to play with – significantly more than the 1,406mm on the Transit.
So far, the vans are about equal, so what about performance?
The Ford Transit Custom has three engine options, while the Volkswagen Transporter has four. The Transit’s EcoBlueTDCi engines are flexible, with the lowest spec version offering 104bhp and proving a good option for urban environments. The mind-range option is better for motorway driving, offering 128bhp, while the top spec delivers 168bhp which is sure to get you off the line quickly.
The six speed transmission is smooth, and the light steering makes for easy manoeuvrability. The downside? A bit more engine noise than you may want – but it’s not a deal breaker.
The VW Transporter goes one better when it comes to transmission, with range-topping vehicles sporting a seven speed gearbox that makes urban and motorway driving a breeze. The entry level model offers 102bhp, with the mid-range option giving an impressive 150bhp and the top spec delivering 204bhp and getting the van from 0-62mph in just 8.6 seconds.
Front-wheel drive versions are responsive and sure-footed, but the Transporter also comes in all-wheel drive form. If you’re likely to be driving in slippy conditions, this offers extra grip.
That makes the Volkswagen Transporter sneak into the lead, particularly for those who are after more power and some extra security in wet or icy conditions.
Let’s talk safety. The Ford Transit Custom was the first van to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP rating for safety – a significant feat. You can find the latest tech on the most recent range, with models featuring an electronic stability programme (ESP) that helps the vehicle stay stable in wind and adjusts according to payload. There’s also traction control and emergency brake assist, and options include Pre-Collision Assist.
The Volkswagen Transporter offers plenty to keep drivers safe in any conditions. The usual ESP and ABS braking technology are there, as well as driver and passenger airbags. The options include front fog lights with integrated cornering lights.
The sophistication of the Transit Custom’s ESP puts it ahead of the Transporter when it comes to safety, so the vehicles are once again neck and neck.
When it comes to fuel economy, the Ford Transit Custom rivals any in the sector. Its entry level and mid-range models both have EcoBlue technology which delivers 46mpg and 157g/km of CO2. The model with the highest emissions figure in the range emits 165g/km of CO2 . All versions meet the Euro6 emissions standards thanks to common-rail injectors turbocharging technology.
The Volkswagen Transporter also meets Euro6 emissions standards, being equipped with the brand’s BlueMotion Technology kit. The 102bhp model can reach up to 47.9mpg and emits just 153g/km of CO2 – just pipping the entry level Transit to the post. The higher powered Transporter, however, emits 174g/km of CO2, making it less environmentally friendly than the Ford.
With that, the Ford Transit Custom edges ahead. On, then to the interior features.
The great thing about the Ford is that it has plenty of storage space in the form of a lockable glove box and various trays, shelves and bins. It means that when you’re on the road, you can keep the cabin tidy and know where everything is once you get back.
The basic spec has two 12V charging points, electric windows and a headlight delay as standard. The next one up, the Trend, adds a heated windscreen, cruise control and automatic lights, while the top two specs include air conditioning and DAB radio.
The Volkswagen’s storage is not quite as good as the Transit Custom’s. Your effects won’t be held quite as securely and trays that could be covered aren’t, meaning papers could reflect in the windscreen while you’re driving.
That said, DAB radio comes as standard on each of the three trim levels, as does Bluetooth and USB compatibility. The mid spec option, the Trendline, doesn’t add much more of note apart from cruise control, but the range topping Highline brings an auto-dimming rear view mirror, air conditioning, automatic lights and a heated windscreen to the party.
All in all, it’s a close call. You’ll get more for your money with the Transit’s mid-spec model, but the Transporter’s base model offers more. When it comes to the higher specs, there’s not much in it.
For load height, competent safety and strong engines you need for your business activity, the Volkswagen Transporter is the model to choose. If, however, you’re concerned about running costs and more comprehensive safety features, you’ll want to opt for the Ford Transit Custom. The Transit’s higher trim levels offer more too.
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