WHEN motoring journalists are given a car to test there’s always a bit of smoke and mirrors from manufacturers.
It might start at £25k or whatever but half the time you’re rolling around with £7k of extras.
Well, this week I’m driving a genuine entry-level vehicle: The Ford Transit Custom Leader.
No frills. No glamour. No BS. This is proper “UN-spec” with white paint, black bumpers and steel wheels. And guess what? I bloody love it.
If you run a small business and the lads need a van, you don’t want to spend more than you have to — but you DO want something smart and reliable to do the job.
Then you want a Leader, at £23,090 excluding Vodka And Tonic.
Standard kit includes kerb-side sliding door (wide enough for a pallet), loadspace lights and a flip-up, load-through panel in the bulkhead for long things like pipes, wood and ladders.
For those who like numbers, the base L1 H1 van can swallow six cubic metres of stuff, rising to 8.3 cubic metres for L2 H2.
Also worth noting is the multi-piece rear bumper — obviously cheaper to fix if some muppet backs into something they shouldn’t.
Up front, the cabin is refreshingly simple. And by that I mean it has everything you need and none of the nonsense you don’t.
FORD TRANSIT CUSTOM MS-RT
Price: £47,280 exc VAT
Engine: 2-litre turbo diesel
Power: 185hp, 415Nm
Three seats, two USB ports, two 12V ports, electric windows, cup holders, coat hooks, storage, Bluetooth, DAB for talkSPORT, all sorted. Plus, the driver can get properly comfy. The steering wheel and driver’s seat are fully adjustable — and who doesn’t love an armrest?
Now for the oily bits. The base-base Leader is front-wheel drive and powered by a 105hp 2-litre turbo diesel.
Honest. Simple. Reliable. Smart. Affordable.
If that’s too weedy, you can upgrade to 130 or 170 horses. All do good numbers and have start-stop as standard. If I’m totally honest, I’d go 130hp for the extra oomph.
But that’s the beauty of Ford. It has the most comprehensive range of vans possible.
At the same time as testing the Leader, I also got my hands on the top-spec 185hp MS-RT Transit Custom, tricked up by Ford’s World Rally squad.
It looks the business and sounds like Optimus Prime with a cough. But at £48k you won’t be sharing it with your apprentice.
In between Leader and MS-RT, there’s more choice than a packet of Liquorice Allsorts, with Trend, Limited and Sport trim levels, double-cab versions, Trail versions with slippy diffs, Tourneo and Tourneo Active people carriers and Nugget campers, as well as diesel mild hybrids and petrol plug-in hybrids.
FORD TRANSIT CUSTOM LEADER
Price: £23,090 exc VAT
Engine: 2-litre turbo diesel
Power: 105hp, 310Nm
And we’re only talking about the one-ton Transit Custom here, which is the mid-size van. The two-ton Transit is the big daddy and there’s two junior Transits, Courier and Connect, below. And the Fiesta Van.
But let’s get back on topic because I reckon the Transit Custom Leader is the best thing Ford makes today. This and Fiesta.
Honest. Simple. Reliable. Smart. Affordable. It’s a proper van for everyone.
And if you speak nicely to your accountant, the new super-deduction tax relief means it just got even cheaper.
FOR a fraction of the price of a Bentley Bentayga you can have the same car.
It’s called an Audi Q8.
For a fraction of the price of an Audi Q8 you can have the same car. It’s called an Audi Q5 Sportback.
So, by a process of elimination, the Q5 Sportback is basically a bargain-bucket Bentayga. Or a Lidl Thursday special.
This was obvious the moment I turned a wheel. I swear we FLOATED to Scunthorpe and back the other day – hushed and hovercraft-smooth, just like a Bentley. I reckon air suspension helps.
Leave the flappy paddles alone and it does a brilliant job of sewing the gears together.
Before I go any further, I should perhaps explain that Q5 Sportback is, er, exactly that – a sporty-back version of the standard Q5.
As per the rules of coupe versus normal, you pay a bit more for looks but lose out on practicality. Smaller boot, less rear headroom.
Actually, this is where I reckon Audi has missed a trick. Only the top-rung Vorsprung spec has sliding rear seats – which, when pushed fully forward give the Sportback MORE boot space than a standard Q5.
If Audi had made them standard across the range that would have been a marketing dream: “Big on looks, big on space. The ultimate coupe.”
But they haven’t. So they can’t. Up front, you’ll find the usual Audi excellence. Digital dash. Top-quality materials. Top-quality fit and finish. All the bells and whistles.
AUDI Q5 SPORTBACK
Engine: 2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 265hp, 370Nm
0-62mph: 6.1 secs
Top speed: 149mph
Just as pleasing, Audi has given us straightforward knobs and buttons for things that need knobs and buttons.
As for pulling power, it’s copy-and-paste from the regular Q5. That means petrol and diesel mild hybrids and petrol plug-in hybrids, all with Quattro all-wheel drive, naturally.
We tried the 265hp petrol mild hybrid and it was good. Plenty of oomph when you needed it.
If you do big miles, the diesel is still king, with 44mpg, and is the cheapest at £46k. It used to cost more.
The plug-in will do 35 miles on pure electric but has a smaller boot and starts at £53k. It still costs to be green.
Whichever you choose, it’s a nice car, a thoroughbred Audi. And £100k cheaper than a Bentley.
- POLESTAR has pledged to build the first truly climate-neutral car by 2030, rather than just planting trees. Boss Thomas Ingenlath said: “Offsetting is a cop-out. We will push to reach beyond what is possible today.”
- WATCH out, Toyota. You’re dancing dangerously close to being better known for good sporty cars rather than good boring cars.
After the GR Supra and the brilliant GR Yaris, up next is the new GT 86 – but renamed GR 86. GR for Gazoo Racing. Everything we love about the old car – low, manual, rear-drive – just with more power and torque and even sharper handling.
The race to 62mph takes 6.3 seconds – good enough for most people . . . but for me it’s the smiles in corners.
- WITH showrooms being shut all year, new car sales aren’t the healthiest. Corsa outsold Fiesta but couldn’t keep Ford off the top spot, which was claimed by the Transit Custom. Dealers finally reopen on Monday. Here are the top ten for 2021 so far, and how many have sold:
Ford Transit Custom: 14,317
Vauxhall Corsa: 12,413
Ford Fiesta: 11,645
Nissan Qashqai: 10,739
Mercedes A-Class: 10,169
Ford Transit: 9,594
BMW 3 Series: 8,092
Volvo XC40: 8,084
VW Golf: 7,896
Kia Sportage: 7,837
Pimp my pick-up truck
BE safe. Be seen. That’s the only way to describe this pimped-up pick-up truck.
Tango paint job, LED light bar, beefy arches, raised suspension, snorkel . . . every man and his dog will see you coming and clear out of the way like Moses parting the Red Sea. But on the A619.
Some of it is a leeetle bit try-hard, it has to be said, but I do like the skull piston logos on the off-road tyres.
Why am I telling you this?
Because whereas before you could only trick up a Ranger with aftermarket bits off eBay, now you can order it all at Ford and get it fitted by your local dealer.
Ford is brilliant at responding to growing trends, as it continues to sweep up the van and pick-up truck market.
FORD RANGER WILDTRAK
Price: £33,891 exc VAT
Engine: 2-litre turbo diesel
Power: 213hp, 500Nm
0-62mph: 9 secs
Top speed: 112mph
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Not so long ago, Ranger had eight rivals. By the end of this year it will have three.
Mercedes X-Class and Fiat Fullback axed. Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara going. Volkswagen Amarok on pause – until Ford starts building the new one.
That leaves the Toyota Hilux, Isuzu D-Max and SsangYong Musso – and Ranger is further in front than Man City.