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WHAT VAN? AWARDS 2014: Transit Custom wins top prize

Date: 10 January 2014   |   Author: James Dallas

The leading players in the LCV industry gathered in London to applaud the winners of the prestigious
What Van? Awards. James Dallas reports

The Ford Transit Custom has scooped What Van? magazine's Van of the Year prize for 2014 to become the first light commercial vehicle to win the coveted award for two years in a row.

More than 50 of the most influential figures in the UK's light commercial vehicle sector gathered for the awards lunch, which took place at London's Zaika restaurant - the first Indian restaurant in the UK to gain a Michelin star.

The 2014 What Van? Awards were supported by leasing giant Leaseplan, which has taken great strides in the commercial sector since establishing a specialist LCV division in 2011.

The judges praised the Transit Custom, which was also named Medium Van of the Year, for raising the bar in terms of interior quality, innovation, styling, equipment and driving characteristics.

Features such as the load-through hatch, that allows extra-long loads to slide through a gap in the bulkhead leading under the double front-passenger seat, and the optional roof rack that folds into the van roof, help make life easier for customers, as do options such as the LED load area lighting that's a real boon for anyone working inside their vehicle after dark.

The cabin is class-leading for quality, having been effectively lifted from the car range, and shares the same materials and design. Other equipment in the Transit Custom that originated on Ford's car range includes the Sync voice-activation system that instructs the audio and Bluetooth mobile phone controls, plus the likes of a rear-view camera as well as driver and lane-keeping alert systems.

The load area of the short-wheelbase Custom model will take three Euro pallets, and there is a long-wheelbase alternative with an extra 367mm of load length and 0.8m3 more load space. Engine choices range from 100hp through 125hp to the most powerful 155hp option, all from the same 2.2-litre diesel base, and there are three trim levels of Base, Trend and Limited.

The launch of the Custom marked Ford's move to split its market-dominant Transit brand in two, with the one-tonne payload van coming to market more than a year before the full-size model, which arrives this spring.

The Transit Custom was hailed best-in-class for safety by European crash-test organisation Euro NCAP following the vehicle's assessment late last year when it achieved a maximum five-star rating, which led to it receiving Highly Commended recognition in the Safety category of the What Van? Awards.

A good year for Ford included the facelifted Fiesta Van winning the Small Van of the Year prize. Now fitted with stop/start, which helps to deliver outstanding fuel economy of 85.6mpg, the car-derived van emits just 87g/km of CO2.

Adding a dash of glamour and prestige to the small van sector, the Mini Clubvan was this year's Highly Commended choice.

Ford achieved a hat-trick of category wins with the Ranger retaining its crown as Pick-up of the Year. Available in a full range of body styles - single, super and  double cab - the sophisticated truck simply has more going for it than the competition. A notable feather in the Ranger's cap is that it is the first, and so far only, pick-up to gain a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating.

The enduring excellence of the Fiat Doblo Cargo and its twin, the Vauxhall Combo, saw the models once more share the Light Van of the Year Award. For the Doblo Cargo, this is the fourth consecutive year the van has finished on top since it raised the bar in the sector when it was launched in 2010. The Vauxhall version it spawned within two years of its arrival, and which rolls off the same assembly line in Turkey, joins it on top of the podium for the second year running.