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The positive response given to the launch of the Transit Custom last year suggests that Ford dominance of the UK LCV market is set to continue for a good while yet.
That will be helped with the addition of the new short-wheelbase Econetic 310. The 310 nomenclature designates a gross vehicle masses of 3100kg with a payload of 1295kg.
The front-wheel drive van is powered by the firm's 100hp 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine and its fuel consumption is kept down by a series of features. Stop/start works seamlessly in traffic and a gear-change indicator encourages frugal driving, while Ford's Acceleration Control counters aggressive driving styles by progressively limiting acceleration as engine speed increases, which is claimed to improve fuel economy by up to 15%. The Econetic also gets a switchable 70mph speed limiter, using a switch that also disengages the stop/start, a coolant bypass valve for a quicker warm-up, optimised gearing with a 6% longer final-drive ratio, low rolling-resistance tyres and aerodynamic wheel trims. The result of these fuel-saving devices, according to Ford, is combined consumption of 44.8mpg and CO2 of 166g/km.
To the Custom Econetic's credit, its 100hp engine did not seem to be unduly hindered by these constraints upon its performance, even with a half-load in the back. A speed-limiter fixed at 62mph can also be specified and this, says Ford, will improve economy to 46.3mpg and cut CO2 by a further 4g/km.
The cabin in the Econetic is light and comfortable. It does not offer overhead shelves but otherwise the stowage provisions are good. The dashboard-mounted gear stick means there is plenty of room to move along inside the cab, and the canvass-covered seats were cool and comfy in hot weather. The steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach; the driver's seat is eight-way adjustable and has an armrest.
The Econetic comes with an AM/FM radio with USB, Bluetooth and steering wheel-mounted remote controls as standard, and the provision of two 12V power points in the cab is useful. In addition we had the Ice Pack 5 option, which will set you back £310 excluding VAT and includes satnav, DAB digital radio and Ford's new Sync communication system.
A full steel bulkhead separates the cab from the load bay, and there is a clever load-through hatch at the base of it behind the passenger seats. This enables ladders or pipes of up to 3m long to be stowed in the load area. The metal flap to the hatch is magnetically secured when either open or closed.
When not used to accommodate lengthy items protruding from the load bay, the passenger bench seat can be lifted to access a useful additional in-cab storage box.
The 6.0m3 load space houses eight tie-down loops, while the four powerful LED lights on the ceiling are a worthwhile option at £80 excluding VAT if you load/unload in the dark.
Access to the cargo bay is via a sliding door on the passenger side or through twin rear doors that open to 90? and then through to 180? by releasing the stays. The load floor is protected by vinyl lining.
The Econetic Custom does not get parking sensors as standard but they are available as an option for £283 excluding VAT.