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Driven: Automatic to shift Ford Transit sales

That’s van-tastic: Ford’s new Transit Custom van is now available with a six-speed automatic transmission and the brand’s new EcoBlue 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.

Introduction of automatic transmission to boost appeal of Ford Transit LCV

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Ford logo21 Jun 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

UPDATED: 27/06/2017FORD Australia’s automatic-equipped Transit Custom mid-size van range has landed in local showrooms with an updated diesel engine, more equipment and a bevy of options designed to steal sales away from the likes of the Toyota HiAce, Mercedes-Benz Vito and Volkswagen Transporter.

Ford Australia Transit product specialist Peter Zikas he expects a strong response from buyers for the the six-speed automatic, which combines with a new 2.0-litre EcoBlue turbo-diesel engine on the short-wheelbase front-wheel-drive Transit Custom.

As previously reported, the combination is also now available on the heavier-duty longer-wheelbase Transit model line, although the bulk of the bigger Transit range sticks with a 2.2-litre Duratorq turbo-diesel engine.

“The segment is effectively 60:40, so auto-manual,” Mr Zikas told GoAuto last week. “We’re expecting it to be around that mark for us, but certainly won’t be surprised if it’s higher than that.”

Mr Zikas expects the introduction of the automatic transmission to cast the spotlight back onto the Transit Custom, moving from a 34 per cent market reach to about 85 per cent – with a key demographic being small-business owners – to boost overall sales.

“The Australian market has moved considerably to that auto segment,” he said.

“We expect it to be a combination of drawing away from manuals, so we’ll probably see a small application of manual, but certainly from an overall point of view, volume and share we expect that to drive further than what it has been.”

Although Mr Zikas could not give a clear indication on predicted sales numbers, he did specify that “it would be lovely to double our volume” with the introduction of the automatic.

Ford has recorded 491 sales of the Transit Custom to the end of May this year, well off the pace of the segment-leading Toyota HiAce (2871) and Hyundai iLoad (2675) as well as behind the Volkswagen Transporter (750) and Renault Trafic (722).

Last year, Ford managed 1205 sales for a 6.0 per cent share of the 2.5-3.5t van segment, which put Transit Custom just ahead of the Mercedes Vito (1153) but miles behind HiAce (7478) and iLoad (5467) and also trailing Transporter (1960) and Trafic (1730).

The current Transit has been on the Australian market since 2014, relying on the Euro 5-compliant 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that in the Custom produced 92kW of power and 350Nm of torque, driving through a six-speed manual gearbox only.

The new Euro 6 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine is now the only engine available on the Custom van, which is sold in 290S SWB and 340L LWB variants.

Despite the smaller displacement, the newly developed engine produces 96kW and 385Nm in the Custom and combines with either a six-speed manual or automatic.

The engine borrows technology from Ford’s award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder petrol engine that reduces friction and improves efficiency by around 13 per cent.

Fuel economy with the new engine is rated as low as 6.4 litres per 100km for manual-equipped variants, while automatic Custom vans will return 7.2L/100km.

CO2 emissions sit between 165 and 186 grams per kilometre.

The new powerplant also doubles servicing intervals, moving up from 15,000km to 30,000km, while the new-vehicle warranty range pushes up from 100,000km to 200,000km.

The powertrain upgrade heralds a number of other changes to the Transit Custom range, with Ford including full wheel covers instead of hubcaps, a front grille chrome insert and a 4.0-inch TFT colour screen nestled between instrumentation to display vehicle information.

Ford’s wind stabilisation technology is available to help control vehicle drift and sway in strong crosswinds, along with an optional Driver Assist Tech package that bundles satellite navigation and a reversing camera into a larger central touchscreen display.

Ford is also touting the latest Transit’s new customisation options as a point of difference to competitors, with the number of factory paint finishes numbering over 100.

Prices for the new Transit Custom range kicks off at $39,690 plus on-road costs for the manual 290S, while the six-speed automatic option raises prices by $2750 to $42,440. The 340L Custom starts at $41,690 for the manual and tops out at $44,440 for the automatic.

2017 Ford Transit Custom pricing*
290S FWD 2.0L$39,690
290S FWD 2.0L (a)$42,440
340L FWD 2.0L$41,690
340L FWD 2.0L (a)$44,440
*Excludes on-road costs

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