We drive the Transit Custom Trail

Trail branding and features that appeal to the adventure/vanlife market

We drive the Transit Custom Trail

Regular readers will have seen that we drove Ford’s Nugget campervan in Slovenia back in 2019 and Ford tells me it’s been selling well – extremely well in fact.

They’ve clearly identified the ‘adventure’ market and one of Ford’s top brass tells me he’s been overwhelmed by the reaction to the Nugget. “I’ve never had so many people email me directly about a product before, and I’ve been in the industry a long time,” he says.

Car manufacturers are always looking out to find niche markets where they can gain sales, and Ford’s research in to ‘van life’ has led the company to come up with Trail and Active versions of their Transit range.

We’ll focus on the Transit Custom Trail in this piece, but you can also read about the new Transit Custom Active and the new Transit Trail in some upcoming features.


Ford has taken the standard Transit Custom and made some clever tweaks to turn it in to a van that people like you and me can take on trails and tracks, along with the adventure styling that’s so appealing to us. So first of all, you’ll notice the TRAIL logo down the sides near the front wheels and on the tailgate.

Protective cladding down the sides and a TRAIL logo near the front wheels

TRAIL logo is on the bottom right corner

Next, they’ve given the Transit Custom the same style of front grille that’s on the Raptor pick-up truck (pictured on the right below), with the big FORD letters across it. Just this simple change makes a big difference to the overall look and ties this van in with the high-performance/off-road end of Ford’s product range.

There’s also additional cladding along the sides, front and rear to protect from stones etc getting flung up as well as scraping anything down tight country lanes. The wheels are also different to the standard Transit Custom, coming as these blackened 16-inch alloy beauties. Note they’ve kept that diameter to a sensible size for off-road driving.

Ford engineers have done themselves proud with the alloy styling

Inside there’s a blank canvas of space to make your own, and the driving cab is separated with a wall that can be removed if you prefer. You can go for a panel van that doesn’t have side doors, or a version that has a sliding door on each side.

Get looking at #VanLife videos on YouTube for inspiration


With the word ‘Trail’ you’d expect it to be able to actually drive on trails, but while this does not have four-wheel drive, it does have a clever addition that improves the grip on gravel, mud and snow. There’s no change to the suspension compared to the standard Transit Custom, but where the Trail differs is the addition of a mechanical limited slip differential (known as mLSD) in the front wheel drive train.

Helical gears form the basis of the mLSD

What the mLSD unit does is sense when one of the wheels is slipping. A mechanical system of helical gears stops any drive force getting to the slipping wheel, letting the other wheel get even more of a grip. The mLSD is a clever system of helical gears that works off centrifugal force, so when it senses a spinning wheel, the gears are flung outwards (they unmesh) and that’s what stops the drive. As soon as grip is restored, the gears mesh back together allowing the drive to go back the wheel.

What this means is the van can tackle unpaved roads or gravel tracks or snow with a bit more ability than a standard Transit Custom van.


I got to drive the van at Millbrook Proving Ground near Bedford, around the city course and the famous twisting alpine course – very similar to going up on mountain roads. I didn’t get to try it out on gravel tracks and trails, but the mLSD was nicely demonstrated on a wet skid pan. For those who think driving a van is going to a dull experience, you’ll be completely surprised at how sprightly this is. It turns extremely easily and far more tighter than you think it would. The engine is super smooth and quiet too.

She handled brilliantly around Millbrook’s twisty alpine test course


Ford’s vans are more car-like these days. The leather used for the seats has been chosen to be easily cleaned, as are the floor mats, so you can bring in wet ‘n muddy kit, without worry. Standing proud in the centre is the SYNC 3 entertainment and information screen. This 8.0-inch touchscreen can be operated with pinch and swipe hand gestures. There’s also a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 devices (called FordPass Connect). Perhaps more useful, especially if you’re sleeping in this overnight, is a quickclear heated windscreen to clear ice and mist in seconds, automatic lighting, power-foldable door mirrors and air conditioning as standard.

Not a bad setup eh?!

8.0-inch SYNC3 touchscreen comes as standard

Gear lever is mounted within the dashboard

Row of three seats up front that are comfortable and easy to clean

The Trail is available as a panel van or a Double-Cab-in-Van (DCiV) with a choice of 130hp, 170hp or 185hp 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engines. Prices start at £29,250, excluding VAT.

See more at www.ford.co.uk