ADVANCED safety systems developed for cars are making their way on to Britain's favourite van as the Ford Transit gets a major upgrade.
Come the spring an all-new Transit Custom one tonne van will be on the road with a fresh face, a completely different interior and added technology both under the skin and under the bonnet.
The revisions pave the way for the Transit of the future which will include an eco-friendly petrol-electric plug-in hybrid.
Restyled at the front with a larger grille, new headlights and smoother lines the new Transit Custom is as smart as ever.
Its proportions have not changed which means load space is as practical as before while the side door slides are now tucked into the body instead of standing proud, cleaning up the overall look considerably.
It is on the inside where the new Transit is completely different and the cabin has been reworked entirely.
There's a new facia with large storage zones across the top, in the sides and at the edges plus an additional cup holder which pops out of the dash.
Much of the interior is based on that found in the latest Ford Fiesta and on higher trim levels that includes an eight-inch touchscreen which stands tablet-like in the centre.
That display comes when Ford's SYNC 3 connectivity system is fitted but even without the screen the interior is a transformation of that featured in the Transit Custom of 2012.
Other changes include a new design to the door panels which see the grab handle moved to the top of trim making way for more storage space below.
From a functional point of view the Transit has never been so well appointed.
New driver aids include eight ultrasonic sensors, front and rear radar and cameras which create a safety bubble around the body.
The Transit Custom now has a pedestrian detection system which works day or night, automatic emergency braking and rear cross traffic sensors that are sensitive enough to identify both motorbikes and pedal cycles approaching from more than 100 feet away.
Traffic sign recognition can be used to keep the van within speed limits when engaged and systems such as sidewind stability controls and trailer sway restrictors remain standard fit. So does lane departure warning.
The new 2.0-litre turbo diesel engines Ford introduced on the Transit last year are retained and are joined by a lean burn version of the 105bhp unit which is fitted with stop/start and a speed limiter as well as sitting on low rolling resistance tyres to give it an official fuel return of 49.6mpg with emissions of 148g/km - an improvement of some 19 per cent compared to the previous 2.2-litre Transits.
Ford is calling the new version the Transit Custom ECOnetic and it is a six speed manual only.
Without the eco tweaks the 105bhp engine is rated at 46mpg with a CO2 figure of 161g/km while the other diesels available in the Transit Custom are a 130bhp unit with an auto transmission and a high powered 170bhp manual used only in the Transit Sport.
Ford claims those are good for 39 to the gallon and 44mpg respectively with CO2 outputs of 165 and 187g/km.
With the exception of the new ECOnetic, we tried out all three powertrains over similar routes and each returned around 35 to the gallon although the more powerful diesel in the Sport was thirstier showing an average of 31mpg.
Driving dynamics have always been a strong point and the new models are no different making it a van that is very easy to drive.
The extra storage space inside and the added practicality of the new-look facia will be well received among van users and features such as a fold-down table top in the centre seat and space for A4 documents in the glovebox are handy assets when the Transit is used as a mobile office.
The added safety features give even more peace of mind helping keep the van - and the driver - out of trouble and stay operational.
With the 2.0-litre engines being introduced in 2016 the Transit is right up to date on the emissions front and complies with current clear air zone regulations.
The plug-in hybrid will take that a stage further and will be the cleanest Transit in the van's 51 year history, capable of travelling around 30 miles purely on electricity.
Using a 1.0-litre, three cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine as a generator, the driven wheels are run by electricity at all times and the van has a range of some 300 miles before it needs to be refuelled.
Trials are just beginning in London with a fleet of 20 vehicles and the Transit PHEV is scheduled for mainstream production in 2019.
Ford is also developing a completely battery powered Transit in conjunction with Deutsche Post and DHL. Called the StreetScooter, 2,500 of them will be in action on the Continent by the end of next year.
Prices for the new range of Transit Customs are still to be announced but the current line up starts from £20,395 excluding VAT. The new-look models are due to be on the road in March.