Drive a Summit and you’ll soon see why vehicles like this are bringing fresh buyers into the campervan market. It can easily replace a family car as a daily driver and the facelifted Transit Custom is one of the best base vehicles in its class. With two 6ft-long double beds, that clever sliding rear seat system and a well-equipped kitchen, it can do the business on a campsite, too.
Base vehicle: Ford Transit Custom Price from: £47,995 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 5 Length: 4.97m Width: 1.99m Height: 2.08m Gross weight: 3,300kg Payload: 608kg
One of the major growth areas in the campervan market has come from those looking to replace a family car with a leisure vehicle. It makes sense: if you compare a campervan to a posh SUV, they’re similarly priced, occupy a similar amount of space on the driveway and cost a similar amount to run. Except for one crucial detail – residual values.
A quality campervan from a reputable maker will retain more of its value secondhand than almost any new car. Add in the extra versatility of being able to use it for family holidays, or as a mobile office, as well as a mini-hotel when visiting friends, and the case for the campervan gets stronger.
It’s this market that the new Summit aims to cater for. It’s built by campervan specialist, Wellhouse Leisure, exclusively for dealer, Lowdhams, and is based on the short-wheelbase Ford Transit Custom. You get a three-year warranty as standard on both the base vehicle and the conversion work, with the vehicle built to original equipment (OE) standards, thanks to Wellhouse being the only British campervan converter that’s approved as part of Ford’s own Qualified Vehicle Modifier scheme.
The Summit costs from £47,995 and features an elevating roof and a side kitchen layout, with the key feature being a clever rear travel seat that can easily slide fore and aft on rails to create as much luggage room (or lounge space) as you want.
The Summit can also be used for camping much of the year as it comes not only with cab air-conditioning but also diesel-powered Eberspächer blown-air heating as standard, together with an inboard fresh water tank, Ford’s brilliant Quickclear windscreen defrosting system and even heated cab seats.
The test vehicle was finished in wonderful Orange Glow metallic paint and also benefited from a few well-chosen options, such as the SE Pack (which adds a mini-grill, roll-out awning, colour-coded bumpers, half-leather seats and a reversing camera), as well as a roof bed, 18in alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. These bump up the price to £51,985, which is still competitive, given the spec.
In 2018, Ford updated the Transit Custom with a mild facelift, including headlights with built-in LED daytime running lights.
Inside, the new model feels most different to the earlier version. The old model’s dashboard has been replaced with a more upmarket dash that’s dominated by a smart, 8-inch touchscreen and clear, easy-to-read instruments. The heating controls have been revised so that they sit under the touchscreen in a much more logical grouping.
The new 2-litre EcoBlue engine is a far quieter and smoother unit than the previous 2.2-litre engines.
The test vehicle featured the entry-level 128bhp (130PS) Euro 6 engine and was great to drive, with bags of torque and great refinement. A 168bhp (170PS) version is a £1,750 option, but it’s not essential. It’s worth noting that the Transit comes with electronic stability control as standard, together with side wind stabilisation, roll stability control and trailer sway stabilisation, making it an ideal vehicle for towing.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard and offers a smooth shift with an easy clutch action. You can also get a torque converter automatic SelectShift gearbox, which is excellent, for £1,440 extra – on either the 128bhp or 168bhp engine.
The previous generation Transit Custom felt more modern than the current VW T6 Transporter, but this facelift version’s new smoother engines and revised dashboard lift it to another level.
As a family vehicle, safe seating is vitally important and the Summit excels, offering five travel seats, each with an adjustable headrest and a three-point inertia reel seatbelt. The rear bench is an M1 pull-tested system complete with Isofix mounting points for child seats, too. It can be slid and locked in any position on the four mounting rails, so you can have passengers close behind the cab seats for a convivial atmosphere on a long trip.
Sliding seat systems are expensive options, generally costing at least £3,000 more in parts compared to a fixed rear travel seat, so it’s great to have this versatile feature on a campervan that starts at under £50k.
Even though the Summit is based on a short-wheelbase van under 5m long, with the travel seat slid to its normal ‘bed ready’ position, there’s plenty of room to lounge on site. If you want more space, you can gain a couple of feet of interior length by flipping the rear bed section vertical and sliding the travel seat closer to the tailgate.
The cab seats are mounted on swivel bases and are easy to rotate, thanks to the fitment of a fly-off handbrake. It’s one of the easiest swivel mechanisms around.
Two dining tables are supplied as standard. One is a mounted on a bracket on the inside of the B-pillar, next to the passenger seat, and can be adjusted in various directions, while the other is a larger free-standing table that can be used inside or al fresco.
In traditional campervan style, the Summit uses a side kitchen layout. Curved Technoform cabinets are available in either gloss cream or a grey finish.
Ambient LED lighting strips are set into the lower and upper edges of the cupboards, while large circular LEDs are dotted around the perimeter of the roof.
Standard kitchen equipment includes the default Dometic combination two-burner hob and sink fed by an inboard 40-litre water tank and a sealed gas locker that can hold a single 6kg cylinder.
A 42-litre Dometic 12V compressor fridge runs off the 100Ah leisure battery, with a standard-fit 100W solar panel helping to top up the battery when you’re not on a hook-up. For extended periods away from mains power you might also want to add a battery-to-battery charger.
The test Summit’s SE Pack specification also meant that it came with the additional Dometic grill. In a small campervan, where space is at a premium, consider carefully whether you need this, but it doesn’t take up too much room, so it’s probably worth having for easy toast-making in the morning.
You also get a couple of narrow overhead lockers and a slide-out storage unit built into the curved forward end of the galley. This latter space is very slim – the shelves are only as wide as a small spice jar, but you do also get a deep and wide cutlery drawer, a cupboard under the grill and a useful cupboard to the right of the sink.
Campervans of this ilk are always a compromise in terms of storage and appliances, but a good balance has been struck with the Summit.
The cabinets include a tambour doored locker with a mid-height shelf, and an extra overhead locker. The former has a hanging rail built into the top of it, but you can’t hang a shirt in it unless the shelf is removed. With the bed made up, you’ve also got access to an extra locker to the rear of the vehicle, so you should have plenty of options for stashing clothing away.
The bed took 11 seconds to fold flat! The resulting mattress is 1.90m long by 1.11m wide and has a useful flared section by the rear quarter of the vehicle that expands width to 1.24m.
If you want a larger bed, tick the roof bed option (£450), which adds a flip-up 2m by 1.18m double in the elevating roof. The roof lifts up on gas struts after releasing a couple of tie-down straps and takes seconds to raise. It has meshed windows on two sides and a clear vinyl window to the front. In cooler weather you’ll be grateful for the blown-air diesel heating, the controls for which (together with all the light switches and the main control board) are mounted above the kitchen, within easy reach of the lower bed.
Even with the rear seat in its travel position, there’s lots of room for luggage behind and the rear section of bed serves as a useful parcel shelf. You can hide things from view beneath the bed base when parked up and it’s convenient to use the upper surface to hold your bedding. You can also use it as a rear-facing seat for outdoor events with the tailgate forming a natural shelter. Our SE Pack Summit sported a canopy awning at the side, too.
With no passengers, the seat slides all the way forward to create a vast floor-to-ceiling luggage space that can swallow all your hobby equipment, such as mountain bikes and watersports kit.
The maintenance elements of the Summit are also accessed from the rear of the vehicle, with the mains consumer unit and trip switches, as well as the 12V fuseboard, all mounted in a cupboard forward of the rear gas locker. All the fuses and trip switches are clearly labelled, so there’s no need to have to ferret about in the owner’s handbook to find out what fuse number seven does.
You can read more motorhome reviews in every issue of MMM - click here to buy digital issues of the magazine and here to view subscription prices for the print edition.