Ford’s adorable new Nugget PHEV camper van gets the jump on Volkswagen

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It’s about time. The plug-in hybrid camper van wars are slowly warming up. The Ford Transit Custom has been available as a PHEV camper from third-party manufacturers like Dethleffs and Wellhouse Leisure for several years, but not from Ford itself. That changes with the next-generation Transit Custom Nugget camper van that has debuted at the 2023 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. The new camper van gets a few key updates around its smart multi-zone floor plan and will come with several powertrain options, including the PHEV that gives the Transit Custom van itself up to 35 miles (56 km) of electric range per charge. That’s a little more than its soon-to-be competitor over at Volkswagen, and unlike the concept Multivan California, the new Nugget goes up for order this month.

While the Volkswagen California gets all the attention from camper van enthusiasts young and old, we don’t think it’s unfair to say that Ford has concocted the more innovative camper van family with the Nugget series. Even putting aside the slightly larger Nugget Plus and its bathroom, an option Volkswagen still doesn’t offer on anything smaller than the full-size Grand California, the standard Nugget’s multi-zone floor plan with dedicated kitchen at the rear, lounge/spare bedroom up front and master bedroom upstairs in the pop-up roof is an intelligent layout that neatly carves up the limited space of Ford’s midsize van.

As Ford points out, the three-zone layout allows campers to move around the cabin, cook breakfast, and get in and out of the vehicle without having to crawl all over each other, even if the beds are set up. The chef has full autonomy in the rear, unlike with a California-style kitchen smack bang in the middle of the living area and next to the bed.

Unlike other midsize-van campers, the Ford Nugget has its kitchen at the rear, where it can be used without bumping into anyone else
Unlike other midsize-van campers, the Ford Nugget has its kitchen at the rear, where it can be used without bumping into anyone else

Not surprisingly, Ford and conversion partner Westfalia carry this same floor plan over to the new Nugget, based on the second-generation Transit Custom, while updating some everyday equipment. For instance, the L-shaped galley in the rear of the van now gets a drawer-style fridge meant to make for easier indoor/outdoor access than the outgoing counter-level top-loader while also offering enough height for standing bottles. The switch to a combination dual-burner stove/sink unit allots 20% more free countertop space for food prep and general storage. The sink and outdoor shower now come with hot water as standard, and an available rear tailgate tent makes outdoor showers fully private.

A hot/cold outdoor shower comes standard, and a privacy tent is optional
A hot/cold outdoor shower comes standard, and a privacy tent is optional

Up above the kitchen, a newly added flip-up rear panel for the 125 x 205-cm (49 x 81-in) roof bed lifts to give cooks more headroom. Soft-close latches and pop-out handles protect small fingers and cut out unwanted noise.

Moving forward in the van, the three-seat rear bench now comes track-mounted to the floor for improved adjustability. The three seats are available with optional heating, joining the heated front seats in providing a little extra coziness during cold-weather road trips. As in the past, the front seats swivel 180 degrees to join the rear bench around the folding dining table. The bench folds down into a 120 x 190-cm (47 x 77-in) double bed at night.

The new Nugget is a five-seater with three-seat rear bench that folds to make room for the second bed
The new Nugget is a five-seater with three-seat rear bench that folds to make room for the second bed

Other camping improvements and modifications include a 7-in smart RV touchscreen with control and readouts of onboard functions, an accompanying app for remote control, a standard 5G modem, wireless device charging, a self-folding pop-top fabric designed for easier roof closure, and new integrated storage for the standard outdoor table and chair set. The rooftop solar array shown in photos is optional, designed to keep the dual 95-Ah leisure batteries topped off.

In addition to its sharper LED gaze, the base Transit Custom brings improvements like a SYNC 4 info-nav system with 13-in touchscreen and voice control and beefed-up ADAS with intelligent adaptive cruise control, Park Pilot and 360-degree camera.

Ford plans to add AWD versions of the new Transit Custom Nugget in the future
Ford plans to add AWD versions of the new Transit Custom Nugget in the future

The new Transit Custom Nugget is on show at the 2023 Caravan Salon now, and the Titanium trim with 168-hp 2.0-liter EcoBlue engine and eight-speed automatic transmission front-wheel drive will be available to order this month for prices starting at €76,517 (approx. US$83,175) including VAT. Deliveries will begin in (Northern Hemisphere) spring 2024.

The PHEV version will follow within a year, bringing its 229-hp combination of 2.5-liter engine, electric drive and 11.8-kWh battery pack. In the non-camper Transit Custom van, that battery offers up to 35 miles (56 km) of all-electric range before the powertrain has to dip into the gas reserves. Ford has not mentioned any plans to add an all-electric Nugget based on the 236-mile (380-km) E-Transit Custom, but it does say it will add an AWD option in the future.

The larger Nugget Plus camper van mentioned earlier has not yet been updated for the gen-2 Transit Custom platform. Expect that model to follow in the future.

The one-minute promo is more of a dramatized commercial but does highlight some of the newest features in action.

All-New Ford Transit Custom Nugget Camper Van

Source: Ford Europe