Next week, Ford will launch the new Transit Custom cargo van at the Birmingham Commercial Vehicle show in the U.K. MotorTrend reported that the Transit Custom is the hard-working cargo version of the Tourneo Custom passenger van shown earlier this year, and goes on sale across Europe later this year.

It’s important to note that this van is front-wheel drive and rides on what Ford considers a light-duty chassis. The new Ford Transit that will be introduced in the U.S. market by the end of 2012 will be rear-wheel drive, boasting a tougher platform, and may have bolder styling echoing that of the F-Series truck line. As a direct replacement for the aging E-Series/Econoline vans, Ford says the new Transit will be 300 pounds lighter and 25% more fuel-efficient than the E-Series.

About 40% of the body of the new European Ford Transit Custom is made from high-strength steels, which help make the vehicle both lighter and stronger. As a result, Ford says the new van is 37% stiffer than before, which will improve handling and reduce interior noise. There will be two different wheelbases, with overall vehicle length 195.7 inches or 210.2 inches.

Clever concessions to use as a cargo van begin with a pass-through in the bulkhead, allowing long pipes or ladders to be partially carried in the passenger compartment. Ford says the Transit’s sliding doors are larger than those of the competition, and that interior room between the fenders is wider than in other cargo vans. There also will be a folding roof rack, that can easily be stowed when not in use, more convenient cargo area tie-down hooks, and “easy clean” floor surfaces.

Improvements for driver comfort include a seat that can move farther back, a newly telescoping and tilting steering wheel, and the Sync voice recognition software. Also new to the Transit are features like a backup camera, Lane Keeping Alert, and a feature that warns if it detects the driver is tired.

Power comes from Ford’s turbocharged 2.2-liter DuraTorq diesel inline-four engine, with 98 hp, 123 hp, and 153 hp flavors available. It’s very likely one of these will become available in the American-market Ford Transit; the automaker has already confirmed that our rear-wheel-drive Ford Transit will feature both an EcoBoost V-6 and a diesel engine. The European model also gets engine stop-start as standard.