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Ford Transit Connect review

Overall Rating: 5/10

Last year’s Ford Transit Custom began to redefine the look and feel of the modern Transit van. Contemporary design, tried-and-tested engineering and genuine innovation converged to create a new mid-sized van streets ahead of the competition. But in applying the same formula to the smaller Transit Connect, Ford is faced with an altogether tougher job. The Transit Connect it replaces has begun to look decidedly old fashioned. While it sold in high volumes and was well received in the United States – where small vans of this type simply didn’t exist – in comparison to newer European rivals like the Mercedes-Benz Citan and Volkswagen Caddy, the Transit Connect’s high flat sides more closely resemble Postman Pat’s red van. Nevertheless, Ford’s customers appreciated the practicalities, a rear loadspace of up to 3.7m3 (with a 908kg payload) and large flat panels ideal for signwriting. Despite people mover variants it was a fairly uncompromising, and successful, van.

A decade later and the market has changed, and double-cab and seven-seater Kombi versions of small vans have grown in popularity; and where once a simple van to car conversion would have sufficed, consumers are now looking for an altogether more refined package. Enter the Ford C-segment platform, the underpinnings for amongst other things the irrefutably excellent Ford Focus as well as the front two thirds of the new Transit Connect.

The new Connect is first and foremost a van, but one that is based upon a car platform, that also needs to be better than the original van whilst still being a capable and desirable car. It’s a huge ask, but one that Ford has mastered with aplomb. Given the praise awarded to recent Ford family vehicles like the C-Max, passenger, or Tourneo Connect, versions are sure to be a success particularly in Europe where demand is higher. As a commercial vehicle nothing of this standard has been seen before at this GVW, with a build quality unrivaled by even the Germans and an ergonomic design and natural level of comfort that passenger cars from just a few years ago would be envious of.

The panel van will be available in short and long wheelbase lengths (L1 or L2) offering 1752mm and 2153mm load lengths that can be extended to carry 3000mm and 3400mm lengths using the load through bulkhead (first seen on the Transit Custom). There will be just one roof height, the reason for which is twofold; a high-roof model could hamper sales of the Transit Custom (a market Ford would like to direct customers looking for larger volumes into) and unlike the UK where height restricted car parks are often set at two metres, European countries (particularly Germany) often have a 1.85m limit. Load volumes for L2 models will remain unchanged at 3.7m3 with a maximum payload ranging from 700kg to 1000kg, while L1 wheelbase models will see a 0.1m3 volume increase to 2.9m3 and payloads of 625kg to 825kg. Long-wheelbase models are capable of carrying an 8ft x 4ft board thanks to a reshaped bulkhead, while its sliding doors are said to have best-in-class opening apertures that allow a 1,200mm x 800mm pallet to be loaded.

Technology also plays an important part in the new Transit Connect, with several key new Ford features present on the new van. SYNC – which allows easy Bluetooth and media connection, as well as automatic dialing to emergency services in the event of an accident – is joined by Active City Stop, the anti-collision technology designed to prevent rear-end collisions. Occupant protection has been made a priority with a safety cell made largely of boron hardened steel that should help it score a top Euro NCAP test later this year.

Yet, it is the engines that are arguably the highlight of the new Connect range, as the introduction of Ford’s 1-litre Ecoboost engine sees petrol return to Ford’s UK line-up. The 100hp engine is not expected to be a big seller with just 1% of annual sales – that job will fall to the 1.6-litre TDCi available with a five-speed transmission at 75hp and 95hp or with a six-speed ‘box paired to the 115hp unit – but it will increase the Connect’s global appeal, a key aim of the One Ford product strategy. The most efficient model will be the 95hp Econetic diesel with a combined claimed fuel consumption of 70.6mpg, while the petrol is said to achieve 50.4mpg. Both are said to have best in class fuel consumption figures for diesel and petrol vans, and both engines provide a vastly different driving experience when in action.

The three-cylinder petrol-powered Ecoboost certainly urges you to press on, whereas the TDCi diesel is more content to let its torque pull you up to speed, but these obvious differences between diesel and petrol, dictated more by the noises they create as you push the throttle, are no more apparent than when the key is first turned.

The diesel fires into action with a muted thrum, whearas the Ecoboost’s rev counter merely rises to 700rpm. The lack of noise is astonishing, and as you pull away the engine continues to surprise. The power and responsiveness of this little 1-litre engine defy belief, and while it feels happiest above 2,000rpm, it feels equally refined when trundling along below that or with your foot planted and the revs above 6,000rpm. While it doesn’t have the mid-range pull of the diesel, a fifth gear to fourth gear overtake in the TDCi should probably be a fifth to third change in the Ecoboost, there’s no lack of power. Of the diesel engines the 95hp unit will draw the most attention, balancing power with efficiency, but the sixth ratio found on the 115hp model will prove a popular choice for users looking to cover motorway miles.

The ride quality, particularly at low speeds, is more closely matched to a car than a CV, however, our test vehicles were partially loaded with as much as 300kg, which only further improved the feel of the Connect on the road. The old Connect demonstrated superb levels of grip, and the new generation continues that trend. The connection with the road is felt through a well weighted steering rack that is direct and responsive to change, and is possibly the Connect’s strongest characteristic.

Prices will start at £13,150 and Ford has already recorded 1000 pre-sales ahead of its arrival in the UK in November, and those customers will not be disappointed. As a whole the package is vastly superior to the previous model, but when you look at each of the vans attributes, it is only really in the design and cabin comfort where the new model has truly changed over the old. The out-going Connect, whilst outdated now, was of right for its time; the new Connect is not only right for its time, but for the foreseeable future – and certainly until its competitors catch up.

Ford Transit Connect

Price: £- £

Power: -
Torque: - Nm
Payload: - kg
Volume/Area: -
Loadspace Length Max: - mm
Things We Like:
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Overall: 5/10

Driving: /10
Interior: /10
Practicality: /10
Value: /10
First Published: November 22, 2013
Last Modified: March 5, 2024  
Written by: thevanreviewer

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