August 23, 2019

Ford’s blue collar worker

Though perhaps not the case in the UK, the compact van market is by far the largest sector throughout Europe and any manufacturer that wants to be a player has to have a decent offering. Of course, many of those vans are shared, with the PSA Group now including Vauxhall/Opel alongside the traditional Citroën and Peugeot models. Toyota will join this shared line-up next year with Proace City.

Renault also sells its technology, offering Kangoo with a Mercedes-Benz front-end as Citan and more recently as a Nissan in the new NV250. Fiat is now alone again with Doblo Cargo, since Vauxhall and Opel became part of PSA. Which leaves Ford and Volkswagen as the only manufacturers with truly independent models.

But, even that is coming to an end, as the two have announced growing cooperation on vans and pick-ups, with the next generation Transit Connect and VW Caddy set to share design and manufacturing.

Until that time, this Transit Connect remains a full blue-collar Ford, boasting one of the best drives in the business. Recently updated, it has most of the bases covered in the sector, offering decent payloads, load volumes, load-through bulkheads, three seat options and plenty of driver assistance and safety systems.

It is available with both petrol and diesel power, though as yet, there is no sign of an electrified or hybrid driveline. In terms of combustion engines, the two diesels on offer now boast a 1.5-litre capacity, down from the previous generation’s 1.6. Yet power and torque are both improved, while fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are both reduced.

You can have a 1.0-litre petrol with 100hp and 170Nm of torque, but most UK buyers will still opt for one of the diesels. These come with a choice of 100hp with 240Nm of torque, or a range-topping 120hp with 270Nm. In combination with a six-speed manual gearbox, that top power output results in a combined fuel figure of 56.5mpg with 130g/km of CO2.

You can also choose an eight-speed automatic transmission, which is excellent if inevitably costly. It also results in those figures dropping slightly, to 55.4mpg and a still very reasonable 135g/km.

The 1.5-litre engine certainly doesn’t struggle to push the Connect Sport along, with 120hp on tap it is rarely found wanting in terms of acceleration, while the standard six-speed box makes for easy cruising. In a week with the van, we also saw fuel consumption getting into the low 50s too, so those predicted claims aren’t too far from the mark.

There are two wheelbases, but just one roof height now. The short L1 Connect offers 2.9m3 of load volume, while the L2 can handle up to 3.6m3. Opt for a three-seat layout and a load-through bulkhead and you can carry loads up to 3.0m long in the shorter van, or 3.4m long in the L2.

Payloads are 645kg-865kg on the L1 van, or 680-834kg for the L2, depending on trim level. There is also the choice of a double-cab-in-van, with a second row of seats, in both models. This can be had without additional side glazing, for those that would like to reclaim the VAT.

Connect comes in a range of trims. The lower spec Base and Trend models can be paired with either of the two diesel engines or the 1.0-litre petrol, while Limited and Sport get the range-topping 120hp engine as standard.

Sport vans also come with 16” alloys, a body styling kit, alloy roof rails, a body coloured rear bumper with chrome moulding strip and the inevitable stripes on the bonnet and rear doors. Drivers get partial leather heated seats, plus dual-zone climate control.

Despite its range-topping status, while the Sport model is certainly comfortably well equipped, it does seem to be a bit lacking when it comes to connectivity. Ford offers a full SYNC 3 infotainment system, complete with 6” touchscreen, but it’s an option on all models. Standard fit on Trend, Limited and Sport is a 4.2” display, that brings with it a DAB radio, AUX and MP3 inputs, Bluetooth and voice control.

It’s a similar tale when it comes to driver and safety assistance, with many of the available technologies included in option packs or as single option box ticks. There are plenty available though, including Intelligent Speed Assist with Traffic Sign Recognition, distance indication and Active Parking Assist.

It’s not clear whether this will be the final purely Ford Transit Connect, or if the next one will have been built in collaboration with VW. Either way, the current van remains a strong player in this sector of the market, a fact that is backed up by increasingly strong sales figures.