Ford's baby Transit replaced the Escort Van and Courier in one fell swoop and has becoming a very familiar sight on UK roads.
So far as we can see it’s got all the virtues and precious few vices. The gear change is slick, the handling inspires confidence and the ride can lay claim to be the best in class. The Connect copes with poor surfaces with greater aplomb than any of its competitors. Refinement levels are high and are raised even further by having a full bulkhead installed.
Ford’s Turkish-built baby is on offer as both short- and long wheelbase,and in its latter guise with a high roof option.With a 625kg to 825kg gross payload, the former offers a 2.8m3 cargo area. Its long-wheelbase stablemate boasts a 3.7m3 load bay and a payload spread of 700kg to 900kg.
The tumblehome - the angle atwhich the load bay’s sides join the roof of the vehicle - has been minimised to create as much usable space as possible. Having near-vertical sides is especially useful if racking is to be fitted.
Both variants feature a passenger seat that can be folded flat, with the headrest still in place. The smaller of the two models can be ordered with a single nearside sliding cargo door, one on both sides, or no sliding doors at all. The long-wheelbase comes with a nearside slider as standard and an optional offside one. A tailgate is available as an option on the short-wheelbase version, but twin rear doors are otherwise fitted as standard across the range.
Four engines are up for grabs. Diesel fans can choose between a 75hp, 90hp or 110hp 1.8-litre Duratorq common rail turbodiesel. A 115hp Duratec petrol engineof the same capacity is also on offer (and an LPG version) and all five are married to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Connect comes with disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear, and power assisted racking and pinion steering is fitted to all variants.
The driving position is excellent. Adjustable for height, reach and rake and the driver’s seat is setat just the right height for ease of exit and entry through the big, wide-opening cab doors. Lots of thought has gone into the detail of the spacious cab’s interior design. An overhead shelf comes as standard onlong-wheelbase derivatives, for example. It’s an option on the short-wheelbase.
The diesels require a service every 15,000 miles and a three year/100,000 mile warranty isprovided.
Connect is a great piece of light commercial vehicle design and the engineers involved should be proud of the result. It sets high standards in its market segment for build quality and the robustnature of its construction; if anything it is over-engineered, but that can be no bad thing. There’s stiff competition in this sector, but the addition of the 110hp TDCi has kept just ahead and it took the Light Van of the Year Award, once again, for 2007. Revised models now on sale; see here.