The light van sector is bucking the trend of a declining market and Ford’s big-selling model is not having it all its own way, as James Dallas reports.
The new van market may have entered a gentle decline as the UK’s economy struggles to keep up a head of steam in a period of political uncertainty but sales of light vans weighing between 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes are bucking the trend.
In the, albeit low-volume, month of February the whole market enjoyed a fillip following a slow start in January – rising by 6.4% to 14,135, according to the SMMT – but light van sales jumped 20% to 2,586 units year-on-year. In the first two months of the year the sector was up 8.8% to 5,792.
In February, a trio of light vans made it into the top 10 sellers’ list, bunched together at five, six and seven, but most notable was Ford suffering the rare indignity of not providing the sector’s bestseller with the Transit Connect (803) being outsold by Peugeot’s Partner (856). The Citroen Berlingo was tucked in behind this pair on 604 sales.
Over the first two months of 2018, however, the Transit Connect was the nation’s fifth best-selling van on 1,860, just 25 units ahead of the Partner on 1,835, with the Berlingo still keeping pace on 1,524 registrations.
During the full year of 2017 the light van sector increased 2.3% to 55,047 in an overall market that fell 3.6% to 362,149 units compared to 2016.
The Transit Connect led the way by growing sales from 15,494 to 19,805 year-on-year, ahead of the Partner, up marginally on 14,991, and the Berlingo, down slightly on 13,875. The top five was completed by the VW Caddy (6,761) and the Vauxhall Combo, which endured a tough year with sales down from 5,982 in 2016 to 4,181 last year.
Rivals trying to keep up with Ford’s light van will be bracing themselves for the launch of a revised Connect in mid-2018. New to the Connect will be a 1.5-litre Ecoblue engine and eight-speed auto transmission. It will also be available with Ford’s 1.0-litre petrol Ecoboost engine and a six-speed manual gearbox.
Ford has given the van an external makeover to bring it in line with its latest design discipline. This includes a three-bar Transit grille combined with slimmer headlamps, with HID Xenon lamps and LED daytime running lights available on high-series models. A front spoiler enhances the new look.
Inside, an upgraded cabin features a revised instrument panel with a new central control area that incorporates a floating, tablet-inspired six-inch colour touchscreen on high-series models and features Ford’s Sync 3 communications and entertainment system.
The brand has extended service intervals on manual diesels to two years/25,000 miles from two years/20,000 miles.