Generally speaking it takes months after attending a European launch of a new or updated van for us to get our hands on right-hand drive versions, but this has not been the case with the revised Transit Connect. Already on sale in dealerships the latest Connects bring with them a selection of design and technical upgrades, although the renowned robustness and practicality remain unchanged.
To bring Connect more into line with the ‘kinetic design’ appearance of Ford’s latest passenger cars and the recently introduced new Fiesta Van it gets a redesigned front bumper and grille, and new headlamp and rear light clusters. The interior has had the magic wand waved over it as well and the all-new dashboard takes it cues from the S-MAX and the Fiesta. The seats have also been redesigned and all Connects feature a full-width parcel shelf above the windscreen.
Four specification levels are up for grabs; Base, Trend, Limited and SportVan. Even the entry-level models come with electric windows and remote double central locking, but move up to the Trend and the list expands to include electric door mirrors, heated windscreen, trip computer with Bluetooth and Voice Control, and front fog lamps.
The top-of-the-range Limited and short-wheelbase SportVan also get air conditioning, body colour-coded door handles and mirrors, alloy wheels — 16in for the Limited, 18in for the SportVan — and rear parking sensors, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers, and an auto-dipping rear view mirror.
As far as active safety is concerned Ford really couldn’t equip the Connect with much more. As standard you get ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) that includes Active Yaw Control (AYC), Roll Over Mitigation (ROM) and Roll Movement Intervention (RMI), Traction Control System (TCS) — pause for breath — Engine Drag torque Control (EDC), Electronic Brake Assist and Hill Launch Assist (HLA).
All of this electronic wizardry is designed to help the driver out in emergency situations and when driving on low friction surfaces. An additional feature is the inclusion of emergency hazard lights. Hit the middle pedal hard in the event of an emergency and following drivers are automatically warned thanks to the flashing hazard lights. See, they’re not just for when the van is parked.
Ford has also taken the opportunity to upgrade the actual braking hardware by fitting discs all-round, with those at the front ventilated. Passive safety is taken care of by an airbag for the driver, with one for the passenger an option; as are side airbags, except on the SportVan where they are standard.
As before, Transit Connect remains available in either short-wheelbase/low roof and long-wheelbase/high roof guises, resulting in load volumes of 2.5m3 and 3.3m3 respectively. These are the more realistic VDA figures — measured using standard sized cubes — rather than the very optimistic SAE ones employed by most other manufacturers; calculated using sand.
The design and practicality of the load area has not been altered for this update and it’s none the worse for that. Access is via twin symmetrical side-hinged rear doors — or a tailgate can be specified — and there’s the choice of either a single or twin sliding side doors.
The load area is separated from the cab by a full-size mesh bulkhead, with the nearside half hinged so that it can be swung forwards to take advantage of the standard folding passenger seat to increase the load length — 1,760mm for the SWB and 2,007mm for the LWB — by 707mm. A solid steel bulkhead is to be found on the options list and comes with or without a window.
All Connects have a maximum load width of 1,490mm, narrowing to 1,226mm between the wheel boxes. Load height is 1,193mm on the SWB, rising to 1,364mm for the LWB and its high roof.
Ford has stuck with the tried and tested 1.8-litre Duratorq turbodiesel for the front-wheel drive Connect range and as before it is available at three power outputs; 75hp, 90hp and 110hp. The most powerful unit features a variable geometry turbo.
Torque figures are 175Nm, 220Nm and 250Nm respectively and both the higher-powered engines feature what Ford calls a ‘transient overboost’ mode. What this basically means is that if the accelerator is nailed to the floor there is more power and torque available for a short period of time; specifically 240Nm for the former and 280Nm for the latter. Very handy for safe overtaking.
These two versions of the 1.8 can also be specified with an optional closed-loop coated Diesel Particulate Filter which requires no additives like AdBlue to function and so is maintenance-free.
Base and Trend models can be had with the 75hp and 90hp engine, while Limited takes the 90hp or 110hp. The SportVan, of course, takes the most powerful version.A five-speed manual gearbox is fitted across the range, but we
do think that the 110hp could well benefit from a six-speeder.
Speaking of the 110hp, that was the engine we took for a spin on the launch event. It was in a SWB 230 with Limited trim and finished in a rather appealing blue colour Ford refers to as Ocean.
What Van? has always been a big fan of the Connect and an hour behind the wheel of the revised version has done nothing to diminish our respect. The driving position is excellent, the seats are comfortable and the engine is refined with more than enough torque available over a good spread of revs.
It’s the Connect’s handling, however, that really prompts a smile. Put simply, it goes where it’s pointed and this is accomplished in no small part thanks to the feedback from the beautifully weighted hydraulic power steering. Another contributing factor is the suspension which verges on the hard; it is certainly not soft and soggy, isolating the driver from the road.
This writer prefers to feel what the road and wheels are doing, while at the same time retaining the fillings in his teeth and the revised Connect manages to provide a very acceptable compromise.
The Connect can be had as a five-seater crew van, as well as a car specification Torneo people-carrier and if diesel isn’t your tipple of choice there’s a fully electric version available from Smith Electric Vehicles. It is now also sold on the other side of the Atlantic in North America, but as the Yanks have yet to get their heads around small-capacity diesels, the USA-spec Connect gets a 2-litre petrol engine mated to an automatic gearbox; fuel economy must be great.
Ford has done a good job in updating the Transit Connect range. It retains all of it’s good points and adds a few more to boot.