The new Transit Connect light van has bedded into the market well since going on sale in February and is playing its role as a key member of Ford’s completely overhauled and well-received light commercial vehicle line-up.
The brand claims the Connect is on course to hit its target of 14,000 sales in year one and has a long-term goal of capturing 20% of the sector as it sets its sights on competing with the big sellers such as the Citroen Berlingo and Volkswagen Caddy.
The Connect is available in three trim levels (most customers are expected to opt for the entry Base version) and with three power levels (75hp, 95hp and 115hp) of its 1.6-litre diesel engine. Ford is also offering the model with its 1.0-litre petrol Ecoboost engine.
The new model is up for grabs in panel van, double-cab-in-van and Kombi bodystyles, with short- (L1) and long-wheelbase (L2) versions. For customers who need to regularly carry passengers as well as cargo the Kombi is the logical choice, although there is also the double cab, available with or without glazed rear sliding doors.
Ford says the Kombi Connect is ideal for customers who need to combine the ability to carry passengers with the flexibility to convert the van into a load lugger by folding the seats flat to create a 2.6m3 load space with a payload of 770kg.
The L2 Double Cab-in-Van (crew van) has a maximum load volume of 2.8m3 but a top payload of 716kg. It does, however, have a bulkhead to protect cabin occupants from loose objects in the load area, so it is the preferable option for operators carrying four people and equipment. The L2 crew van has a starting price of £16,150 in Base trim compared to the Kombi’s starting price of £15,600 – all prices exclude VAT.
Visually, the new Connect is more appealing than its boxy, utilitarian predecessor with smoother lines and a more unified, sleeker style, although, the model looks better in SWB style than in the slightly ungainly LWB configuration, which we drove here as a Base spec Kombi.
Despite the entry-level spec, the cabin retains the attractive design and easy-to-use layout that Ford has rolled out from its passenger car range across its light commercials.
The Connect’s build quality is impressively solid and now seems to be on a par with the best in the segment, such as the Volkswagen Caddy. There is lots of practical stowage space, including a full-length overhead shelf that gives the impression of being far sturdier than many we’ve come across. A decent- sized open-topped compartment sits between the driver and passenger seats behind two sensibly placed cup holders that do not impede the handbrake or gear lever.
The door bins can also take mid-sized water bottles, but you need to step up a grade to Trend to get a lockable glove box.
Impressively, the Base Kombi includes DAB radio with USB, Bluetooth and voice control, with buttons for the audio system handily mounted on the steering wheel. Cruise control can be added for £150.
The four-way driver and passenger seats come with fore, aft and recline adjustments, and the steering column is adjustable for both rake and reach.
The five-speed manual gear shift is as slick as any on the market, but with the 95hp engine a sixth gear would be an advantage when cruising at high speeds.
Handling is not quite as sharp as it is with the SWB derivative, but we had no complaints about ride comfort, and noise levels are acceptable.
The driver and front seat passenger enjoy ample head and shoulder room, and in the rear seats there is plenty of space for passengers to stretch out their legs.
The Base trim Kombi comes equipped with ABS and ESC, and we were grateful for the efficiency of the Emergency Brake Assist system when a young deer ran out in
front of us on a woodland Gloucestershire road just when a Venison supper beckoned.
A sophisticated and versatile member of the Connect family with good specification levels for a base model.