It always felt that the original Ford Transit Connect was rather late to the car-cube van party in 2002.
The Citroen Berlingo and Renault Kangoo were already well established at the top table munching their way through the main course of the European light van market while the first-in-the-field Fiat Fiorino was ordering coffee by then. It was simply too little too late. However, Ford knows a thing or too about market forces and forced the Connect into some high-profile fleets using the dual levers of the full-size Transit’s reputation and attractive discounts. The Connect(ion) was made.
This second generation appeared in 2013 with only a facelift in 2009 to keep the original one at least looking the part until then, and answered all of the criticisms of the first version. It was a different proposition entirely, arguably as innovative as the Fiorino and Berlingo had been at launch.
Built on two wheelbase lengths of nominally 2.6m or 3.1m, the overall length is 4.42m or 4.82m, successfully blurring the line between establish light and medium van perceived sizes. With a width and height of around 1.83m each it makes the Connect compact enough for its expected urban environment and able to fit into a domestic garage. Load dimensions are right on the money too. Just short of 2m long in the load bay of the short wheelbase and 2.4m in the long. A fold-down passenger seat backrest allows for over-length narrow items such as ladders or pipes to be accommodated, up to a maximum of 3m or 3.4m, depending upon wheelbase. Add a load width at maximum of 1.5m and a payload of 1,000kg and that’s all the boxes ticked in this class.
Most you will find on sale have the 1.6-litre common-rail turbodiesel, but Ford also offered from launch the 1.0-litre three-pot turbo-petrol from the Fiesta. This might sound like a recipe for losing a tug-of-war with the top of a rice-based dessert, but 99hp and decent torque (once on boost) means it’s fine for city-dwelling lower-payload jobs. Transmissions are five- or six-speed depending upon power output and trim level and both have well-chosen ratios, but we’d always opt for the six-pack.
The biggest change in the second-generation Connect is the quality feel of the thing. It’s up there with the VW Caddy, where the old one felt like a rush job. Equipment levels are high, the interior is tough but comfortable, and attention to detail impressive. The only question mark over reliability was a recall for an engine cooling issue in late 2017, with potential for serious cylinder head problems, so check the service history and quote the VIN (vehicle identification number) at your local dealer before parting with your hard-earned. Otherwise all seems well and drivetrains are well-proven elsewhere in the Ford stable. Overall the mk2 Transit Connect offers plenty for the sole trader no matter what that trade might be.
Five best options
1) 95hp engine
2) 6-speed transmission
3) Trend version
4) Long wheelbase
5) Pet rol engine for lighterduties
Fives best avoided
1) 75hp engine (in LWB)
2) 5-speed transmission
3) Limited version
4) Base version
5) Short wheelbase