James Dallas finds the newly arrrived light van’s spirited performance is a match for its sporty look.
Ford’s Transit Connect Sport Van went on sale in the UK in the second quarter of this year just after the Commercial Vehicle Show, having made its global debut at the Hanover IAA in September 2018.
Sports vans can be incongruous – ugly ducklings masquerading as swans – but the neat and tidy Connect, particularly in the short-wheelbase mode driven here, carries the look off and, of course, coming from the Ford stable it has the performance chops to ensure it does not just flatter to deceive.
The Connect Sport’s power comes from a 1.5-litre TDCi that produces a punchy 120hp. While this is the only powertrain offered with the Limited and Sport trims, the entry-level Leader and mid-range Trend versions are also available with 75hp and 100hp derivatives of the 1.5 diesel as well as Ford’s 1.0-litre 100hp Ecoboost petrol engine.
Standard stop/start helps to keep combined-cycle fuel consumption to a respectable 56.5mpg on the Sport, according to Ford, and we have been averaging not far short of this on a diet of city driving, A-roads and longer motorway routes.
The Connect Sport is priced from £20,405, excluding VAT, and stands out from the rest of the line-up thanks to an exterior styling kit featuring black sports stripes with silver or, in our case, orange accents, and 16in, five-spoke, dark, stainless alloy wheels. The cabin gets partial-leather heated driver’s and single passenger seats.
Standard specification includes dual-aone electronic automatic temperature control and cruise control with adjustable speed-limiter.
The aircon system is a step up from the manual air-conditioning on Limited trim but most of the other changes could be filed under ‘cosmetic’. The cruise control is not adaptive, which restricts its usefulness on the UK’s busy roads, and adaptive cruise control is listed as an option on Limited and Sport models for £790.
The speed-limiter can be handy in keeping you on the right side of the law in towns and cities as well as stretches of open road restricted to 40mph or 50mph, particularly in a van that’s as fun to drive as the Connect.
Our van does not have the £550 active park assist option, which can find parking spaces and steer the van in and out of them, but standard rear parking sensors (included on Limited and Sport) do offer protection from the danger of dings in tight spaces.
Dipping into the extensive option list could easily bump up the price and Ford’s Sync 3 communications and entertainment system (£450 on Sport), which includes a rear-view camera, voice control and 6in touchscreen is another absentee on our van. For £750 Sync 3 can be bundled in with satnav as part of the Icepack.
We have got the blind spot information system (BLIS), which includes cross-traffic alert and is a £350 option on Sport, but Ford could really do with making more driver assistance features standard fits on the Connect.
The FordPass Connect embedded modem (£230) is also included as a downloadable smartphone app that can provide remote locking, location assistance, and fuel level and tyre pressure monitoring.
The Connect Sport comes into its own as a driver’s van – it is nimble and nippy, with the snappy six-speed manual gearbox making it easy to get the most out of the 120hp on tap, while a rake- and reach-adjustable steering wheel and eight-way adjustable driver’s seat facilitate finding the best driving position.
Report Card: Handling = 5/5
This van sets the benchmark when it comes to driveability.
Ford Transit Connect Sport SWB 1.5 TDCi
Official combined consumption 56.5mpg
Our average consumption 54.2mpg
Price (ex VAT) £20,045
Service intervals 1yr/20,000mls
Load length 1,558mm
Load width (min/max) 1,249/1,543mm
Load bay height 1,269mm
Load volume 2.9m3
Gross payload 718kg
Engine size/power 1,498cc/120hp