Ford introduced a new Active variant of its Transit Connect in the second half of 2020, featuring modifications designed to improve the off-road driving capability of its popular compact van.

The changes should enhance the Connect’s appeal to construction workers and utility companies needing to access sites off the beaten track where some light off-roading is called for to complete missions. 

The addition of the Connect Active to the line-up also means Ford can offer customers a like-for-like alternative to the Citroen Berlingo Worker, the Peugeot Partner Grip or even, at a push, the Vauxhall Combo Cargo 4×4.

Among the changes to the Active derivative are a 24mm ride height increase at the front and a 9mm increase at the rear, designed to give better clearance over rough terrain.

Off-road performance on our test van was further improved by the inclusion of the optional mechanical limited-slip differential for £528 (all prices excluding VAT), which automatically transfers engine torque to the wheel with most traction in low-grip conditions. Bespoke traction control optimises this system.

Front and rear skid plates are standard, and there’s extra cladding on the body sides, mirror caps, wheel arches and rear bumper, helping to prevent scuffed paintwork. 

Roof rails are also standard, and there’s a mesh grille and 17in alloy wheels as well as a full-size spare wheel.

Power comes from a 1.5-litre diesel engine, producing either 100hp or 120hp. The Connect Active comes with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, but the mechanical limited-slip differential previously mentioned is only available with the 120hp six-speed manual combination driven here.

Load volume on this short-wheelbase Active remains unchanged from the standard Connect at 2.9m3 (long-wheelbase goes up to 3.6m3) and payload is a meaty 985kg.

Rear access to the cargo bay is by means of twin doors that can be swung through 90° or through 180° if you press a couple of buttons on the hinge. A nearside sliding door also allows access to the load area, which is separated from the cab by a full-height steel bulkhead that protects occupants from any items flying forward under sharp braking, although using the tie-down rings should ensure this doesn’t happen. 

Our Connect Active did not come with a load-through hatch under the passenger seat, which would come in handy to store longer items, such as pipes or wooden fence poles.

Standard driver assistance systems include intelligent speed limiting, autonomous emergency braking, side wind stabilisation and active park assist.

The Active is visually attractive and generally well-specced but welcome extra-cost features on our van included an adaptive cruise control package with intelligent speed assist, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition and lane-keeping aid for £758; Ford’s DAB navigation with Ford SYNC 3, rear parking sensors and rear view camera for £317; and a front parking aid for £192.

The interior is comfortable, with notable features including a leather gear knob, leather steering wheel and decent storage, with a useful overhead shelf.

Sharp handling, responsive steering and a smooth gear change almost come as a given on Ford light commercials but we did find the gearing was on the tall side, requiring a change down occasionally when driving up steep hills, and we wouldn’t recommend eco mode if peak performance is what you’re after.

Ford Transit Connect Active SWB 1.5L 6-spd manual

Price (ex VAT) £22,370

Price range (ex VAT) £16,730-£25,020

Insurance group 31 (est.)

Warranty 3yrs/100,000mls

Service intervals 1yr/20,000mls

Load length 1,558mm

Load width (min/max) 1,249/1,543mm

Load bay height 1,269mm

Gross payload 985kg

Load volume 3.6m3

Engine size/power 1,498cc/120hp

Combined fuel economy 62.4mpg

CO2 122g/km