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Launch Report: Ford Transit Connect

Ford continues to update its popular Transit range, with the introduction of a face-lifted Connect, says Martyn Collins.

SECTOR Mid-size van   PRICE £15,665-£20,364   POWER 75-120bhp   CO2 124-146g/km

Revealed this time last year and shown at the Commercial Vehicle Show, we’ve finally had the chance to get behind the wheel of a face-lifted version of Ford’s best-selling mid-size Transit – the Connect.

The current model has been on sale for five years, and the changes centre on freshening up the exterior of the Connect, bringing it in line with Ford’s car range. At the front, this means a higher-set, three-bar grille, with slimmer headlights. The look is completed at the front with a lower bumper area and spoiler – with the spoiler claimed to improve aerodynamics.

Move inside and the changes mostly focus on the revised dashboard and centre console. Connect is now available with the 6.0-inch tablet-style floating touchscreen, first seen in the car range, using SYNC 3 software. Plus, there are new instruments, trim          and materials.

More importantly, there’s now a 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine available in 75, 100 and 120bhp outputs, boasting revised fuel injection, turbocharging, emissions control and friction reduction technologies.

Besides the 1.5-litre diesel, Ford is also offering a revised version of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol, which include modifications to the cylinder head, fuel injection and emissions control systems, again all to help with fuel economy. The EcoBoost engine features cylinder deactivation technology, this means it can effectively run on just two cylinders, if speeds and loads are low enough, resulting in further fuel consumption savings.

We got to drive the 100bhp versions of the 1.5 EcoBlue diesel and 1.0 EcoBoost, both in L1 short wheelbase van size and entry-level Trend specification. First up, was the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol, mated with a six-speed manual transmission, which give a combined economy figure of 44.1mpg and just 146g/km of CO2.

Despite the small size, the way this Connect gets itself down the road impresses. The engine feels far more willing than the 100bhp performance would suggest, in fact we found it impossible to detect when and if this engine went into cylinder deactivation mode. The slick six-speed manual transmission compliments this engine and smooth drivetrain very well.

But, it’s not just the engine and transmission of this Ford that impress, it’s the comfy driving position, refined ride and precise steering that mean it’s fun to drive. It is also offered with a substantial 782kg payload.

The 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine came next, and is best described as more grumblier and harsh at idle — although this wasn’t an issue on the move. The character of this diesel in 100bhp form wasn’t quite as eager as the petrol, but speed still built up quickly, the engine was smooth and the gearbox was slick — even though it had just five-speeds. Plus, with a 60.8mpg fuel figure and 123g/km of CO2, the EcoBlue diesel should be even more affordable than the petrol.

Dynamically, although not as spirited, the EcoBlue Connect was as polished on the road.

Specification-wise, even in entry-level Trend, both vans were fitted with a heated windscreen, DAB radio and power door mirrors. These changes could be enough to keep the Transit Connect in contention.

 

The Verdict

The big news of the Transit Connect face-lift has to be the new engines, which should keep it at the top of the sales charts.

Rating ****

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Written by Dan Gilkes

Dan has been a commercial vehicle and construction equipment journalist for almost 30 years. An automotive engineer and former fleet manager, he has driven almost every van, pickup and truck that has been launched in Europe over that time. As editor of VFW, his aim is to keep readers up to date with the latest developments in the light commercial world.

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