Ford’s eight-speed automatic is good, if you can afford it, says Dan Gilkes.
SECTOR: Small van LOAD VOLUME: 2.9-3.6m3 PAYLOAD:579-865kg CO2: 123-146g/km
With automatic transmissions becoming an increasingly popular option in the light commercial market, Ford is offering an eight-speed box on the Transit Connect. Available in Base, Trend and Limited trim levels, though not on the Sport van, the auto can be had with the 100bhp or the 120bhp versions of Ford’s 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine.
As a £1,200 option it is unlikely to take over from the six-speed manual gearbox soon, which is a shame, because the eight-speed auto is a bit of a gem in this application. It smoothly swaps gears, provides rapid acceleration and delivers a stress-free driving experience that leaves the driver free to concentrate on the road.
The auto has a regular selection lever, with manual override buttons in the head, rather than paddles on the steering column. These work well enough, but unless you really want to change gear yourself they won’t get much use. Despite having so many ratios, the box seems to predict your needs well and is rarely caught out in the wrong gear if you need to accelerate.
You might expect with eight gears that at least the top two would be for higher speed cruising only, but the box gets into top at fairly conservative speeds, making the most of the 1.5-litre diesel’s strong torque. That said, the automatic struggles to match the manual in terms of fuel consumption, with a still respectable 55.6mpg against the manual’s 60.1mpg. Likewise, the CO2 figure climbs from 123g/km for the manual 100bhp model, to 135g/km for the auto.
Ownership costs aside though, the auto further improves what is already a class-leading van.