DRIVING IMPRESSION: Ford Transit Connect & Tourneo Connect

BY CHARL BOSCH - OCTOBER 27, 2015

Despite South Africa’s preference towards bakkies and SUV’s as a means of transporting goods and people from A-B, vans have always been part of our landscape whether it be panel vans, combination vans or indeed people movers converted from vans.

While it is clear that vans and their passenger equivalents are unlikely to topple either of these anytime soon, breaking away from the norm can lead to a few surprises as proved by my weeklong evaluation of the Ford Transit Connect and its MPV sibling, the Tourneo Connect.

 

Transit Connect 1.6 TDCi LWB

As the sole panel van model currently offered in the Connect range, the Transit, not to be confused with the bigger full-size icon of vans, weighs in at the premium end of the market with Ford only offering it with a single body style and drivetrain option. The end result however, is nothing short of incredible.

Built at the same plant in Valencia, Spain as the Fiesta, the Transit uses a stretched version of Ford’s Global B-car platform that measures 4 928 mm in length, 1 852 mm in height and width of 1 835 mm. This translates to a total cargo capacity of 3.6 m? and payload of 1 004 kg.

Although looks don’t usually come to mind first when choosing a van, the execution of Ford’s Kinetic Design styling language has helped give the Transit a distinctive almost menacing appearance with angular swept headlights, thick plastic moulded bumpers, oval-shaped lower front airdam, and side mirrors that appears to have come from the Ranger.

It is however on the inside where the Transit plays its biggest trump card. With an elevated driving position, massive glasshouse and overhead storage area, the cab is only a few steps away from the bigger Transit Custom. Likewise, the positioning of the gear lever at the base of the centre console, made cog swopping more of a delight as there was no need to reach down each time the revs climbed.

Boasting the same smartphone inspired dashboard layout as the Fiesta, the Transit not only looks modern but feels like a car, and while the plastics used are not of the softest kind, they felt well put together and durable enough to withstand the likely punishment vans tend to go through.

Just as impressive, if not more, is the level of standard kit which includes a two-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and USB, electric windows, central locking, air-conditioning, driver’s airbags, height adjustable steering wheel with volume controls, Hill Start Assist, traction control and ABS with EBD.

In addition, our tester came fitted with the optional (R8 060) assistance pack that adds a passenger’s airbag, tyre pressure monitor, front foglights, front and rear parking sensor as well as a reverse camera, which rates as a definite must due to the steel bulkhead occupying the only image in the rear view mirror.

On the move, the Transit felt even more car like with the only give away being the echo from the cargo area as you close the door. Not only is the ride comfortable and the steering light, but the mid-range shove provided by the 1.6 Duratorq TDCi engine, makes overtaking easy and without fuss.

While 85 kW and 285 N.m of torque might seem meagre given its size, the engine counters by affording the Transit with huge dollops of torque each time the loud pedal is hit. Aside from its positioning, the six-speed manual gearbox is particularly impressive as is features a nice short throw with the changes being slick and precise.

Even though it might lack the appeal of a bakkie, there is little doubt that the Ford Transit Connect provides a worthy alternative. Better equipped, even with the options, than most of its rivals, fun to drive and with a humongous cargo area to boot, it defiantly must command a high position on any buyer’s shortlist.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 16v Inline 4
DISPLACEMENT 1,560 cc
MAX POWER 85 kW @3600 rpm
MAX TORQUE 285 N.m
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Front-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] n/a
TOP SPEED 165 km/h
FUEL CONSUMPTION 4.9 L/100 km
EMISSIONS 130 g/km

 

Tourneo Connect 1.0 EcoBoost Trend

Swopping the flat floor for a second row of seats and the steel bulkhead for an overhead storage compartment, the Tourneo Connect heralds the return of the traditional MPV in spite of crossovers having become the preferred method of family transport.

Unlike its van sibling however, the Tourneo goes one step further by offering both short and long wheel base configurations, the latter offered with seven seats and badged as the Grand Tourneo, as well as Ford’s multi-award winning three cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine.

Benefitting from the additions of colour coding for the bumpers, black moulded plastic inlays at the base of the doors and optional (R6 540) 16-inch alloy wheels, the transformation from van to MPV has given the Tourneo an even more menacing appearance, with other notable changes being a second sliding door and traditional rear bootlid instead of the Transit’s barn-doors.

Inside, the Tourneo, tested here in range topping Trend spec, retains the same dashboard layout as the Transit, but with a significant upgrade in the type of materials used. In addition, the infotainment system now incorporates Ford’s SYNC connectivity that allows for voice recognition commands and Bluetooth audio streaming.

Interestingly, the Tourneo’s sound system also features a CD-player whereas the Transit only includes a USB and Aux input. This slight oddity aside, standard spec is about as inclusive as you could wish for with electric windows all around, cruise control with speed limiter, auto lock/unlock doors, tyre pressure monitor, Hill Start Assist, steering wheel audio controls, six airbags, ABS with EBD, EBA, ESP and Torque Vectoring Control that sends power from side to side.

With the launch of the first generation model in Europe 13 years ago, the Tourneo broke new grounds by being the first of its kind to offer a 60/40 split rear seat. As easy as pulling a tag on the outer side of each seat, and a second on the now folded back, cargo space measures 1 029-litres with additional storage areas coming from a small compartment hidden under the driver’s seat in the rear passenger footwell, rear door pockets and an overhead compartment above the heads of the driver and passenger.

Given its van origins, faulting the Toureno for head and knee room remains hard as the large glass area affords it an airy feel with the same true of the rear bench. Popping the driver’s chair into my seating position, I was able to easily sit behind myself with millimetres of room to spare.

Propelling the Tourneo along, the sole drivetrain option comes in the form of Ford’s acclaimed 1.0 EcoBoost turbocharged engine connected to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Although likely to raise a number of eyebrows given the 1.5 ton kerb weight it has to move around with 74 kW and 170 N.m of torque, the EcoBoost does an amicable job as I discovered when putting the box in sixth and dropping the revs to 1 500 rpm. Foot down, the EcoBoost responded by offering a linear power delivery without sounding strangled as the three cylinder thrum became audible.

As with the Transit, the six-speed box was nothing but a delight to use with a light clutch action and slick precise shifting. Despite the 16-inch rubber, the Tourneo’s ride remained comfortable with the usual imperfections failing to upset progress in any big way.

While some might berated the Ford Tourneo Connect for its small engine and modest power output, it nonetheless does what an MPV should do. Not only is it commodious enough to lug anything around you could throw at it, but as a package, it makes for a worthy contender if you don’t want to go the crossover route.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 12v Inline 3
DISPLACEMENT 999 cc
MAX POWER 74 kW @6000 rpm
MAX TORQUE 170 N.m
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Front-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] n/a
TOP SPEED 165 km/h
FUEL CONSUMPTION 5.6 L/100 km
EMISSIONS 129 g/km