Ford's new light van represents a step up in style and sophistication compared with its functional predecessor. James Dallas begins to get acquainted with it
The new arrival on What Van?’s long-term test fleet is a member of Ford’s portfolio of well-received new light commercial vehicles.
The Transit Connect light van line-up offers a wide choice of bodystyles, from the short-wheelbase L1 panel van to the Connect Kombi M1 L2, which is available with either five or seven seats. The range is available in three trim levels: Base, Trend and Limited.
The model we’ve elected to live with for six months is a Transit Connect Double Cab-in-Van (DCIV) in the mid-level Trend specification that Ford claims is becoming increasingly popular as more customers move away from selecting entry-level vans. We need the rear passenger seats because our five-seat crew van is doubling up as a family vehicle. With its glazed rear-seat windows (a £100 option), we would expect the crew van to appeal to small business owners, such as florists or caterers, who are looking for a vehicle that can be both family and work transport.
Our model is unusual in that it is a short-wheelbase model, while the majority of crew vans and combis are offered only in long, or extra-long, wheelbase formats. An exception to this rule is the Vauxhal Combo, which in its smallest derivation offers a payload of 740kg and a maximum loadspace of 1.9m3.
The L1 Transit Connect DCIV can handle a 725kg payload and swallow 1.2m3 behind its bulkhead with the rear seats in use. With the bulkhead moved forward on its roof rails, however, and the back seats folded up to create more space, this can increase to almost 2.2m3.
Another comparison with the SWB Connect crew van can be made with the LWB versions of the Citroen Berlingo, which offer a payload of 738kg but a much bigger load capacity of 2.4m3, rising to 3.3m3 with the rear seats folded up. It’s lighter on the pocket too, costing £15,035.
The L1 Connect DCIV Trend has a price tag of £15,950, which compares with £15,703 for the single trim (Combo) Vauxhall Combo Crew Van and the £16,295 Mercedes asks for its 90hp 1.5 Dualiner, a five-seater that is only marketed in extra-long guise. In Base trim, the Connect crew version costs £15,150. All prices listed exclude VAT.
The Connect, like the rest of the Blue Oval’s revamped LCV line-up, is a class act. Its interior and dashboard layout, which are based on the brand’s passenger car range, will be familiar to anyone who has driven the larger Transit, Transit Custom and Ranger pick-up, or got behind the wheel of the new baby in the line-up, the Transit Courier. All that differs from model to model is the scale.
Exterior equipment coming as standard with Trend specification includes 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, body-coloured front bumper and rear bumper end caps, electric, heated door mirrors and a heated windscreen to ensure a clear view when the cold weather kicks in. This last feature is a longstanding Ford innovation so it is perhaps surprising it is not offered across the board. However, items such as daytime running lights, a spare wheel and Ford’s Easy-Fuel capless refuelling system are fitted to all Connect vans.
Inside, they all get rake and reach-adjustable steering, overhead stowage and DAB radio with USB and Bluetooth, but the audio system on the Trend is more sophisticated than that in Base trim, with a CD player, a 3.5-inch multi-function display, MP3 capability, Sync with Emergency Assistance, voice control and four rather than two speakers thrown in. The Trend cabin also comes with an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and a lockable glove box.
Ford does not offer the DCIV in the top-spec Limited trim, so if you want features such as air-conditioning, cruise control or rear parking sensors you’ll need to resort to the options list. This requires careful reading: our van, for example, is equipped with Ford’s DAB Navigation System, which costs a hefty £1000. This brings with it rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera (it is debatable whether both are necessary), satnav and a five-inch colour screen. However, it also bundles in the audio pack and Sync with Emergency Assistance that you get with Trend anyway. Therefore, it might make more sense to pay £200 for a reverse parking aid and to sort out your own satnav.