Assessing a van’s merits increasingly involves focusing on all the connected in-cab facilities it comes with that should hopefully make the driver’s life easier and safer.
Our demonstrator boasted an optional package that includes satellite navigation and Ford’s Sync 3 communications and entertainment system that’s easy to comprehend and use. It can be integrated with AppLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and allows voice commands to be used to control certain functions.
The package also includes rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera that shows what is behind you when you engage reverse, a six-inch colour touchscreen that sticks up from the top of the fascia and looks like a tablet computer, plus Emergency Assist. The last-named feature means that help will be summoned promptly if there is an accident.
Van drivers who secretly fear their inability to parallel park in tight slots – you know who you are, no need to be ashamed – may be comforted by the presence of a clever optional system that will help accomplish it for you. All you need to do is keep control of the accelerator, gears and brakes and Active Park Assist will guide you into position. It’s all a bit spooky, and doubtless a harbinger of things to come.
Sensors are installed front and back and beep if you are getting too close to a hazard. The proximity of the risk is shown on a birds-eye view of the van’s outline, which appears on the aforementioned touchscreen.
To all that can be added yet another option that was provided: FordPass Connect. It is a modem that allows the creation of an in-van Wi-Fi hotspot as part of a package that includes three months or 3GB of complimentary data.
Thereafter you can buy data bundles from Vodafone. It also ensures that your Ford satnav gets real-time traffic updates every 30 seconds. Pair it with your smartphone using the FordPass app and you can lock and unlock your van remotely even if it is parked on the other side of town. It allows you to carry out all sorts of remote checks on your Connect, including how much fuel is in the tank, what the tyre pressures are, and how many miles it has done. It will also let you know if a bulb has failed or if the oil needs topping up.
All of the foregoing features illustrate the direction van manufacturers are heading in: towards onboard systems that will dramatically expand connectivity and make vehicles increasingly semi-autonomous. In this context it is worth noting that Ford used this year’s IAA Show to launch two new connectivity packages – Ford Telematics and Ford Data Services – that will allow businesses to extract data from their vehicles and view it remotely.
Returning to the Connect, both the driver’s seat and the steering column are height-adjustable and Trend comes with electric windows and heated and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, not to mention a Quickclear heated windscreen.
In-cab stowage facilities include a shelf above the screen that extends to the full width of the cab, a deep, lidded, but not lockable glove box, bins in each of the doors, and a shelf on top of the dashboard, on the passenger side. There is another shelf above the heating and ventilation controls. Our test van was equipped with optional air-conditioning.
A console between the seats plays host to a deep tray, a couple of cup-holders, two USB sockets and a 12V power point.
Our van was fitted with Traction Control, which can be switched off. So can the auto stop/start system and the parking sensors.
Onboard safety systems include ABS, electronic stability control and electronic brakeforce distribution along with Hill Start Assist. A driver’s airbag is fitted as are front fog lamps, and disc brakes are installed all round.
Our test Connect sat on 16-inch steel wheels embellished by full-width silver-coloured plastic trims and shod with Continental ContiPremiumContact2 205/60 R16C tyres. A full-size spare wheel is provided.
Independent MacPherson strut suspension with a stabiliser bar helps support the front while a semi-independent twist-beam suspension set-up is deployed at the rear.
The turning circle is 12.5m wall to wall, shrinking to 12.2m kerb to kerb. Electric power steering, meanwhile, comes as standard.