Ford Transit Connect Sport swb Engine 1.5 TDCi
At the heart of any car or van is the engine, and while real car ‘enthusiasts’ might wonder how a van – a diesel-engined van no less – can carry the ‘Sport’ moniker, this compact load lugger offers press-on performance and driver involvement a-plenty.
Diesel engines have had a lot of bad press of late, and that doomsaying can colour any positive sides. Yet the latest diesels are clean, as well as being economical and offering great performance.
The 1.5-litre 120PS diesel engine offers rapid acceleration both from a standing start and through the gears, and it sounds good too, in a refined, subdued way. Step on the gas and there’s a growl from the engine bay and an equally assuring power hike that sees the tacho needle climbing quickly and smoothly.
To keep it truly on-song, especially on fast, winding hilly A- and B-roads there is as much gear-changing as in a petrol-engined model, but the six-speeder is typically Ford: smooth, slick, and with sensibly-spaced ratios, it moves along a decent speed.
In all it might be a van, but it’s a van that’s both enjoyable and immensely satisfying to drive.
For many years Ford cars have enjoyed a good reputation for handling: they often have a more spirited feel than their rivals, and it’s important to remember that in the van sector it was the original Transit that took saloon car handling and suspension ideals and put them in a light commercial vehicle.
That is still the case today, because while it’s clearly a workhorse the Connect is a small van with car characteristics.
Starting with the handling, it’s hard to fault: The steering is wonderfully weighted, having plenty of feel but without picking up every crisp packet and discarded cigarette but that comes under its alloy wheels. At slow speeds the steering lightens up and makes any tight space manoeuvring an easily-accomplished task (aided by the reversing sensors and on-board screen). Out on the open road it communicates well, with turn-in being reassuringly predictable.
It’s the same with the ride: Usually an unladen or lightly-loaded van has all the choppiness of a small boat on stormy waters, yet the Connect is unfazed by a lack of heavy payload. It’s comfortable and pleasingly road noise is subdued, even on poorly-surfaced motorways or pothole-ridden country lanes.
Loadspace and practicality
Sensibly thought out, the Connect’s square body means plenty of room for bulky boxes and relatively long loads. Two rear ‘barn’ doors (which open through 180 degrees) and a nearside sliding door mean great accessibility. The floor is rubber-lined and plenty of hooks ensure heavy loads can be safely secured in place, while a generously-sized interior light means
The Connect boasts a highly accomplished interior that is both functional and attractive. Immediately noticeable is the amount of storage space: Generously-proportioned door pockets are accompanied by a recessed portion in the centre of the dashboard, a centre console (with the inevitable cup holders) and a full-width overhead space that is deep and tall: Traditionalists will be pleased to know there is still a glovebox. The dashboard is extremely well laid out with clear instruments, none of which are obscured by the steering wheel. Controls for the heating and ventilation system and the radio are clearly marked, easy to use and even feel good – the tactile element being introduced with the first-generation Focus.
Distinctive, certainly. Compared with its rivals the Connect boasts sharp lines which also make it practical: Vertical side walls improve carrying capacity and would lend well to sign-writing and in the case of the Sport model tested, alloy wheels, a chin spoiler and ‘Cobra’ stripes on the bonnet and back doors distinguish this model from the others in the range. The front end allows for large headlights, and equally large door mirrors (which allow excellent rear-view visibility) add to the looks. While it looks firmly planted, the Connect fortunately does not so low the spoiler is compromised every time it goes over a speed bump.
The Garage Verdict
After the Escort van went out of production, just how was Ford hoping to fill that gap? The answer was the Transit Connect, and the original model has a more than worthy successor with latest Connect incarnation. It’s the right size for most businesses, it’s well built and it’s great fun to drive. It’s comfortable – even on a non-stop seven and a half journey it remains comfortable – and it looks good too. Yes, there are plenty of other compact vans on the market, but with a compact van as accomplished as this it’s little wonder there are so many Connects on the road today.
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