Ford's Grand Tourneo Connect is a family-friendly vehicle that won't see you having to pack light. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
The seven-seat Ford Grand Tourneo Connect is a rugged but cleverly-engineered people mover that's sourced from commercial vehicle roots but offers enough sophistication to suit the needs of many growing families. Its especially frugal when equipped with the brand's efficient 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engines. When used as a five-seater, you get a huge amount of useful luggage space.
When choosing an MPV people mover vehicle, the market has split into two very different philosophies. It used to be the case that you chose either a five seater or a seven seater, but with an increasing number of car companies choosing to cover both bases, it's become rather different. Now, it's all about differentiation based on fundamental appeal. Take this Ford Grand Tourneo Connect as an example. This is a no-nonsense model based on commercial vehicle roots that offers space for seven and strong value for money. The target customers for this people carrier would be no more likely to comparison shop it against a slick seven-seat Ford S-MAX than they would a Smart Fortwo. Ford has been quick to realise that in offering similarly sized but very different MPVs to different customers, it broadens its market reach quite significantly. Other manufacturers have twigged this as well; Citroen sells Berlingo Multispaces and C4 Picassos for example. Ford really has committed to this sector though and one look at the Grand Tourneo Connect shows why a specialist approach can pay dividends.
Ford won't sell you the Grand Tourneo Connect with the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine as it would probably struggle with the bigger body, plus they've also decided to leave the sweet Bridgend-built 150PS 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine on the shelf. This means you get a 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine with a choice of 100 and 120PS power outputs. The former gets a five-speed manual box, the latter a six-speed. There's also the option of Ford's Powershift automatic transmission. The Tourneo Grand Connect isn't the swiftest car in its class, registering a sprint to 62mph time of around 15s with the 100PS engine, while the 120PS powerplant shaves a second off this figure. Either way, the top speed is up around the 100mph mark. You get electrically-assisted power steering and a fairly conventional strut front suspension and torsion beam rear.
Design and Build
Judging how much and how little styling to throw at a no-nonsense model like this is a tough call. Certainly, the Grand Tourneo Connect needs to retain not only a modest price but also the inherent space and durability that's built into every Ford commercial vehicle. However, it also needs the sort of features that will make it appeal to private buyers - which means giving it a bit more than a place to put a cup-a-soup and a rolled up copy of The Sun. The styling features Ford's familiar 'Kinetic Design' look with a big trapezoid grille and swept-back headlights. The flanks don't have a whole lot of shape in them, but that's excusable if sliding rear doors are fitted. Every rear seat has integral head restraints and, of course, three-point seatbelts. Split 60/40, the seat backs also fold and tumble and can be removed, allowing you to maximise the cargo space. The rear seats can be folded flat into the footwell for maximum luggage space and there's an optional third row of seats split 50/50 which can also be folded flat. Outer second row rear seats have ISOFIX anchorage points, making it easy to fit the latest removable child seats. You get storage boxes on both the driver and passenger sides of the dashboard, 1.5-litre holders in the front doors, floor stowage and even 'aircraft style' overhead lockers. There's up to 2,620-litres of space; the third row seats also slide fore/aft to allow customers the choice between extra legroom or increased luggage capacity. You get up to 1,264-litres of space in a seven seat model with the two rear seats folded.
Market and Model
Ford offers the Grand Tourneo Connect in three trim levels - Style, Zetec and Titanium. The 100PS engine is available in Style and Zetec trims, while the 120PS powerplant is available in Zetec and Titanium guises. Prices open at around £17,000. The top specification Grand Tourneo Connect Titanium only just squeaks over £20,000 so this is a car that offers strong value for money. But what to compare it with? Most commercial-based MPVs are smaller. The Grand Tourneo Connect measures fully 4818mm long, making it a good deal more spacious than something like a seven-seat Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. In fact it's not far off the dimensions of a full-sized MPV like a SEAT Alhambra, prices for which start some way north of £25,000. Equipment levels are reasonably generous, with even the entry-level Style coming with a digital radio, USB in, Bluetooth, wheel-mounted stereo controls, electronic stability control, and remote central locking. Step up to the Zetec and you get air conditioning, a heated windscreen and mirrors, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat and Ford's clever SYNC2 system with emergency assist. Those looking for some really car-like refinements will be drawn to the range-topping Titanium which is supplied with cruise control, static cornering lights, parking sensors, alloy wheels, a panoramic roof, dual zone air con, seat back tray tables and integral roof rails. Traffic Sign Recognition and a Lane Keeping Aid are both optional features.
Cost of Ownership
As you might expect from a vehicle powered by the latest generation of Ford diesel engines, the Grand Tourneo Connect isn't going to cost a fortune to run. The 100PS powerplant can manage nearly 65mpg on the combined cycle and emits under 115g/km. Specify your car with Ford's Powershift automatic transmission and it won't put too much of a dent in these figures. Eiother way, you get an Auto Start-Stop system that cuts the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights.
The Grand Tourneo Connect is a car that has been launched with a minimum of fanfare. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that Ford might well have shot itself in the foot in not making greater play here. Buyers looking for a rugged vehicle that doesn't cost the earth and which can seat seven aren't particularly well served at the moment. Full-sized MPVs and seven-seater SUVs aren't cheap and if you already have that many mouths to feed, splashing out thirty grand for a car might not be top of the family priority list. As an exercise in making the right calls between sophistication and simplicity, Ford has got this one spot on. Even if you don't need to seat seven, it's still a better buy than the five-seater purely because of all the luggage space you get when five-up. If you want to get one over on most MPV buyers, the Grand Tourneo Connect looks like the inside tip.