"Practicality is a common theme requirement for both van and MPV customers and the Ford Connect range delivers this with some aplomb."
The full-sized Transit van is a vehicle that most of us are familiar with and the Connect is a smaller version of this iconic goods mover. This latest design is actually the second generation Connect, launched in 2013 to a pretty rapturous welcome. In fact, it scooped the top commercial vehicle title with the International Van of the Year 2014 award at the COMTRANS commercial vehicle exhibition when Ford became the first manufacturer to win the award for two consecutive years. The jury in Moscow consisted of 24 European specialist journalists who awarded the Transit Connect 130 points from a maximum possible 163, beating the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter into second place with a closely fought 123 points, with Renault's Kangoo taking the final spot on the podium with a modest 25 point haul. Ford has some track record in this competition, with the full-sized Transit winning in 2001, the original Transit Connect scooping the honours in 2003, the full-sized Transit again coming top in 2007 and finally the new generation Transit Custom taking the crown in 2013. No other manufacturer has enjoyed so much success in this award. When Ford set out to redesign an already award winning vehicle that must meet the high demands of the small and compact van sector and then factor in the needs of the compact MPV sector, they were setting the design team a considerable challenge. Paul Wraith, the Design Manager for Ford Europe and his team however were inspired by the demands of the task and came up with a vehicle design that was able to meet this exacting challenge. Practicality is a common theme requirement for both van and MPV customers and the Ford Connect range delivers this with some aplomb. Simple things like raising the height of the front lights and making them less vulnerable in the street is a practical example of the design team's attention to detail. Every aspect of the exterior needing to be both attractive and practical Their aim was to use the globally recognisable Ford 'Design Language' that brings an agile look to the vehicle with its large trapezoid grille and swept-back headlights. It is both dynamic and wedgy which fits in well with Ford's other vehicles in its MPV range. The flanks of the new design may not have a whole lot of shape in them, but that's excusable when sliding rear doors are fitted. It does however have a graphic car line that accentuates the vehicle's wedged profile.
Inside the Tourneo Connect 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 foot well 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. The Transit Connect van must suit buyers in both small and compact sectors of the LCV market - and does so thanks to the choice of both short and long wheelbase bodystyles and a very versatile load bay. There are no better looking small vans out there and few, if any, more practical. Inside, the build quality is of a very high standard which now includes a wider use of switchgear and design cues from plush Ford passenger car models like the S-MAX. Customers of previous Transit Connect models may also notice more comfortable seats and higher quality, more durable materials. Getting comfortable at the wheel is easy thanks to a steering wheel adjustable for both reach and rake. Paul Wraith commented, "I believe we have succeeded in designing a light van and compact MPV with a strong accent on practicality. Along with its low running costs, the Transit Connect is a good answer to the needs of small operators as well as big fleets looking to reduce their transport costs. Similarly, the Tourneo Connect offers a custom made practical alternative in the very competitive compact MPV market." Another complicating consideration for the design team was that they were designing a vehicle for the global market with all its varying legal, taste, and regional requirements. The new vehicle is expected to sell well in existing markets like the USA and Europe with Ford looking to expand its presence with these vehicles in the rapidly growing Chinese market. So, has Ford's design team succeeded in creating a vehicle that meets both the needs for a small van and those of a compact MPV? The vehicle has certainly moved the game on in both market sectors. The award winning Transit Connect van goes from strength to strength and the new Tourneo Connect will provide a stylish and practical alternative in the crowded van-based compact MPV sector. It looks like its hats off to Paul and his team for a job well done!
Facts at a Glance
FACTS AT A GLANCE VAN: Ford Transit Connect PAYLOADS: up to 1,000kg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Four airbags, ABS, ESP WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE ?: [SWB] Length/Width/Height mm 4418/1840/1861 WHO TO SEE: FACTS AT A GLANCE CAR: Ford Tourneo Connect PRICE: £21,895 - £23,145 - on the road INSURANCE GROUP: 10 CO2 EMISSIONS: 151g/km PERFORMANCE: Max Speed 129mph / 0-60mph 9.4s FUEL CONSUMPTION: (average) 49mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front airbags, ABS with brake assist WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height mm 4418/1840/1852 WHO TO SEE: