The Ford Transit range has been the best-selling light commercial vehicles in Europe for the past 40 years. Last year, the Transit Connect was voted the 2014 International Van of the Year in Europe. The range of models was initially aimed at the European market, but is now produced in Europe, Asia and North America for worldwide distribution. The latest versions have been on sale for some time in South Africa.
In March this year, the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa released four new passenger versions under the Tourneo Connect name. Don’t confuse these with the larger and heavier Tourneo Custom models released last year. The two less expensive versions of the Connect range are the basic 1,0 Ambiente and the upmarket 1,0 EcoBoost Trend. Both have the same 1,0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine installed in a shorter five-seater wheelbase.
The two Grand Connect models feature a longer seven-seater wheelbase with a choice of either a 1,6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine coupled to a six-speed automatic gearbox, or a 1,6-litre turbodiesel engine with a six-speed manual gearbox.
I spent a week with each of the two models described below.
Let’s start with styling. Both models feature the Ford ‘open mouth’ frontal aspect, which takes a lot of getting used to; they are far more attractive from the side and rear. The interiors are modern and spacious. The driver’s seating position is particularly well planned with ample seat and steering wheel adjustment. The driver sits very comfortably and has complete command of all the controls as well as a superb view in all directions. Separate smaller mirrors that show a kerbside view augment the large side mirrors. I cannot remember when last I drove a vehicle in which I felt so at home from the start.
Both models will make superb long-distance tourers for a family with children because the roof is high enough to make it possible for children to move between the front and rear seats. The rear doors are sliders, so entry and exit is easy, even with another vehicle parked close by.
Both vehicles pass the sit-behind-yourself legroom test with centimetres to spare. Storage spaces include an unusual shelf above the sun visors and a storage bin on the roof that’s accessible from the rear (see picture opposite).
Tourneo Connect 1,6TDCi Titanium grand
The wheelbase is long enough to accommodate two optional foldaway seats behind the middle row of seats. This still leaves plenty of luggage space between the seat backrests and the upward-swinging rear door. There is a useful rear view video camera.
The four-cylinder turbodiesel engine develops 85kW at 285Nm. It pulls well from just above 1 000 r/min and is commendably quiet. The six-speed manual gearbox is positive and quick-shifting but has such high (numerically low) ratios in the two higher gears that it’s seldom necessary to use more than the first four gears in town. Such gearing helps to keep fuel consumption low on the open road, with the result that the claimed fuel consumption is 4,9l/100km, equivalent to a CO2 emission of 130g/km.
Tourneo Connect 1,0 ecoboost Trend
The star attraction here is the brilliant three-cylinder turbocharged 1,0-litre petrol engine, voted International Engine of the Year for the last three years. Most three-cylinder engines are not very smooth unless fitted with a balance shaft. This Ford engine runs without such a shaft, but it is nonetheless very smooth, thanks to an unbalanced flywheel that complements the unbalanced crankshaft!
Some journalists have said that the engine is too small for the vehicle, and has to be revved to get decent performance. I don’t agree. It produces 74kW at 6 000 r/ min and 170Nm from 1 400 r/min to 4 000 r/ min. This is sufficient to endow the car with the performance of a 1600. It pulls well from low speed and is very willing. The engine is so quiet at speed that you don’t really hear the off-beat note that normally goes with a three-cylinder unit. The claimed fuel consumption of 5,6l/100km is equivalent to 129g/km CO2.
The 1,0 Ecoboost Trend is fitted with the least obtrusive stop-start ability that I’ve come across. The engine stops as soon as you come to a halt, and starts up again the moment you depress the clutch to select first gear. If you display bad driving habits by keeping the clutch pedal depressed, the engine will not stop idling.
Both vehicles carry a four-year 120 000km comprehensive warranty. The petrol engine version has a three-year 60 000km service plan, requires servicing every 20 000km and costs R279 900 (excluding VAT).
The diesel has a four-year 60 000km service plan, requires servicing every 15 000km, and costs R367 900 (excluding VAT).