One of Ireland’s most popular small vans since it was first launched in 2002 has been Ford's Transit Connect. Now comes the news that the Connect has undergone extensive changes including a fresh look both inside and out, while also delivering many new features and higher quality levels.
With changes in design and safety, Ford says the Connect range is ready to demonstrate its practicality and toughness to both owner-operators and large fleets on Irish streets from later this summer.
The design of the Transit Connect has been revised in-line with Ford's 'kinetic design' language that is featured on the company's latest passenger car line-up.
The front bumper and grille have been revised and new headlamps and tail-lamps complete the fresh appearance. Body-side mouldings and new alloy wheels contribute to a more contemporary design. Ford tells us that a range of new exterior colours has been chosen to complement the dynamic approach of the Connect and are aligned with the Transit range in order to support mixed fleet owners.
The interior too has undergone a significant update, with the new dashboard clearly influenced by the Ford S-MAX, and the instrument cluster and steering wheel sporting the signature of the Ford Fiesta. Together with the new seat designs and revised interior colour scheme, the result is a highly comfortable and car-like environment, as I discovered on a test run in southern Germany recently. In addition, the dashboard, centre stack area and overhead full-width shelf offer generous storage, which is essential in this class. Finally, Ford claims that it has further upgraded build quality through even more durable new materials.
Ford is also upgrading the Connect’s active safety features by offering electronic stability programme across the range. ESP includes ABS with hydraulic brake assist as well as active yaw control, roll over mitigation, and roll movement intervention. Don't worry your head too much about all these technical systems. You can take my word for it that this is an excellent active safety specification for van buyers. Indeed specification divide between cars and vans is narrowing all the time.
For instance, ROM and RMI system reduces road speed in order to decrease lateral acceleration and minimise the possibility of a rollover. As soon as the potential rollover situation has passed the system stops the braking and engine intervention for normal driving to resume. The new braking system electronics also include Ford’s hill launch assist functionality.
In addition, the brake hardware in the new Connect has been upgraded to ventilated discs in the front and rear solid discs for all versions. All of these upgrades ensure the new Connect models offer enhanced active safety in all driving situations regardless of load conditions.
The list of standard safety features includes the introduction of automatic deployment of hazard lights in the event of extreme braking.
The basis of this tough and durable commercial vehicle remains unchanged. Transit Connect is built on a sturdy and dedicated van architecture. Ford say that it is engineered to be as tough as a full-size Transit, but also offer a level of driving pleasure which exceeds the expectations for most light commercial vehicles.
The Transit Connect is available in short wheel base/ low roof and long wheel base/ high roof executions. This is targeted by Ford to meet a balance of vehicle length and cargo capacity. The Transit Connect with short wheel base (SWB ) offers a generous cargo volume of 2.8 cubic metres, with the optional fold flat passenger seat increasing this to 3.4 cubic metres.
The long wheel base version adds another 25cm to the overall length and around 17cm to the load box heights, resulting in a 3.7 cubic metres cargo capacity with standard and 4.3 cubic metres with fold flat passenger seats.
Ford offers powertrains which combine agility and ease of driving as I discovered in ladened Transit Connect versions. Ford also promises good fuel economy and low cost of ownership. The 1.8-litre Duratorq TDCi engine is available in three different power levels, delivering 75bhp, 90bhp, and 110nhp, with promised combined fuel economy as high as 47mpg, and the average CO2 emissions as low as 159g/km.
All of these engines are combined with a well-stepped five speed manual transmission for high efficiency and ease of operation. The 90 and 110bhp versions of Transit Connect can be fitted with an optional maintenance-free diesel particulate filter.
Some 600,000 Connect units have already been produced in Europe. This will be added to in the United States with a push to introduce a full electric Connect van by next year. Prices for the new Ford Connect van will be announced closer to launch date.