Ford Transit Connect (2003-2014)

Ford’s Transit Connect is still good to drive, but showing its age against VW’s Caddy and the Vauxhall Combo

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

  • Good to drive, spread of volumes and load capacities
  • Dated compared to some competitors, five-speed manual only

Ford’s Transit Connect will be comprehensively updated late in 2013. Until then, the van comes in low-roof short wheelbase or high-roof long wheelbase forms, as both a panel van and a crew van with a second, folding row of seats. All models are powered by a choice of three 1.8-litre Duratorq TDCi engines offering 75bhp, 90bhp and 110bhp. Connects drive through a five-speed manual gearbox that is longing for a sixth gear for more relaxed motorway work. That said, the Connect handles brilliantly and has the sure-footed roadholding of Ford’s best cars. Reliable, durable and reasonably cheap to run.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

Connect’s three 1.8-litre diesel engines deliver 75, 100 and 110bhp, with a promised 47.1mpg fuel economy for the lowest-powered model and up to 46.3mpg for the top two engines. CO2 emissions stand at 159g/km and 162g/km, respectively. Both of those figures are some way off Peugeot’s Partner, which promises to return between 50mpg and 60mpg, with CO2 outputs as low as 123g/km, or Vauxhall’s Combo, which returns 54-56mpg and emits only 126-136g/km. Service intervals are set at a more competitive 15,000 miles/12 months, and finding a Ford dealer should provide few problems. Insurance groups range from 3E to 5E, again on a par with the competition. Connects command reasonably strong residual values, going some way to reduce total cost of ownership.

Load Space and Practicality

The Connect comes with a short wheelbase and low roof or a long wheelbase with high roof, providing 2.8 cubic metres or 3.7 cubic metres of load volume. However, the van comes with a fold-flat passenger seat with a wraparound cage bulkhead to extend the load area beside the driver. This raises the load volume to 3.4 cubic metres, and 4.3 cubic metres for the longer version. That puts the Connect behind the Volkswagen Caddy and caddy Maxi without the folding seat, but brings it up to a similar size once it's folded. The crew cab versions, with a folding second row of seats, offer 1.4 cubic metres and 2.1 cubic metres with the rear seats in place, or 2.6 cubic metres and 3.4 cubic metres with the second row folded. The vans can carry a competitive 850kg in short version or more than 900kg in the longer model. That compares well with Peugeot’s Partner, although it is bettered by the Fiat Doblo Cargo and Vauxhall Combo, which can carry a full 1 tonne load. You can get two Euro pallets in the shorter van and the Connect comes with pre-threaded reinforced fixing points, for the easy installation of universal racking and shelving systems, so there should be no requirement for customers to drill into painted metalwork. There are six tie-down points in the Connect and a load floor liner comes as standard. A range of bulkheads can be specified, and there are roof racks and roof cages available on the options list. If you opt not to have the folding passenger seat, there is also the option of a storage drawer beneath the passenger seat for the driver to keep valuables out of sight.

Reliability and Safety

Connect does now come with electronic stability control (ESC) as standard, providing assistance to the driver in slippery conditions. A driver’s airbag is also standard, while passenger and side airbags are available as options. Anti-submarining seat bases that stop the occupant sliding under the seatbelt in an accident are standard, too, along with seat belt grabbers and hazard warning lights that flash automatically under heavy braking. Security measures include Ford’s Safeguard Passive Anti-Theft system with engine immobiliser and high-security shielded door locks. Remote central locking is included on all trim levels and, as with all Ford vans, require the ignition key to open the bonnet. There are reports of wiring loom problems, which can be mis-diagnosed as the alternator, while some owners report poor mpg, particularly from the lower-powered engine. It seems that the vans can be sensitive to front tyre wear, too.

Driving and Performance

Ford’s Transit Connect may not be the most powerful van of this size on the market, with its highest output being just 110bhp against VW’s 140bhp Caddy and Fiat’s 135bhp Doblo Cargo. It could really do with a sixth gear for those customers wanting to travel on motorways, too. However, the Connect remains one of the best small vans to drive, with a combination of secure handling and entertaining feel that are hard to beat in this sector. However, make the most of the performance and you'll pay for it at the fuel pumps, with average fuel consumption lagging behind some of its more recent competitors, such as the Caddy and the Vauxhall Combo.

Cab and Interior

The Connect is looking a bit dated inside, but it still provides comfortable transport. The standard folding passenger seat can be a bit thin for longer journeys, however. Base model Connects come with steering-column-mounted audio controls with an aux-in point for music players. The fold-flat passenger seat and mesh bulkhead are part of the standard trim and you do get electric windows. Opt for the Trend specification and you add Bluetooth with voice control, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, aluminium steering wheel spokes, a map reading light and overhead storage above the windscreen. The Premium Visibility Pack is included, with a quick-clear windscreen, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, heated washer jets and electrically heated door mirrors. Go for the range-topping Limited trim and you also get rear parking sensors, air-conditioning, a silver gear-lever surround and leather on the steering wheel. Popular options include Bluetooth (£200), manual air-conditioning (£600), a fixed towbar (£250) and if you opt for the basic Visibility Pack on a lower-spec model, including the Quickclear screen and powered heated door mirrors, it will set you back £200.

Van dimensions

Body styleHeightWidthLength

 

Short low-roof van
1,815mm1,795mm4,275mm
Long high-roof van1,980mm1,795mm4,525mm
Short low-roof crew van1,815mm1,795mm4,275mm
Long high-roof crew van1,980mm1,795mm4,525mm

Load area dimensions

Body styleHeightWidthLengthVolume
Short low-roof van1,193mm1,490mm1,739mm2.8m3
Long high-roof van1,364mm1,490mm1,986mm3.7m3
Short low-roof crew van1,193mm1,490mm909mm1.4m3
Long high-roof crew van1,364mm1,490mm1,172mm1.4m3

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