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The new Transit Connect light van is the second model to arrive in Ford's overhaul of its LCV line-up. It follows the mid-sized Transit Custom and precedes the Courier small van and two-tonne model due in early 2014.
The Connect is available in three trim levels: Base, Trend and Limited (joining the range next March), with prices from at £13,921, rising to £18,021, excluding VAT, which is more expensive than most rivals. Available in single-cab, double-cab and Kombi bodystyles with short- (L1) and long-wheelbase (L2) versions, the Connect offers load volumes of 2.9m3 and 3.6m3 with a full bulkhead, or 3.7m3 and 4.4m3 including the front loadspace area. Payloads go from 625kg up to 1000kg, which Ford claims matches the best in class.
A load-through hatch in the bulkhead and fold-flat passenger seat enables long loads of up to 3.0m (L1) and 3.4m (L2) to be carried.
In addition, a multi-fold dual passenger seat now allows models to, theoretically at least, carry up to three people in the cab, while both wheelbases can accommodate two Euro pallets in the load area.
Ford claims the new Connect delivers best-in-class fuel efficiency, with the Econetic model capable of 70.6mpg and CO2 of 105g/km when fitted with a fixed 62mph speed limiter - a 34% improvement over the current model, according to the brand.
The Connect is the first LCV from Ford that is available with the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine, which has official economy of 50.4mpg and CO2 of 129g/km. The engine line-up also includes the 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine with a choice of 75, 95 and 115hp power outputs.
We tested the 95hp 1.6-litre L2 (LWB) single-cab model with the mid-spec Trend trim level. It came with the Fuel Economy pack option, which costs £300, excluding VAT, and features Econetic tech such as stop/start and Smart Regenerative Charging. Official consumption on the combined cycle is put at 61.4mpg with CO2 of 119g/km.
The 75hp and 95hp diesel engines get five-speed manual transmission only, as opposed to the 115hp diesel and the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol units that come wedded to a six-speed manual gearbox. The 95hp van especially would probably benefit from the extra gear on motorways, but having said that, the five-speed system is smooth and responsive both in town and out on the open road.
With a payload capacity of 1000kg, we drove the L2 with about 600kg in the back, and the 95hp powertrain coped comfortably, offering plenty of pulling power across all speeds. The van handles extremely well, too.
The Connect's build quality is impressively solid and now seems on a par with the best in the segment, such as the VW Caddy. But in style terms, the Ford is considerably more sleek than the VW with lots of high-quality dark plastic and attractive angular shapes in the cabin. It is practical too, and the dials and buttons are pleasingly tactile, chunky and easy to use.
Finally, Ford claims the new Connect achieved a 5% uplift in its RV at launch compared with the previous model, according to a forecast by Cap, giving it a claimed premium over its rivals, including the established RV sector leader, the VW Caddy.
Ford Transit Connect Trend L2 1.6 95hp
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Another stylish and capable van from Ford, though it's not cheap.