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2016 (66) Ford Transit Connect 1.5 TDCi 75ps Van

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Independent review

Review courtesy of Car and Driving

Ford Transit Connect

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Ford's second generation Transit Connect is a compact van - with big ideas. Here, we're going to look at this model in pre-facelift 2013-2018-era guise as a used buy. It costs as little to run as a smaller LCV, yet if specified correctly, can swallow almost as large a load as a medium-sized model from the next class up. It'll take passengers as well as packages, deal with long loads in its stride and look after your life with its clever SYNC telemetry. In short, if you were shopping in this segment looking fror a light van made in the 2013-2018 period, you'd have to consider it.

History

Ford's compact Transit Connect was the LCV that really galvanised the small van sector when it was launched in the UK back in 2003. To understand the impact that this Connect model has made on the commercial vehicle sector, you have to remember that prior to its original introduction just after the turn of the century, most compact vans were merely small superminis or family hatchbacks with blanked-out windows. In contrast, the first generation Connect model was one of the very first purpose-designed small vans. True, it used a lot of mechanical parts from Ford's passenger car line-up - mainly from the Fiesta supermini - but the load bay LCV stuff, the really important part of the design, was properly created around the needs of business buyers. Competitors though, were quick to copy the concept - and develop it even further with a sub-segment of even smaller vans aimed at boutique operators and city-centre-based businesses. Which, by the end of the first decade of the Noughties, left the Connect trying, rather awkwardly, to be all things to buyers in the compact LCV segment. It needed a new lease of life, one in which it could, once again, be seen as a clever bespoke traders' tool. This second generation design. Launched in 2013, aimed to deliver exactly that, part of a four-model Transit line-up that also included the smaller Courier model and the larger Custom and fully-fledged Transit designs. In both the areas that matter - running costs and load bay practicality - it scores well, with plenty of cargo bay permutations and technical hi-tech cleverness. The original version of this MK2 model sold until mid-2018, when it was replaced by a substantially updated version.

What You Get

You don't really realise just how much of an aesthetic step forward this second generation Transit Connect van represented until you see this model against its rather plain predecessor. What's common between the two vehicles is a prioritisation of function over form and a boxy, practical look, but with this MK2 model, the front end is sleeker and smarter. And one of much greater Focus, not least because the third generation version of Ford's best-selling family hatch provided most of the underpinnings here. Inside, it's of course very car-like, though in a practical, utilitarian sort of way. You view a clearly presented set of familiar Ford instruments through a four-spoke wheel that moves for both reach and rake. And you immediately appreciate a supportive driver's seat that's eight-way-adjustable on most models, making it easier to get comfortable than it would be in some competitors. The mobile phone-inspired centre console switchgear layout comes straight from a Fiesta of this period and is relatively simply to use once you get used to the rather bewildering array of buttons and the fact that the infotainment screen at the top of the dash is a little small. On the positive side, the buttons are all quite large so you can operate them wearing work gloves. Build quality from the Spanish Valencia factory seems very strong and the wipe-clean plastics used appear tough and durable. There's plenty of practicality too, though it's a pity the base model doesn't get the lockable glovebox you find further up the range. Otherwise, there's decent cubby storage for the paraphernalia of everyday working life, including reasonably-sized door bins, plus two cup holders and a coin holder by the gearstick as well as a usefully deep bin further back where there are optional aux-in and iPod sockets. There's also an overhead storage area too. Original buyers were offered the option of exchanging the two standard cab seats for a three-person bench, which could be ordered with or without a useful load-through hatch for poking through longer items from the load area. With the dual-passenger bench, there's a centre part of the rear seat you can fold down to make a desk top. Or you can fold forward the backrest of the passenger part of the seat and create a storage point for boxes you might not want to consign to the cargo bay. We'd actively look for a Connect fitted with the dual-passenger bench for that reason. Right, let's look more closely at load bay practicality. The amount you can carry will obviously depend primarily on your choice between the short wheelbase 'L1' variant and the long wheelbase 'L2' model. Both body styles offer 1,269mm of load space height and 1,538mm of load area width, a figure that narrows to 1,249mm between the wheel arches. The 'L1' offers a 2.9m3 of cubic capacity and a door-to-bulkhead load space length of 1,558mm. Thanks to an extra 400mm of body length, the 'L2' version offers 3.2m3 of cubic capacity and a door-to-bulkhead load space length of 1,958mm. Which means that in an 'L2', you could accommodate two euro pallets rather than one. Specifying the useful load-through hatch into the cabin allows you to increase your loading length considerably - to 3-metres in the L1 or as much as 3.4-metres in the 'L2'. One sliding side door is standard and in the 'L2', it's wide enough to allow you to load in a euro pallet from the side. As for the weight this van will carry, well you can maximise that if you find a Connect whose original owner ticked the box for the 'high payload capacity' Gross Vehicle Mass option available with each of the body styles. The 'L1' can offer a maximum gross payload of up to 865kgs, depending on variant. For the 'L2', the figure is up to 834kgs, again depending on variant.

What to Look For

This Transit Connect generally has a strong reliability record, but our ownership survey did throw up a few issues to look out for. The interior isn't the last word in sophistication but it is hardwearing. Check for damage to locks, tired rear suspension, rogered clutches and brakes and make sure that the load bay tie-downs aren't bent or broken. As usual, look for a full service history, with vehicles as recent as the MK2 Transit Connect, there's little excuse for skipped servicing or scrimping on maintenance. Look out for rusting rear door hinges and check the outer CV joint rubber boot covers for splits. They wear and if they let water in, the CV joints will wear quickly. Check the tyres for wear or sidewall damage. If there are signs of uneven wear, it could mean that the tracking has been knocked out and damaged sidewalls or wheels also signal abuse. Check the clutch for slip or judder by rolling away in second with low revs. If there's any evidence of it then negotiate a discount, or have a new one fitted before buying. On higher mileage examples, check whether the timing belt has been replaced. It ought to have been done every 60,000 miles or four years, whichever is sooner. Listen out for any rumbling or drone from the wheel bearings when test driving. Be sure to run the van at everything from town speeds to dual carriageway speeds. A new wheel bearing, fitted will cost around £150. Check how the vehicle you're looking at has been used - and don't be too afraid of higher mileage examples. A 40,000 mile Connect doing short drop town driving might be in rougher condition mechanically than a 100,000+ mile example that's spent most of its time travelling on motorways. Finally, have a good look around the cabin for any water ingress; lift carpets, look under the seats and check under floor mats. Check that any drainage holes around the windscreen front firewall aren't blocked.

Replacement Parts

(approx prices, based on a 2015 Transit Connect 1.6 TDCi 75PS panel van) As with most Ford models, spare parts are reasonably priced and very plentiful. Front brake pads sell in the £22-£33 bracket - rear pads in the £25-£40 bracket. Front brake discs range in the £68-£132 bracket (rears are in the £50-£85 bracket). An air filter is in the £8-£13 bracket, a fuel filter is around £21-£33 and an oil filter is around £7-£12. A wiper blade is in the £10-£20 bracket. A thermostat is in the £39-£72 bracket, a water pump in the £48-£70 bracket. A radiator is about £135. You'll pay in the £195 bracket for an alternator.

On the Road

You don't buy any van prioritising ride and handling but with Ford's strong reputation in this department when it comes to passenger vehicles, then it's fair to expect this Transit Connect to dynamically, be one of the class leaders in the light van segment from the 2013-2018 period. Which broadly, it is. Like any LCV, it handles better fully loaded, but even in an unladen state, cornering is predictable and body roll well controlled. Once you've dropped off your load, you could even imagine rather enjoying yourself on the way home around the twisty stuff in one of these. To a point. Part of the reason why is due to use of the same torque vectoring system that does so much to improve the cornering bite of Ford's compact cars: essentially it's able to transfer power to the front wheel best able to use it, firing you from bend to bend. Of course, to a certain extent, the fun you can have is limited by the modest outputs of the engines on offer - virtually all of them diesels, as is usual in this segment. For this pre-facelift second generation model, diesel power was provided by a 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi unit, offering a choice of 75, 95 and 115PS outputs. It's the 95PS unit that was by far the most popular of the trio and you can see why. It costs very little more than the base 75PS variant and in-gear performance is usefully more eager thanks to a flexible 230Nm of torque, enough to facilitate a braked towing weight of up to 1,200kg. A pity though that you only get (an admittedly slick-shifting) five-speed gearbox: you have to stretch to the top 115PS powerplant to get a sixth speed that makes motorway cruising that bit more refined. Go for this unit and pulling power improves to 270Nm. We should also point out that there a petrol option was also offered, but it's a rare find. Ford decided to insert its award-winning 1.0T 100PS EcoBoost unit into this van to make quite a tempting package if you don't have the kind of business that needs to carry heavy payloads about and therefore will need the extra pulling power only a diesel engine can give. The lighter EcoBoost powerplant takes weight out of the front end, so the steering feels a little lighter too - though still gives you plenty of connection to what's happening under your front wheels.

Overall

Having properly established the compact van segment, this Transit Connect model further developed it in MK2 form. True, other competitors from this era can rival its load bay spaciousness but few can match the sheer versatility of this model's design. Get the right variant and there's space for three people up-front, room for astonishingly long items to be pushed through from the back and even the option of fork-lifting in a Euro pallet from the side. When the original version of this Connect was first launched just after the turn of the century, we never could have imagined that one day, a compact van would be able to do all of these things. The thought of it would have been as ridiculous as imagining an LCV that could automatically alert the emergency services and deliver them to your exact location in the event of an accident. Yet this Ford model can do all these things. Still an odd job van perhaps, but in this form, a very clever one indeed.

Performance
70%
Handling
70%
Comfort
70%
Space
90%
Styling
80%
Build
90%
Value
80%
Equipment
80%
Economy
80%
Depreciation
70%
Insurance
70%

This vehicle has previously been registered to a business or a vehicle rental company, or been used by a business, so it may have been driven by more than one driver.

** MPG figures are obtained in laboratory testing and intended for comparisons between vehicles. Please be aware they're not intended to represent real world efficiency.

Hire purchase

Monthly payment£143.89
Deposit£1399
Term (months)60
Fixed interest rate4.6%
Cash price (inc VAT)£8398
Credit amount£6999
Completion fee£1
Total amount payable£10,033.40
Representative APR8.9%
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