Last year I drove the Nissan NV200: a family-sized van that had bowled me over with its generous cargo-swallowing capabilities, miserly fuel consumption and surprisingly refined road manners. For somebody searching for a versatile load-lugger, the NV200 ticked all the right boxes — especially when you considered that it cost less than its Volkswagen Caddy rival.
Fast-forward to the present, however, and this eyebrow-raising Nissan now faces stiff competition from the new Ford Tourneo MPV and the Transit Connect panel van that were launched locally last week. On first impressions alone, you’d have to admit that Ford’s Transit Connect has something of an advantage in the style stakes. Slotting in beneath the medium-sized Transit Custom and enormous Transit Van, the Connect is an attractive piece of equipment that will certainly appeal to private and commercial users in equal measure.
Sculpted shoulder lines. A swooping nose section. Large headlights that sweep backwards like those on the Ford Focus. As vans go, the Transit Connect and Tourneo can lay claim to the nicest exteriors in the business. The same can be said for their interiors. Even the utilitarian workhorse of the range, the long wheelbase Transit Ambiente, comes with a smart dashboard similar to the one found in the Fiesta — something that makes it feel very car-like. Ford also fitted it with all the features you’d need for a good day’s cargo hauling: Bluetooth connectivity, air-conditioning, trip computer, electric windows and a USB port all ship as standard.
Specify the Ambiente option pack, which costs R8 060, and you will be able to splice in parking-distance sensors, a rear-view camera and a tyre inflation monitor. Not to mention an incredibly bright LED light that illuminates all four corners of the 3 222-litre loading bay — a real boon for those who regularly work at night or in dark environments. Although you can customise the interior of the Transit Connect, only one engine derivative has been made available. Fortunately, the 1.6-litre TDCi is a real honey that whacks out more than enough torque for towing or carrying weighty freight.
If you’re looking for something more family-oriented, the more luxurious Tourneo Connect is the van for you. Kicking off the range are the 1.0-litre EcoBoost Ambiente and Trend models that can carry five people and their luggage in comfort. The Ambiente, just like its panel-van sibling, comes equipped with most of the mod cons you’d expect from a vehicle in this class, including steering-wheel controls for the audio system. The slightly more expensive — by R10 000 — Trend version gives you even more kit: cruise control, speed limiter, plus a Ford Sync infotainment suite mated to a 3.5-inch dot-matrix display.
Unfortunately, unlike on the range-topping Titanium model, 16-inch alloy wheels are still optional. Those wanting even more space are catered for in the form of the special, long-wheelbase Grand Tourneo Connect that comes with the option of two engine derivatives: the 1.6 TDCi or 1.6 EcoBoost Titanium. The latter is available exclusively with a six-speed automatic gearbox. Both feature a third row of seats to allow for the transport of no fewer than seven people. They’re very comfortable too, with plenty of legroom even for giraffe-like adults like me. With a model to suit everybody, the fine-looking, fun-to-drive Ford Transit and Tourneo Connect range of vans makes a strong impression. They’re also aggressively priced and have high levels of standard equipment. The Nissan NV200 and VW Caddy have a serious fight on their hands.
The Facts: Ford Transit & Tourneo Connect
Engine: 998cc three- cylinder turbo (1.0 EcoBoost); 1560cc four-cylinder turbodiesel (1.6 TDCi); 1596cc four-cylinder turbo (1.6 EcoBoost) Power: 74kW at 6000rpm; 85kW at 3800rpm; 110kW at 5500rpm
Torque: 170Nm; 285Nm; 240Nm
Top speed: 165km/h; 165km/h; 176km/h
Fuel Consumption: 5.6l/ 100km; 4.9/100km; 8.0l/100km
CO2: 129g/km; 130g/km; 184g/km
Price: From R272 900 (Transit Connect 1.6 TDCi Ambiente); R269 900 (Tourneo Connect 1.0 EcoBoost Ambiente SWB); R279 900 (Tourneo Connect 1.0 EcoBoost Trend SWB); R359 900 (Grand Tourneo Connect 1.6 EcoBoost Titanium A/T LWB); R367 900 (Grand Tourneo Connect 1.6 TDCi Titanium LWB)