CONNECTion in Transit
Yet another new commercial vehicle model from Ford has landed on our shores, giving the brand a comprehensive range of large, medium and small vans, as well as people carriers. GAVIN MYERS drove it at launch.
The Ford brand is on a roll at the moment. The company is leveraging on its One Ford global strategy to systematically introduce a slew of new models; this year will see ten new models on showroom floors between its passenger and commercial vehicle offerings. Ford has also enjoyed high sales volumes over the past few months.
The Ranger is a prime example of this, enjoying four consecutive months of over 3 000 unit sales. Ford’s Transit/Tourneo range of panel vans and people movers isn’t doing too badly, either; fighting toe to toe with rival Volkswagen and outselling the van offerings from other rivals such as Fiat, Peugeot, Renault and Nissan.
“We launched the Custom range in the second quarter of 2013 and, since launch, we have had fantastic feedback and have seen the vehicles perform extremely well in the various segments,” says Dale Reid, LCV brand manager at Ford Motor Company SA.
“We introduced the larger version, the two-tonne Transit, at the end of last year and we have had positive feedback on the vehicle’s performance and capability. This segment is very specific and fleet-orientated and we are working hard to make inroads.” This two-tonne Transit is Ford’s biggest global seller.
Ford is now completing its local commercial vehicle range with the introduction of the third, smaller, Transit/Tourneo family member – the Connect.
“Our intention is to build the commercial vehicle portfolio to have a full range of products. A lot of fleet buyers like to work with a single manufacturer, or even a single dealer. Having the ability to offer this service is what we’ve been trying to do by expanding the line-up,” says Mark Kaufman, Ford vice-president marketing, sales and service for South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
The full-sized, two-tonne Transit goes up against the likes of the VW Crafter and Fiat Ducato; the medium-sized Transit Custom rivals the VW Transporter, Nissan NV350 and Toyota Quantum; and the new, one-tonne Transit Connect aims squarely for the VW Caddy, Toyota Avanza and Nissan NV200.
So then, what does this 2014 International Van of the Year winner (the fifth overall for Transit) have to offer?
Built in Europe, the Transit Connect was designed to be a fully capable commercial vehicle that offers low cost of ownership, while giving drivers the comfort, features and ease of manoeuvrability they’d expect from a passenger car.
Although currently available only in long-wheelbase (LWB) format with a 1,6-litre Duratorque engine, the panel van’s credentials are nonetheless impressive. A full 1 004 kg payload, 2 405 kg gross vehicle mass and 3 205 kg gross-combination mass are available. The vehicle has a 3,6 m3 (3 222 l) load compartment.
That’s big enough to hold two Euro pallets, which can be loaded through the 180°-opening split rear doors, or through the single sliding door on the left-hand side. A full metal bulkhead separates the load from the occupants.
The 1,6-litre diesel engine produces 85 kW and 285 Nm and is coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox. Claimed fuel consumption is a miserly 4,9 l/100 km. It’s a doddle to drive and, despite its “built for work” demeanour, really is as well spec’d (more on that later) and is as comfortable as a passenger car …
That’s where the Tourneo Connect comes in. Although, admittedly, aimed more at families on the move, or those looking for more of a lifestyle vehicle, the Tourneo does have an impressive mix of talents.
Four models are available: two short wheelbase five-seaters with Ford’s impressive 1,0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine; and two LWB Grand Tourneo Connects, with a 1,6-litre EcoBoost engine (only available with a six-speed automatic) or the same 1,6 TDCi Duratorq from its Transit sibling.
The LWB models are available with an optional third row of seats. With all the seats folded flat, 2 400 or 2 600 litres (LWB) of space is available. If the front passenger seat is folded flat as well, the LWB version can accommodate items up to three metres long.
A range of clever storage compartments are scattered around the cabin and, despite its relatively small outside appearance, the Tourneo Connect is exceptionally comfortable and spacious inside.
Both the Transit and the Tourneo Connect offer a comprehensive array of safety and convenience features. Transit Connect buyers enjoy Anti-lock Brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Electronic Brake Assist; a driver airbag (the passenger airbag is a R1 800 option to allow for a driver-only configuration); traction, stability, trailer sway and load adaptive control; Hill Launch Assist; and a full anti-theft system.
Convenience features include electric windows and mirrors, a full overhead shelf, air-conditioning, a trip computer and Bluetooth connectivity.
Model-dependant, the Tourneo Connect adds the likes of passenger and curtain airbags (even for the third row of passengers); an anti-allergic interior; four tie-down loops for securing cargo; Ford’s Sync connectivity system; cruise control and auto start/stop.
All models come with a four-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, five-year unlimited mileage corrosion warranty and three-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance. Petrol models have a three-year/60 000 km service plan and the diesel models that of four-year/60 000 km.
The Transit Connect is priced at R272 900, while the Tourneo models are priced between R269 900 and R367 900.
“This is a new segment for Ford, so we will see how the current models perform and then investigate the requirements for any additional derivatives,” Reid notes. “We plan to be a main player within the segment …”
And with vehicles such as the new Transit and Tourneo Connect, the competition will surely be sleeping with one eye open.