The new cool

The new cool

For years now, two specific vehicles have had the run of the compact panel-van/multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) playground. GAVIN MYERS drives a new challenger that he thinks will be the new cool kid on the block.

This segment has strange dynamics … Traditionally comprised of Volkswagen’s (VW’s) Caddy, Renault’s Kangoo, the Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner twins, Fiat’s Doblo, Toyota’s Avanza and Nissan’s NV200; there has been more than enough choice for the buying public. The Toyota and VW are the perennial favourites with buyers, though.

Ford has now entered the fray, too, with its Transit/Tourneo Connect models – the smallest of the Transit/Tourneo family that are available in South Africa.

Admittedly, the differences between the panel van and MPV sectors of the market are quite marked. Taking the most recent figures available (September), the Avanza has the run of the MPV sector, with the Caddy in second place, and vice versa when looking at the panel vans. So, the Transit Connect needs to aim for the Caddy, while the Tourneo Connect will have the Avanza in its crosshairs …

While we would have preferred to review the Transit Connect, we were only able to get our hands on the Tourneo Connect 1.0 EcoBoost Trend. No bother, though, as, in five-seat spec, this MPV truly is multi-purpose. (Seven seats are available on the Grand Tourneo Connect 1,6-litre petrol and diesel models.)

The new coolThe interior is commodious. Ford claims a 1 029-litre load volume and 913 mm load length with the second row of seats in place. With these easily folded flat, the figures increase to 2 410 litres and 1 828 mm. For those wanting to load heavier items, this model offers a 2 000 kg gross vehicle mass and 550 kg payload to play with.

If you want to load people, though, the second row of seats (split 60/40) is a treat. Passengers will enjoy their comfort and space, ease of entry and egress through the side sliding doors, individual three-point seatbelts and aircraft-style overhead lockers. There is also a secret hidden storage compartment in the driver’s side rear footwell …

The driver also enjoys a handy storage compartment atop the instrument binnacle and a large overhead storage tray. In fact, the front is as comfortable and spacious as the rear. Interior styling and switchgear will be immediately recognisable to those who have spent time with the brand’s current range of vehicles. Everything falls nicely to hand and has a quality, upmarket feel.

Among the standard features of the Tourneo Connect Trend are Ford’s easy-to-use Sync system, cruise control with a speed limiter, EcoScout included in the trip computer and a host of safety features.

These include: driver, passenger and front and rear curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes with six different electronic braking aids; and three different “Controls” – Traction, Torque Vectoring and Trailer Sway.

Ford’s range of EcoBoost engines is well-known by now. The 1,0-litre unit powering the Tourneo Connect develops 74 kW at 6 000 r/min and 170 Nm thanks to turbocharging and direct injection.

While it copes fine with day-to-day commuting, this little three-cylinder is a bit low on oomph when the going gets hot. It does emit a characterful little growl, though. Even more importantly, Ford claims it’ll sip just 5,6 l/100 km on the combined driving cycle.

Ride comfort and road holding are top-drawer, as are visibility and manoeuvrability thanks to the large glasshouse and wide-angle wing mirrors. (Front and rear park-distance control are optional.)

Included in the list price of R283 900 is a three-year/60 000 km service plan, a four-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty and three-year/unlimited km roadside assistance.

While some other vehicles in this category might be cheaper, I stand by my conviction that Ford really does have the competition licked with the Tourneo Connect. It is easily the most handsome vehicle in its class. It is exceptionally spacious and versatile and – if you don’t ask too much of the small engine – very nice to drive. This 1.0 Trend offers good value and quality in particular.

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