THE van market is just as competitive as the car market these days and possibly even more profitable.
Ford's Transit van range has grown in recent years to meet the challenge and there is now a vehicle to suit most needs.
The largest van in the range is simply named 'Transit', under which sits the mid-sized Transit Custom and the smaller Transit Connect that I have been driving. Under that is the popular Fiesta-based Transit Courier.
In a crowded market place the Connect competes against the VW Caddy, Citroen Berlingo and Renault offerings amongst others.
Like most of its competition the Transit Connect offers a choice of load lengths with normal and long-wheelbase models as well as a choice of cab styles and side doors if required.It also offers a choice of specs and engines, so there should be something in the range to suit most businesses.
The Transit Connect uses Ford's latest 1.5 TDCi diesel with a choice of power outputs, numbered 75 (74bhp), 100 (99bhp) and 120 (118bhp). The 75 and 100 versions come with a five-speed manual, while the 120 I drove is a six-speed.In addition the 100 and 120 can both be had with a Powershift automatic gearbox.
Customers can also specify Ford's 99bhp 1.0 EcoBoost 100 turbo petrol engine, which has a six-speed manual gearbox but in reality few van buyers will be tempted away from diesel.
The Connect enjoyed a facelift last year and the new nose makes it clear that it has a strong connection to Ford's passenger cars. This is also evident in the interior where the switchgear is recognisable and now includes Ford's latest Sync 3 voice control and navigation system.
The cabin is comfortable and features a surprising amount of kit and this Sport LWB version also comes with alloys, go-faster stripes and a sport-styling pack, roof rails and partial leather heated seats. You also get an Eco-Select function, hill start assist, a quickclear windscreen, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control and lots more.
It feels just like a car to drive although it takes time to get used to not having a rear-view mirror. Instead you have to rely on your door mirrors and the rear-camera when reversing.
The ride is fairly supple and the Connect handles well while the 120ps version is no slouch but as usual manufacturers do not release performance figures for commercial vehicles.
This model is capable of up to 61.4mpg on longer runs but expect an average of around 52mpg which was the figure I achieved over mixed driving.
The entry-point to the Ford Transit Connect range is the L1 van, which offers a 2.9 cubic metres load volume and a payload of around 630kg depending on the specification while the L2 featured here extends the load length from 1,753mm to 2,153mm and offers a 3.6cubic metres load volume. The L2 versions maximum payloads are slightly higher at around 720kg depending on spec but with the optional High Payload modifications they can accommodate loads just over 1,000kg.
The side-hinged rear doors and the sliding side doors on this model make for easy access and this is a very practical van.
This model sits right at the top of the range so costs £26,166 and some display extras took its final price to £29,260.