The Blue Oval is on a bit of high at the moment (sales are up 28 per cent YTD in 2015) but that’s not stopping them as they prepare for a bumper year of new car launches: ten new models in 2015 and a completely revised model line-up by 2017.In amongst the long-awaited passenger cars like new Focus (AWD RS coming in 2016) and Mustang, Ford has brought us the Tourneo Connect MPV. Think of it as a skilful merge of panel van and MPV for civilian consumption. The panel van-based MPV sector – currently occupied by the Citroen Berlingo, Nissan NV200, Renault Kangoo, Suzuki Ertiga, Toyota Avanza and Volkswagen Caddy – has no distinct stand-out market leader, but it’s a market Ford desperately wants to grow into. Which shouldn’t be difficult considering the Transit Connect was voted the 2014 international van of the year.
To grow that share accordingly, Ford’s commercial division has come well equipped. Let’s just get the model range nitty-gritty out the way, shall we: there’s the Transit panel van for R272 900; a 74kW/170Nm 1.0 EcoBoost Toureno Connect SWB MPV for R269 900 and an up-specced Trend version of the same vehicle for R10 000 extra.If that’s not enough load- and kid-lugging capacity for you, Ford has the Grand Tourneo Connect LWB (40cm longer) which comes in both five and seven seat variants, either available as a 85kW/285Nm 1.6 TDCi Trend or 110kW/240Nm 1.6 EcoBoost Titanium with an auto gearbox – priced at R367 900 and R359 900 respectively.Got it? If not, don’t worry, we’ve got a full price list at the end.
At the launch, a selection of Transit panel vans and Tourneo Connect MPVs were available to sample but we only spent time in the Tourneo Connect 1.0 EcoBoost Trend – arguably the most urban-centric of the lot. All the vehicles are European built and suitably impressive for their passenger-car-like feel and tough-but-comfy build quality.The 180-degree-opening front doors make entry and exit a doddle, and because it’s not excessively high, you don’t need to clamber up into the driver or passenger seat relying on the grab handles. Similarly, the boot offers low loading access so it’s easy to load your shopping. The sliding rear doors mean you won’t need to worry about damaging other cars in the car park when the kids hop out the back eith
We can vouch for the Tourneo Connect’s impressive turning circle (we got lost several times and needed to do more than our fair share of U-turns) and the little 74kW/170Nm 1.0-litre EcoBoost is poky enough to get the MPV up to speed no problem in the thin Jo’Burg air. Ford claims it will only use 5.6l/100km on the combined cycle, which is mighty impressive, too.However, because the ride height isn’t that high you don’t get an enhanced view of the road ahead like you do in some other commercial vehicles, and we do question why the Tourneo Connect doesn’t come with three seats abreast upfront – there was plenty of space to spare. Go figure when Ford says the Grand Tourneo Connect has a massive 2600 litres of load capacity with the seats folded down and can swallow 3m long objects when the front passenger seat is folded down as well.
All in all the Ford Tourneo Connect offers an impressive alternative to expensive super-sized people carriers, or panel vans that have been converted back to civilian use. It’s like a Fiat Doblo you might actually want to own, and offers minibus-like practicality with a car-like driving experience.Ford Transit / Tourneo Connect price list:Transit 1.6 TDCi panel van – R272 900
Tourneo 1.0 SWB – R269 900
Tourneo 1.0 Trend SWB – R279 000
Grand Tourneo 1.6 Titanium A/T LWB – R359 900
Grand Tourneo 1.6 TDCi Trend LWB – R367 900All prices include VAT & CO2 tax and a 4yr/120 000km warranty