Ford Transit Connect van review

Category: Small Van

One of the best-driving and smartest-looking vans around – you really can't go far wrong with one.

Ford Transit Connect 2021 front cornering
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 front cornering
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 rear cornering
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior dashboard
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 side door open
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior infotainment
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 right tracking
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 badge detail
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior front seats
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 rear doors open
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 front cornering
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 rear cornering
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior dashboard
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 side door open
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior infotainment
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 right tracking
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 badge detail
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior front seats
  • Ford Transit Connect 2021 rear doors open
What Car?’s Transit Connect deals

Introduction

What Car? says...

Picture a Transit van, and you’ll likely think of one of Ford’s large- or medium-sized models. But in fact, while it might not be the first van in the Transit family to spring to mind, the smaller Ford Transit Connect is almost as popular – and serves an equally important purpose. 

It’s widely acknowledged to be one of the best small vans on the market today, with efficiency, safety and driver satisfaction helping it to stand out in a crowded market. Its rivals includes the group of vans based on the Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner, as well as the Mercedes-Benz Citan, Renault Kangoo and Volkswagen Caddy Cargo.

The Transit Connect offers a very wide range of engine options, body styles and equipment levels, which makes it easy to tailor the Transit Connect to suit its buyers’ needs – not to mention its users’ desires.

You can have the Transit in two body lengths – L1 or L2 – and each body length can be had with the option of a second row of three seats, in addition to the two front seats that come as standard.

You can’t choose an electric powertrain, like you can in many of the Transit Connect’s rivals, and that will be a problem for buyers seeking an EV for urban work. 

However, there is a range of 1.5 litre diesel engine options in three different power outputs, 74bhp, 99bhp and 118bhp (badged as 75, 100 and 120 respectively), and –increasingly unusually – there’s a petrol option in Ford’s excellent 1.0-litre turbo engine, here in 99bhp form, with badging again rounded up, to 100. 

The petrol and the most powerful diesel engine give you a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the rest of the range comes with a five-speed manual. There’s also the option of an eight-speed automatic on the two most powerful diesel engines. 

Once you’ve decided on the body style and engine you want, there are then four different specification levels you can choose from. 

Entry-level Leader is particularly basic, catering for those who simply want a frippery-free van and nothing more. From there, the range moves up through Trend and Limited models, with an increasingly generous specification as it goes, before topping out with the Sport model, whose racing stripes and bodykit cater for those who want their Transit Connect to have a more assertive aesthetic.

There’s also a passenger-carrying Ford Tourneo Connect, although unlike the case with Ford’s larger vans, it isn’t simply a version of the Transit Connect with windows. In fact, it’s a completely different machine based on the Volkswagen Caddy – so if you’re looking to find out more about the Tourneo Connect, you’re better off trying our specific review of that model instead.

Ford Transit Connect image
Skip the showroom and find out more online

If it’s the Transit Connect van you want to know more about, though, you could be in no better place; in the following pages you’ll find a detailed review of its cargo carrying abilities, driving experience, cabin environment, and much more besides. And we'll also reveal if it's the best small van to buy for your business.

And if, after all that, you decide you want to go ahead and bag yourself your very own Transit Connect – or any other van, for that matter – we can help you find the best leasing deals over on the What Car? Leasing hub.

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The latest Ford Transit Connect has a downsized engine, but the 1.5-litre diesel unit is an ideal match for the small city van. Of the three power outputs available, the 118bhp is definitely our preferred choice.

While the two smaller engines are both well suited to the Connect, the addition of the six-speed manual gearbox in the range-topping engine transforms the van. While the Powershift automatic is also well regarded, the manual gearbox has a smooth and pleasing action that complements the car's driving characteristics.

Handling is accurate and very responsive, with just the right amount of feedback from the road. Whether laden or unladen, the suspension performs admirably, making the Transit Connect one of the most comfortable vans in the sector.

A mention must be given to the Ecoboost petrol option, because there is no doubting it is a fantastic engine. However, unless you plan to transport very little weight, the lack of pulling power for city driving is a real drawback.

The best-performing diesel engine for fuel consumption is the 99bhp Econetic with an official figure of 67.3mpg. Non-Econetic vans have an official 58.9mpg and regularly achieve mid-to-high 40s in real-world conditions.

Ford Transit Connect 2021 rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

As with the rest of the Ford Transit range, you will find the interior of the Connect either ergonomic and appealing or just a real mess of buttons. Fortunately, the Connect is a vast improvement on the vans that came before it, but for some tastes it is still perhaps a bit cluttered.

The multi-function steering wheel is perhaps the most confusing element, with identical circular controls at both thumb tips to control the trip computer and infotainment systems. The cruise control switch below is no less complicated but once you're used to it, it's quite straightforward. The central dashboard now houses an improved 6.0in colour touchscreen that is fitted with satellite navigation on top-spec vans. Otherwise you’ll have to make do with a 3.5in version that appears on Trend vans.

Base models get remote central locking, Ford’s Easy-Fuel capless refuelling system, a DAB radio, electric windows and an adjustable steering wheel. Trend gives you an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, which is far superior in support and comfort to the seating in the VW Caddy, as well as electric heated mirrors, quick clear windscreen and body-coloured bumpers.

Top-trim Limited vans get rear parking sensors, chrome strips in the grille and headlights, air conditioning, cruise control, heated driver's seat and leather-trimmed steering wheel. While none of the Limited spec is vital, the creature comforts it introduces makes it well worth considering.

Perhaps the most important addition is the new Sync 3 infotainment system. Not only does this introduce Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone connectivity, but the Transit Connect can also be fully connected for business purposes.

The addition of 3G connect and an in-van wi-fi hotspot allows the Connect to be paired with a smartphone via the FordPass app. That in turn allows connectivity to the van with options to check on the vehicle’s health, remote access that includes fuel level monitor, tyre pressure and mileage checks, as well as locking or unlocking it through the app.

Those features are in preparation for the introduction of Ford Telematics and Ford Data Services for enhanced fleet management – great for big companies, but probably irrelevant to most regular buyers.

Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

The Ford Transit Connect is perfectly positioned between the smaller Transit Courier and larger Transit Custom in terms of its payload carrying potential, and it has an impressive weight range.

Gross vehicle weights range from 2.0 tonnes to 2.4 tonnes, which means the payload varies from 595kg to 967kg for the appropriately named Ford Transit Connect High Payload models.

Load volumes vary depending on which of the two body lengths you opt for. The L1 has a maximum loadspace length of 1753mm while the L2 allows 2153mm. Width across the loadspace is 1538mm and the internal height measures 1269mm. The addition of the load-through bulkhead option, which allows longer lengths to be carried through a flap in the steel bulkhead, means the L1 can transport 3000mm lengths and the L2 can move 3400mm.

Loading height for the rear deck is 599mm and the side door (fitted as standard) has an opening aperture of 433mm in the L1 and 660mm in the L2.

The Transit Connect is 1835mm wide, 1861mm high and 4418mm in length for the L1 and 4818mm for the L2 van. The dimensions of the Transit Connect are broadly in line with those of the VW Caddy and other key rivals. However, the option of that High Payload van means the Connect has a maximum payload matched only by the Fiat Doblo Cargo.

Ford Transit Connect 2021 side door open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Blind-spot warning systems, Active City Stop to prevent slow speed bumps and adaptive load control that manages the Electronic Stability Control when unladen, partially loaded or totally full is available on the Transit Connect. There’s also a standard driver’s side airbag, emergency brake assistance and Trailer Sway Control. Rounding off the package are rear parking sensors on top-end Limited vans, an optional rear camera and optional lane-keeping assistance.

If your budget can stretch to it, Limited vans really are the best value for money for their high equipment levels. Ford allows most of its options to be specified on all vehicles regardless of trim, though, so you can customise your vehicle. One novel feature is that if you have the automatic gearbox, the FordPass app lets you remotely start the van to pre-heat or cool the interior, or defrost the windscreen.

Service intervals are set at 20,000 miles or one year, while the warranty on the Transit Connect is 100,000 miles and three years.

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About the author

George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.

Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.

Ford Transit Connect 2021 interior infotainment

FAQs

  • It’s Ford’s smallest van, and a rival for similar small vans like the, Citroën Berlingo, Fiat Doblo, Nissan Townstar, Peugeot Partner, Renault Kangoo, Toyota ProAce City, and Volkswagen Caddy Cargo, among others. 

  • Well, this depends on which body style you choose. Standard-length Transit Connects are 4.4 metres long, while the long-wheelbase L2 model comes in at 4.8 metres. All Transit Connects stand 1.8 metres tall, and are 2.1 metres wide including their mirrors.

  • You’ll want to keep your eye out for a few quality glitches that can come about – for example, interior plastics and fabrics aren’t the most hard-wearing in the world, loadbay fittings can come loose, and the rear suspension can wear prematurely with heavy use. However, the basic running gear is pretty rugged.

  • Our preference is for the most powerful of the Transit Connect's diesel engines. Not only does it give you the most pulling power of all, but it also comes with an excellent six-speed manual gearbox that offers more flexibility, as well as the option of a good automatic.

  • For full details of costs, you’ll want to read through to the end of our review, but suffice it to say the Transit Connect costs a little more to buy than vans like the Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo, but slightly undercuts the Mercedes-Benz Citan and Volkswagen Caddy Cargo. 

  • Well, you can sleep in any vehicle if you try hard enough! The standard-wheelbase Transit Connect's load area is 1.8 metres long, which isn’t quite long enough to fit a standard mattress into, but at 2.2 metres long and 1.2 metres wide between the arches, the long-wheelbase version will take a single mattress easily, or a double if you don’t mind it being a little curled up at the edges. Of course, if you don’t mind a bit of discomfort, there’s always the front seats, too…