Ford Tourneo Connect first drive

Ford Tourneo ConnectNeed to move the earth when it comes to family or business transport?

Then Ford can help with their new five seat Tourneo Connect and five/seven seat Grand Tourneo Connect. Both models were designed in the UK at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre in Essex. Prices start from £14,245 for the five door model and £16,985 for the ‘Grand’ versions.

Andy Barratt, Ford’s UK sales director said at the media launch “We are looking for sales growth with the new Tourneo Connect models, probably around 3,000 UK sales in a full year and significantly more than the 80 units or so we sold last year of the previous van based model. Already we have received 900 orders for the new models. The previous generation was a niche product with commercial vehicle routes. The new models use our C-segment car platform from the Focus, Kuga and C-Max so they will appeal to a wider buying audience. Apart from retail customers we can now offer a product ideal for the Taxi and Motability sectors.”

He added, “There are two body options, the best selling five-seat standard version which is expected to take 85% of UK sales and a longer wheelbase Grand Tourneo Connect model which can be ordered with five or seven seats. I expect retail customers to make up 40% of orders for the new models with Fleet and Motability customers each taking 30% of sales.”

Barratt said, “We now have an eight model MPV line-up on sale ranging from the B-Max priced from £12,995 through to the Transit Tourneo Custom LWB at £29,375. It is crucial we can supply our customers with the exact vehicle that meets their needs as we are the leading brand in both new car and new commercial vehicle sales in this country.”

“We sold a total of 381,686 new cars and CVs in the UK last year and for 37 years we have been the bestselling car brand in the UK and 48 years as the leading CV brand.”

Ford’s first Tourneo was launched in 1995 as an eight-seat minibus version of the full-size Transit van followed in 2002 by the smaller Tourneo Connect. Today’s new Tourneo Connect models are built in Valencia Spain and sell in the C-sector of the MPV market which accounts for around 14,000 UK sales each year. Ford expects their new Tourneo Connect range to become the market leader competing against the likes of the Fiat Doblo, Citroen Berlingo Multispace, VW Caddy and Renault Kangoo. They are positioned below the level set by the more car-like MPVs such as the Ford B/C/S-Max family, the Vauxhall Zafiras and Citroen’s new C4 Picassos.

Ford Tourneo ConnectThere are three levels of specification. The range starts off with Style which is expected to appeal to 20% of customers; the best selling Zetec will take 60% of sales leaving 20% of customers choosing the top Titanium models.

Depending on the version chosen the engine and transmission options on offer are the 1.0-litre, 98bhp Ecoboost petrol with a 6-speed manual gearbox, the 1.6-litre, 148bhp Ecoboost petrol with a 6-speed automatic gearbox or 1.6-litre turbodiesels with 94 or 113bhp power outputs and five and six speed manual gearboxes. An optional Fuel Economy pack for the 94bhp turbodiesel model costs £360 and adds a stop-start function and self-closing radiator grille which reduces CO2 emissions by 10g/km and marginally improves fuel economy.

Petrol engines will only account for 10% of UK sales with the 1.0-litre triple petrol unit taking the vast majority of those. The most popular diesel engine will be the 94bhp unit. Overall the best selling of all the new models will be the Tourneo Connect 1.6-litre 94bhp turbodiesel with Zetec specification priced at £16,395.

All models have five doors, the rear side ones being sliding and at the rear is a high opening tailgate which gains entrance to a cavernous load space of 2,410-litres for the Tourneo Connect with the 60/40 split rear seats removed but still with 1,029-litre with all five seats in use. The ‘Grand’ versions are 400mm longer in length and offer up to 2,761-litres of space if the rear seats are not being used but still 322-litres if all seven seats are occupied.

The standard wheelbase five seater version has fold down rear seat backs and fully removable rear seats should it be necessary to become a family holdall without the family. It can just as easily be a business workhorse during the week doubling up as the family bus a weekends. It will be a joy to use for sports enthusiasts and all their activity kit and I know several dog-owners who will appreciate this vehicle as a mobile kennel. Of course it lends itself to the compact taxi and minicab market as well as mobility converters. The seven seat version is less flexible as the seats just fold and cantilever into the floor. There are storage spaces throughout including a useful shelf above the front seats for all versions.

So we have a vehicle looking as if it has boxy van origins but with large windows, wide opening doors, a pronounced nose, high roof, tall tailgate and low loading height floor. These are all very practical and fit for purpose and Ford’s trick has to be to make the Tourneo a desirable proposition to own. Could it become a fashionable cult family bus, certainly the rural French, Spanish, Portuguese and Greeks have adopted such work-horse family buses in their thousands.

Ford Tourneo ConnectFord Tourneo ConnectInside there is copious amounts of neatly moulded hard plastic trim designed to be durable and easy to clean rather than visually pleasing. The driver’s seat is height adjustable so the driving position is higher than a car but lower than an SUV. The controls and instruments show their Focus heritage which is no bad thing and so they are easy to see and operate. The gearlever is positioned on the lower centre section of the dashboard and is well placed, just as well because it is in constant use other than when driving on open roads. The steering is light and responsive and the wheel adjusts for height and reach. Visibility is good all around the vehicle helped by large door mounted mirrors but these do create wind noise at cruising speeds.

Much of the specification and technology used in the new range is carried over from Ford’s latest passenger cars. These include Active City Stop emergency braking, Ford SYNC with emergency assist, rear view camera, trailer sway assist, the latest electronic power steering, gearshift indicator, ECO mode information and a car derived chassis so gone are the last generation’s rear leaf springs.

The best selling Zetec specification includes air conditioning, DAB radio, electric front and rear windows, electrically operated/heated door mirrors, trip computer, daytime running lights, front fog lights, full front, side and curtain airbags, 5-Star Euro NCAP rating, Ford’s easy-fuel capless system, 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers and a tyre inflation kit.

My Tourneo Connect driving experience around the rain soaked, pothole strewn rural winding roads of Hampshire and Sussex at the UK media launch was mainly completed in the best selling 1.6-litre, 94bhp turbodiesel powered model with its five-speed gearbox. This Dagenham built engine we know well as it is widely used in other Ford models. It is relatively responsive in the new range given its boxy upright styling and size. It needs frequent use of the gearbox to keep it in its happy torque zone so it is efficient if not thrilling and thrilling perhaps isn’t a word to be used in this sector of vehicles. Efficiency in all departments is the key requirement. Top speed is a modest 100mph; zero to 62mph takes an even more modest 14.7 seconds. The official Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 56.5mpg and my test drive returned 44.9mpg. With CO2 emissions of 130g/km VED road tax is zero for the First Year rate and then £105 per annum for Year Two onwards. Company car drivers will pay 22% Benefit-in-Kind tax from April onwards. Insurance is a very low Group 6E.

Overall it drives well without vices but without thrills, it is functional if not aspirational, it’s comfortable and easy to live with.

As our work and domestic lifestyles have changed in recent years due to many things including the recession, so our motoring needs have changed. There seem to be more people trying to adopt a less stressful rural life where hobby farming or self sufficiency in growing food is currently popular. People searching to get their children into smaller well run rural schools have all adopted the country way of life and of course more people can now work from home thanks to the latest IT equipment. Then there is the growing band of people starting up their own small one-person businesses. All of these people I can see finding the new Tourneo Connect an attractive proposition as their new way-of-life transport. We could be on our way to seeing yet another new niche sector in the car market – the ‘family holdall’.

MILESTONES. Ford Tourneo Connect Zetec 1.6 TDCi, manual, 5-seat compact MPV. Price: £16,395. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel, 94bhp, 230Nm (170lb ft) of torque from 1,500rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 100mph, 0-62mph 14.7 seconds, 56.5mpg Combined Cycle, (49.9mpg on test), CO2 130g/km, VED £0 First Year then £105 Year Two onwards, BIK company car tax 22%. Insurance group: 6E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,418mm, W 2,137 (including mirrors), H 1,852mm, boot/load space 1,029 to 2,410-litres, braked towing weight 1,000kg. For: Practical no nonsense boxy style, easy access for passengers and cargo/equipment loading, huge load space, multi uses from taxiing to sports activities, cheap to run, well equipped, easy to drive, comfortable ride. Against: Functional rather than aspirational, does what it says on the label though. Miles better news agency

Written by