Ford has launched its latest addition to the MPV market, the all-new Ford Tourneo Connect range.
It's the van-derived family car that offers low running costs and robust build quality all for a reasonable price – in fact, it's roughly £2,000 cheaper than the five-seater C-Max starting from £14,245 and significantly larger, making it the perfect vehicle for customers looking for an alternative to the 'Max' range.
What is it?
It might look like a van, but it's safe to say it definitely isn't one. Following the launch of the original Tourneo back in 2002, the all-new range consists of the five-seat Tourneo Connect and seven-seat Grand Tourneo Connect, which is approximately 40cm longer. It's based on the Transit connect only with additional rear seats and windows making it a spacious and practical MPV. It's designed to combine Ford's stylish MPV looks with its high quality reputation in robust commercial vehicles, offering buyers an alternative to the people-carrier, without sacrificing its car-like features.
What's under the bonnet?
Buyers are given the choice of three engines, including Ford's direct-injection 99bhp 1.0-litre petrol EcoBoost unit or the latest fuel-efficient 1.6-litre 113bhp TDCi diesel variant. The 1.0-litre petrol does seem to struggle carrying the extra weight and needs to be worked harder as a result, but there is a decent amount of pull through the rev range and its smooth six-speed gearbox makes it easy and effortless to drive. The fact it only produces 116g/km of CO2 and has a combined fuel economy of roughly 64mpg, means drivers can travel further for less. Finally, there's the 1.6-litre petrol, which comes with an automatic gearbox. Sadly, this is a little more frustrating to live with, especially when it holds onto gears for longer than required and the engine sounds noisier in the cabin as a result.
Unlike many of the French and Italian rivals, Ford has kept the Tourneo Connect as basic as possible, allowing customers to understand the model and the reasons for buying one – namely because it fits in to their everyday lifestyle. The Zetec trim is expected to be most popular specification when coupled with the diesel unit, which is set to make up a predicted 90 per cent of all sales. It comes equipped with air-conditioning, automatic headlights and window wipers, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB Radio. Took look at, it's nothing special, but that's precisely what Ford aimed for all along – the Tourneo will be driven by people who aren't necessarily fond of the car, so it is guilty of looking a bit like the standard connect transit van... with windows. Nevertheless, it does benefit from Ford's new signature styling including those sharp, slim headlights and round sculptured surfaces. It even comes with optional 17-inch or standard 16-inch alloy wheels, too.
Yes, the Tourneo Connect is up against some tough competition, but it's almost instantly apparent that the practical Ford is ahead of its French and Italian rivals, including Citroen's Berlingo, Renault's Scenic or the Fiat Doblo – you could call it the Brits' practical response to a French idea. It's much more rugged than the listed rivals and jam-packed with a lot more equipment as standard.
What's it like to drive?
Although the Tourneo is a large MPV and certainly looks bigger than a number of its rivals, from behind the wheel it actually feels surprisingly small and easy to manoeuvre. The steering is impressively firm and feels planted on any road from country lanes to motorways. When it comes to running costs and practicality, the more refined diesel unit is arguably the better option and has the extra torque to pull the additional weight – especially when you have a bicycle or a small kayak in the back.
The AOL Cars verdict
As a van-based people-carrier, the Ford Tourneo Connect isn't the most exciting MPV on the road, but it's certainly one of the more practical buys. It's bold, it's simple, it's easy to drive and to top it all off, it's cheap in comparison to rival activity vehicles. The Zetec trim coupled with 1.6-litre TDCi engine is the best option if you're looking for a fuel-efficient workhorse that's not going to break the family bank.
Model: Ford Tourneo Connect 1.6-litre TDCi
Engine: 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi
Max Speed: 99mph
0-62: 14.7 seconds