Ford is confident that the new Transit Connect van will leapfrog its rivals to become the third biggest selling van in the UK, beaten only by Ford’s two larger Transit variants.
Phil Hollins, director of fleet operations at Ford, wants to see “more than 20,000” registrations a year with most going to the corporate sector. That compares to around 8,000 for the outgoing Connect.
Are his bullish aspirations well-founded?
To succeed, the Connect needs to meet a number of core fleet criteria: fit for purpose, cost of ownership, loadspace, reliability and driver experience.
Loadspace: the Connect can accommodate two europallets, while the load-through bulkhead fits items up to three metres long in a short wheelbase van (L1 – 2,662mm) and up to 3.5m in a long wheelbase model (L2 – 3,067mm).
Note, though, that this is a £130+VAT option on the base model.
In addition, the bulkhead has been sculpted to create room for an 8x4 board if required. The load height of 1,270mm is the only option, and payload ranges from 600kg to a class-leading 1,000kg.
That’s a clear tick then. But do the cost of ownership figures stack up?
Ford has addressed this issue in a number of ways. First it has introduced the most fuel efficient engines in the sector.
The most popular fleet engine will be the 1.6-litre 95bhp Duratorq, which offers 115g/km and 64.2mpg with stop-start, while an Econetic version lowers this to 105g/km and 70.6mpg, although note that this is achieved by setting the speed limiter at 62mph.
Ford has tackled SMR costs by focusing on ways to extend the life of both scheduled and non-scheduled maintenance items and make any repairs easier and quicker to perform.
Larger tyres (16-inch instead of 15-inch) extend life by around 10%, while improving durability and protection.
Attention-to-detail design includes bending the exhaust inlet pipe to ease access to items such as starter motors, enabling speedy repairs and less off-road time.
Other innovations are intended to cut the cost of accident repair, for example raising headlamps to protect them in frontal crashes and splitting the bumper into three sections to limit the cost of replacement.