This year will certainly go down in history as the year of the small van.
So far we’ve seen the new Volkswagen Caddy Maxi, Citroën Nemo, Peugeot Bipper, Fiat Fiorino, Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner.
Amid all the razzle-dazzle of these new arrivals, it’s easy to forget some of the older contenders that are still offering great service – and indeed developing with fresh variants being launched.
Take the Ford Transit Connect for example.
It was launched in 2003 amid a huge fanfare of publicity and since then has proved a rock solid performer, winning the coveted Fleet News small van of the year award along the way among other prizes.
Now in its fifth year, the Transit Connect can still hold its head up against the younger rivals and will soon be available in the dazzling new suit of sporty clothes that we see in the pictures here.
The launch of the Connect Sportvan follows the success last year of the larger Transit Sportvan, with white stripes and various chrome accoutrements, and as only 300 will be built, it’s fair to assume that they’ll be snapped up like hot cakes, as was the bigger version (600 of which were made).
Steve Kimber, commercial vehicle sales director at Ford, told me: “The reaction to the Connect Sportvan concept shown at last year’s CV Show left us in no doubt that there is strong showroom demand.
"It looks great and we anticipate it will be just as popular as its big brother.
"The Sportvan is all about style and individuality.
“It’s for people who want to be a bit different – and there are plenty of our customers who feel that way.”
Indeed the Connect Sportvan is entirely about image because under the bonnet is a standard 1.8-litre TDCi turbodiesel powerplant offering 110bhp and 184lb-ft of torque.
Mr Kimber said: “We think our engine is good enough as it is and we don’t go in for the faster engines that some of our rivals offer.
"This way you get the looks without the extra cost and the higher insurance.”
For £15,325 ex-VAT, the Sportvan offers striking Performance Blue paintwork with sporty white ‘go faster’ stripes, full body-coloured bumpers, chrome grille and side skirts, a roof spoiler, silver door mirror housings, a chrome exhaust finisher and 18in alloy wheels with 225/40 low profile tyres.
Inside there’s a leather-wrapped steering wheel, silver centre stack surround and leather seats, ABS brakes and traction control.