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Ford Transit Connect Active Review

Introduction

The Transit Connect - Ford’s second-smallest van carrying the Transit nameplate - boosts its off-road credentials without sacrificing its cargo capacity or car-like handling.

But there’s no sign of four-wheel drive and only sits 24mm further from the ground than the standard Transit Connect. A whole load of chunky add-ons, from skid plates to body cladding, makes it look a lot more rugged, but is it all for show or will the Transit Connect Active get you further than the regular van?

Select's rating score* - 4.4 / 5

At a Glance

The most obvious changes to the Transit Connect Active are the cosmetic upgrades. There’s a brushed aluminium skid plate at the front and back of the van, black plastic cladding along the sides, some flash alloy wheels and a set of roof bars.

It also gets some slightly raised suspension, giving it a modicum of off-road ability. The reality is that it looks tough and rugged rather than being tough and rugged, but it pulls off the deceit nicely, leaving a fantastic looking van that’s capable and good to drive.


Adding all that style means it’s a great looking van for a business looking to attract some attention but, more than that, it’s a viable lifestyle unit for a couple - throw a couple of bikes in the back, or some surfing gear, and you’ll have a day van that you won’t mind getting wet and messy.

Key Features

Despite the funky styling, the Active isn’t any more rugged than a regular Transit Connect. Yes, there’s a little bit of extra suspension travel, but it’s generally style over substance.

This means the Active has to rely on the key features that make the Transit Connect such a compelling model. Fortunately, there are plenty of them.


Chief amongst them is its car-like demeanour. For those that spend a lot of time in their van, driving something that's engaging, agile and comfortable makes a world of difference to your day. The Transit Connect feels very much like a car inside - apart from the huge windscreen - with a modern dashboard and comfortable and compliant suspension. There's enough consumer tech on board to feel like you're in something like a Ford Focus than a commercial workhorse.

That's not at the expense of its van-based capabilities. It's still got a sizeable cargo area and, on some models, can carry a tonne payload, so it's as flexible as it is fun. 

Performance & Drive

The Ford Transit Connect range has a plethora of engine options, from a tiny 1.0-litre petrol unit to sensible 1.5-litre diesel engines, with power outputs rising to 120hp. The Active we have on test has that most powerful option, which develops 270Nm of torque.

It’s a cracking engine, offering linear and progressive power, while being refined and quiet, and the six-speed manual gearbox is as smooth as you’d hope for, too. There’s an eight-speed automatic option for those that don’t want to change gears themselves.


The steering is sharp, while the van’s bodywork is kept well controlled in corners and over the bumps typically found across the UK’s deteriorating road network. The ride quality is impressively comfortable, and not much noise makes its way into the cabin.

It’s all so refined that if you didn’t know you were driving a van, you wouldn’t know you were driving a van.

Running Costs

As the UK’s largest light commercial vehicle supplier, Ford knows a thing or two about appealing to buyers looking to cut costs ahead of everything else. That means everything has been optimised, which starts with fuel economy.

The 1.5-litre diesel engine covers an impressive 61.4 miles for every gallon of fuel, at least officially. During our time, where we covered hundreds of miles on everything from city centre roads to long motorway runs, the onboard computer showed we’d managed 50.6mpg. Other models in the range promise up to 62.8mpg, so you can do even better.


Ford has added some tech to further improve efficiency, with shutters on the grille that close to leave a more aerodynamic profile when the engine doesn’t need so much air. That’s on top of the expected stop/start system, eco-driving mode and even a suggested gear indicator.

You won’t see much of your local Ford dealer during a regular lease deal, as servicing is only required every two years or 15,000 miles. Any issues that do pop up should also be dealt with under the three-year or 100,000-mile warranty.

Interior and Technology

If you’ve experienced a Transit Connect before then the Active will be… exactly the same!

That’s good news, as the cabin of the Connect is as car-like as you’ll find. There’s a conventional dashboard, while the driver gets a pleasingly clear instrument panel that has two analogue dials sandwiching a large digital screen. In the middle of the van sits an infotainment screen, sprouting proudly from the centre stack. 

It’s a 6.0-inch unit that uses Ford’s Sync 3 software. This is solid software, but there’s not much flair to it. 


Happily, there are both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in place, so you’ll be able to hook up your smartphone and use whatever music streaming and navigation apps you prefer.

Ford has thrown a few other extras at the Active too, including a reversing camera that displays a clear image on that screen, and dual-zone air conditioning. The latter is handy as the windscreen is enormous, creating a huge glasshouse that allows the cabin to heat up nicely in the sun.

The only issue is a lack of places to hide your personal items away. An optional bench seat provides a solution to that problem, with a large storage compartment underneath, but the van could still do with some more storage up front.

Payload and Practicality

Adding all the rugged bits to the outside of the Transit Connect hasn’t affected the load volume or payload capacity, which isn’t entirely surprising.

That means that the short wheelbase model retains its 2.9m3 capacity and 985kg payload limit. If load volume is important, or you carry longer loads, then the long-wheelbase model extends that capacity to 3.6m3 thanks to an extra 40cm of bodywork.

The bulkhead does eat into the load area a little, but our short wheelbase test model can still manage to accommodate a load length of up to 1,558mm, although lower, longer loads of up to 1,831mm can squeeze in at floor level.


An optional panel allows particularly long loads to slot through under the passenger seat, extending the space to 3,000mm. The long-wheelbase model adds 400mm to all of those measurements.

Between the wheel arches, there’s 1,249mm of space - enough to accommodate a Euro pallet. Loading is easy too, thanks to a pair of rear doors that swing open to 90 degrees, and then can swing round to 180 degrees with the press of a button.

A sliding door on the passenger side of the van gives good access from the kerb, but a matching door on the other side is a cost option.

Safety

The Ford Tourneo Connect is the passenger version of the Transit Connect, and that's been run through Euro NCAP’s exhaustive safety testing. It scored a respectable four stars out of five, although the car includes some safety equipment that the van misses out on.


That includes essentials such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as blind-spot information systems and lane-keeping aids. All are available at extra cost, though.

You do get rear parking sensors and a reversing camera though, which makes manoeuvring easier.

Options

You’ll find plenty of equipment included as standard in the Transit Connect Active, but the options list runs to multiple pages so there are plenty of opportunities to have a van specified to your exact requirements.

Looking at the list, there are some essential changes you might want to make, from safety kit to luxury touches.

While the Active has a decent sound system, with DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it does miss out on a CD player. For that retro touch (even if I still consider CDs to be modern…) you can have a single-slot player installed for just £60 plus VAT.

Larger door mirrors with a separate wide-angle blind spot mirror are a great addition at just £40, which could see you saving far more than that by avoiding an irritating scrape against an otherwise invisible object.


The bulkhead can be equipped with a window into the cargo area, and the rear door can also be specified with heated glass, allowing for improved rear visibility. Access to the cargo area can be improved by opting for a second side door at just £200.

Our test model was also fitted with the limited-slip front axle, a mechanical device that shifts power between the front wheels to reduce wheelspin and provide impressive traction. It’s the same hardware as you’ll find on the Fiesta ST and Focus ST, where it works very impressively. That’s repeated here for £550.

Finally, while the van may well have a long roster of equipment, essential safety gear is notably absent. £360 will provide you with automatic emergency braking, collision warning, distance alert, braking assist and lane-keeping assistance.

Rival Vans

It might not be a true 4x4, so can’t go head to head with the likes of the Vauxhall Combo Cargo 4x4, but the added ruggedness means the Transit Connect Active is a viable alternative to several vans.

The Citroen Berlingo Worker and Peugeot Partner Grip models are the most obvious alternatives, and share so much they’re essentially rebadged twins. They’re both raised by 30mm over the standard models and come with advanced traction control systems that get the vans further when the going gets rough.

The Vauxhall Combo Cargo 4x4 is another variant of the Citroen and Peugeot models, but adds true four-wheel-drive, giving it a distinct advantage when venturing off-road. It also adds a hefty chunk to the price tag.

Verdict

Without that optional limited-slip differential, there’s not much reason to pick the Transit Connect Active over any other Connect models, unless you need that extra few millimetres of ground clearance.

However, splash out the relatively small amount on the LSD (and the £550 plus VAT will be reduced to a simple monthly uplift on a lease deal) and the van is transformed into something that’s entertaining to drive on the road and capable of covering most ground off-road.

The rugged add-ons will suit many, and they do genuinely (if not massively) improve the vans' capabilities. Even without them, the Transit Connect has enough style to appeal to owner-operators, strong enough value to appeal to fleet buyers, and enough payload and cargo capacity to appeal to all.


Where to next?

View our latest Ford Transit Connect Active Leasing Deals - from just £335.04 per month inc VAT**

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent website reviews of the Ford Transit Connect Active

**Correct as of 31/03/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,015.36 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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