1 November 2013

First Drive: Ford Tourneo Connect

Although an excellent case can be made for the Ford Tourneo Connect as a family car alternative to the standard MPVs, it's unlikely that many Irish private buyers will pick one, writes Brian Byrne.

It's quite different on the Continent, and in the North American markets, where the new compact segment vehicle will be very attractive to those with busy lifestyles, shipping kids and kit to a variety of activities.

In Ireland, Ford's boss here says the market is likely to be taxis, some pubs and hotels who need to provide transport for their guests, perhaps a few into hire-drive. Eddie Murphy reckons there could be sales for somewhere between 100-200 next year.

"It's a vehicle which is very important in the Latin European countries, especially Spain, where there are tax advantages for private owners of van-based passenger cars," he said at the international launch of the Tourneo Connect in Munich today.

Nevertheless, the vehicle is entering a European multiple activity vehicle segment which is expected to grow by 25 percent in the next five years.

The Tourneo Connect sits alongside the S-MAX in 7-seat configuration, but offers greater flexibility and is roomier inside for significantly less money, at a starting price of €23,850.

It is finished to a car level of comfort, but is likely to be able to stand up to much more rugged treatment, and would be ideal for those with leisure pursuits such as cycling, kayaking, and beach-based sports.

In 7-seat LWB configuration, the rear pair of seats can be moved for and aft to provide either very usable legroom, or some more luggage space. Either way, there's no need for any compromise in comfort for adults or teenage children. The seats also fold flat into the floor, and there's the ability to provide a really large flat floored space for goods and cargo carriage.

The pair of sliding side doors make access to either send or third row — where applicable — very easy. And the whole car is tall enough so that it is noce not to have to duck one's head, as I seem to have been doing an awful lot lately.

The key engines for Ireland are the 1.0 3-cylinder EcoBoost petrol, available only on the entry level 5-seat model, or a 1.6 TDCI diesel in 95hp form, though two other power options will also be available — 75/115hp.

I drove the van version of the Connect a few weeks ago and was well impressed with the driving and with the quietness of the vehicle. So the fact that this proved to be a really quiet car through the villages around Munich today wasn't quite a a surprise this time around.

But the day reaffirmed my liking for the driving position, and long-distance comfort is never going to be an issue. Which will be of certain interest to those taxi drivers who are most likely to be driving them here.

More on it when we get it in Ireland. We'll try and find a rugged family to put it through its paces.