Published on Thursday 21 May 2020 in Van News
Ford has a van to suit everyone & at the smaller end of the light commercial vehicle (LCV) marketplace they have 3 vans for users to choose from: the Transit Connect small van, Transit Courier compact van & Fiesta Van super compact car-derived van. To help you work out which one will suit you best, Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts puts them head-to-head in the latest commercial vehicle comparison blog.
There's no doubting Ford's ability to create modern & practical LCVs - they've got it licked. But with 3 small Ford vans to choose from, you'd be forgiven for sitting there scratching your head over which one to go for. Before I put them head-to-head, it's worth taking a quick look at what they are.
The largest of Ford's 3 small vans is the Transit Connect & it's a pretty typical small van with a boxy back end whacked on the back of half a car, comparable to the VW Caddy. The Transit Courier is effectively a shrunken Transit Connect with a few more curves & a smaller loading bay, comparable to the Fiat Fiorino. Then there's the teeny weeny Fiesta Van, which is simply a Fiesta car with a levelled off back seat & a bulkhead, comparable to the Vauxhall Corsa Van.
Having driven all 3 vans, I'll discuss each van in turn covering the engine, looks, cabin quality, trim levels, & loading bays, then tell you my personal favourite - each van serves a specific purpose while catering to different business needs, so I'm being as subjective as I like. With that out the way, let's crack on.
Under The Bonnet
You'll notice a lot of the same engines being used across these 3 vans & that's to be expected from a large manufacturer like Ford. The company's excellent EcoBlue diesel & EcoBoost petrol engines have made a name for themselves among customers who applaud their power & efficiency in equal measure.
Ford Transit Connect: If you've driven any other small vans, the Transit Connect's 1.5-litre EcoBlue turbo diesel engines - outputting 75hp, 100hp or 120hp with 6-speed gear boxes across the range or an 8-speed automatic gearbox for the 100/120 models - will feel like a home from a home. With the small van market now swamped by PSA Group small vans all built on the same platform & using similar engines, the Transit Connect remains a compelling option thanks to the efficiency & excellent running costs offered by the EcoBlue family of engines. The drive quality is excellent & surprisingly quiet at the higher power outputs, what more could you ask for? Well… you might want a petrol engine, in which case you can opt for the tried & tested 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine - but most commercial users will opt for the diesel engines. Still, it's nice to have the option, eh?
Ford Transit Courier: The smaller a van gets, the smaller the choice of engine outputs usually gets, & with the Courier you have 2 versions of the same 1.5-litre TDCi turbodiesel engine outputting 75hp or 100hp. There is the option to choose a 100hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine - again, it's nice to have the choice - but I'd be hard pushed to see the need when the 1.5-litre diesel engine is incredibly powerful & provides the pulling power for the Courier's higher payloads. As you'd expect with a smaller van, the Courier drives well offering excellent power, quiet drives & running costs that will make it a simple choice for a courier or short-hop tradesperson.
Ford Fiesta Van: I'll get the "car-like drive" reference out the way right now, it's a Fiesta so it drives EXACTLY like a car, even when it's carrying a 500kg payload in the loading bay. The Fiesta is incredibly popular with drivers, so making it into a van is a no-brainer - it's already proving popular with low-equipment trades. The choice of engines is very simple - choose from either a 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine or a 1.5-litre TDCi turbodiesel engine, that's your lot. In the Fiesta Van, the petrol engine is incredible fun to drive with pace & power screaming out of it. The 1.5-litre diesel is a familiar face from Ford's other vans offering those who add it to the Fiesta Van more power & an overall more efficient time with the van.
Tom's Pick: The Transit Connect is my personal pick - the engine output choices are perfect for a variety of users coupled with the excellent drive quality of an incredibly popular small van in the prime of its life. The Courier & Fiesta have engine choice, but the Connect is where I'd put my money.
On The Outside
Ford's vans & cars share certain design touches on the outside, nowhere is that more noticeable than in the big open shark-like grilles that often have the blue oval dominating their centres. These 3 vans share some aesthetics, but what I like most is that even among the 2 smallest vans Ford offers, there's still some variety to be had.
Ford Transit Connect: The Connect looks like a small van, there's no surprises & various wheelbase lengths to choose from. It's sleek lines are recognisably Ford-like & it looks tough. The back end is also nicely panelled & the perfect canvas for a bit of sign writing. The trim levels add various enhancements to the vehicle's looks with the Base level steel wheels being swapped out for alloys at the higher Limited & Sport trims. With the Limited trim level you get body-coloured bumpers & fog lights to the front end - both add a touch of style & practicality. Opt for the Sport trim level & you get some very conspicuous styling with sporty racing stripes & roof rails to complete the blend of style & substance.
Ford Transit Courier: The Courier looks like a scaled down Connect, which ties its aesthetics nicely to its bigger brother. It's noticeably more curvy than the Connect, but personally I feel that makes it look less like a van - which isn't a bad thing. At the Base trim level you get a good looking van, plump for the Trend trim level & you suddenly get fog lights to enhance the package. In true Ford style, jump up to the Limited trim level & you swap steel wheels to 15-inch alloy wheels & body coloured trim. Sport goes even further by adding black plastic affectations all over the outside & ups the alloys to 16-inches. It's a good looking van, that's for sure, with a little space to put your business details on the side too.
Ford Fiesta Van: The Fiesta Van looks EXACTLY like a Fiesta, so you know what you're dealing with. However, at the standard trim level you get 16-inch steel wheels & foglights right away - it looks excellent & Ford really are offering users a lot right from the outset. Up your look with the Sport trim level & you'll get 16-inch alloys, a sport body kit, sport suspension, a little spoiler, fog lights, side skirts & front & rear bumpers - it looks really cool, but I guess that's the idea, right? The rear windows are panelled out, which offers users a nice place to put some advertising.
Tom's Pick: I like my vans to look like vans, but there's something so cool about a scaled-down Connect that I decided to pick the Courier. However, the Connect looks great at the higher trim levels & the Fiesta Van - especially at the Sport trim level - makes a bold statement for anyone who chooses it as their day-to-day work vehicle.
In The Cabin
I feel the need to preface this section by saying that Ford knows how to make good interiors. Their experience in the car market is on show throughout their van offering - no matter which one you choose, you're going to get a good cabin with comfy seats & (in my opinion) the best cup holders on the market.
Ford Transit Connect: Don't let the Connect's size fool you, the cabin is great & surprisingly spacious. At the Base trim level you get a nice tough interior with DAB & USB connectivity in the right places (& cup holders too). Step up to Trend & suddenly you've got a 4.2-inch screen in there too. Things get serious at the Limited level with added air con & keyless start, but the Sport level makes the air con dual-zone & makes the seats part leather. Overall, the Connect offers good visibility, a comfortable driving position, good connectivity & excellent overhead storage.
Ford Transit Courier: Slightly smaller than the Connect, the Courier's cabin feels a bit odd, but I can't put my finger on it. The driving position is a lot more upright, visibility is clear & you still get a lot of room - in a nutshell, you get the Connect's comfort but none of its style… it is, however, a very durable interior. At the base trim you get standard options, up it to Trend & there's your Sync 3 entertainment system, 4-inch screen & leather! Opt for Limited you've got a 6-inch screen & better additions to the interior, but plump for Sport & suddenly you're surrounded by red stitching, more leather & the top-edge interior similar to the Connect.
Ford Fiesta Van: It's a car so it's VERY car-like (sorry, I promised I wouldn't do that again). The Fiesta Van has a very high-quality interior even at the standard level because the Ford Sync infotainment system is added to all trim levels which is a huge plus. It's highly modern & comfortable with USB, DAB, sat-nav & a whole host of other connectivity options making it really convenient & device-friendly. Sport level nets you sport seats, metal pedals, brushed aluminium everywhere, keyless start, red stitching, premium floor mats, flat-bottomed steering wheel & more, it's just awesome!
Tom's Pick: It's got to be the Ford Fiesta Sport Van… & while we're on it, why aren't all van interiors exactly like a car's? Seriously though, Ford makes good interiors, but while the Connect & Courier both have great & very well-appointed interiors, the Fiesta Van wins for me because of the sporty seat options & the fact the Sync 3 system comes as standard in all trim levels offered.
In The Loading Bay
One of the first places I look in a van is the loading bay - it's the key feature for a working commercial vehicle. Ford's loading bays are refined areas with plenty of lashing points, flexible ply lining, space for storage solutions & more. I'd go so far as to say that this area is where Ford's vans truly differentiate themselves from each other.
Ford Transit Connect: In the largest version of the Connect, you're looking at a loading bay that's 1.2m high, up to 2m long by 1.5m wide (1.2m wide between the arches) & capable of carrying a maximum payload of 967kg in the L2 version. It's accessible by rear doors & a side slider - exactly what you'd expect. If you want my advice, go for the Limited trim level to get yourself some LED lights added in the loading bay. This is very nearly class leading!
Ford Transit Courier: The Courier comes in just the one size but boasts an impressive 1.6m long, 1.4m wide by 1.2m high loading bay that's 1m wide between the arches. Payload is also respectable for such a small van that's capable of carrying between 519kg & 595kg depending on the engine size you choose. It's a perfectly practical van & impressive to boot when you consider it occupies a strange place between "small" & "super compact". The fact it has proper rear doors & a side slider is just the icing on the cake.
Ford Fiesta Van: Similar to the Courier, the Fiesta Van comes in just the one size - exactly what you'd expect from a car-derived van. What loading bay it has - created by tearing out the back seats, levelling off the bay & whacking in a bulkhead - is 1.2m long, 1.2m wide, 0.9m high & is capable of carrying a top payload of 530kg! It's excellent for such a small vehicle - in my review I tested the spaciousness by physically getting in! The loading bay… cough boot space cough… is accessible by the standard Fiesta's boot hatch.
Tom's Pick: This was a tough one, because this is the area vans most easily distinguish themselves. A loading bay can make or break a van, which is why my pick is the Ford Fiesta Van - a payload of 530kg in a tiny little van like that makes it the perfect pick for a low-weight, low-space tradesperson. Again, I stress the point that these 3 vans all serve different purposes, if you need to carry more weight the Connect might be the best choice for you. It's just the Fiesta Van is a clever solution for people looking for a truly car-like commercial vehicle.
Let's start at the larger end with the Ford Transit Connect packs a punch in the small van sector with its excellent cabin – one of the best I've ever sat in – & a loadspace that, for such a small van, really can hold a lot. The Connect does face a lot of competition from other small vans & there are plenty of others that might turn your head… all I can say is that while others might squeak ahead on their user-friendly interiors or a knock-out front end, the Ford Transit Connect often has them beat by having all that & an MPG rating that will save you a packet in fuel costs!
Sliding down the scale we get to the Ford Transit Courier, which to me seems like the perfect choice for someone moving up from a car-derived small van - its got a large load area for its compact size, a great cabin, pleasant drive experience, good fuel economy & you can pick one up for a competitive price. Apart from the fact that it lacks some of the higher-end safety equipment of proper vans, you'd be hard pushed to find something so practical in its class & so completely in keeping with Ford's ability to make a good van.
Then there's the Fiesta Van, a van that's clearly not practical for trades that need space for larger/heavier payloads & the more typical capabilities a real van puts at your disposal. But there are some trades that it would suit perfectly… such as florists, dog walkers, electricians, etc. It's also incredibly fun to drive (especially at the Sport trim level) - truly, the MOST car-like van I've ever sat in, & that's the point. It's the perfect example of a car-derived van done good… just make sure you tie it down if the wind picks up.
There you go, Ford's small vans compared - from the tiny little SportVan to the Courier & Connect, all great vans in their own ways. The one that best suits you & your business will come down to what you need a van for - nail that & one of these Ford small vans will undoubtedly nail it for you.