Ford Grand Tourneo Connect Active review: Van-based people carrier packed with practicality
Ford's move from car-based people carriers to adapted vans brings positives and negatives
Ford used to be famous for its people carriers.
The Galaxy and S-Max were a powerhouse duo of MPVs loved by large families and minicabbers alike for their space and practicality.
But the car-buying public’s tastes have changed and the boxy, car-based people carrier has fallen out of fashion in favour of less practical, less flexible SUVs. Most of Ford’s rivals have dropped MPVs from their line-ups and while you can still configure them on Ford's website for the moment, the Galaxy and S-Max don't have long left either.
So where does that leave mum, dad and their more than 2.4 kids? Or the private hire driver looking to carry more than four passengers? It leaves them looking at vans. More particularly, van-based people carriers like the Ford Connect Grand Tourneo, tested here in Active trim with some SUV-like body cladding, roof rails, unique alloys and a spangly chrome grille.
The van-based approach to MPVs isn’t a new one but now it’s the only option and it has positives and negatives for such buyers. On the plus side, the sliding rear doors are a real boon for ease of access and for use in tight parking spaces, especially with careless youngsters on board. The boxy van body also means you don’t sacrifice space in the name of style so there is acres of head and shoulder room. Legroom also isn’t an issue thanks to the relatively upright position of the seven individual seats.
Access to the rearmost two seats is relatively painless thanks to the large opening and the fold-and-tilt mechanism of the row 2 seats and there’s even a reasonable amount of space in the back row. The height and flat back of the van body mean there’s still a usable amount of boot space even with all seven seats in use.
The downside of the van design is that the seats don't fold flat into the floor as they do in more traditional car-based people carriers like the S-Max or Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer. You can remove them entirely for a five-seat configuration with more boot space but the seats are fairly heavy and awkward to move, and you’ve then got to find somewhere to store them.
If you’ve got the space, you can also take out the second row to create up to 2.6 cubic metres of space in short wheelbase versions and 3.1 cubic metres in the larger L2 version - enough for everything from an Ikea wardrobe to a kayak or a couple of mountain bikes. It’s all very versatile and van-like but touches like vents and charging ports in the rear plus big door pockets show some thought has gone into rear seat convenience.
It’s similar in the front, where huge door pockets and dash-top storage hint at the van origins but a good driving position and touches like the stubby car-like gear selector and Ford’s bespoke Active upholstery make it feel more like a car.
While the upholstery is Ford’s own, the rest of the cabin is pure Volkswagen - a result of the two brands’ commercial vehicle platform-sharing venture. That’s great for quality, comfort and adjustability but means the Connect Tourneo is cursed with the catastrophic VW Group infotainment system. The whole setup is poor but the manual air con with one on-screen menu for fan speed and invisible and unlit sliders for temperature control is genuinely dangerous to use on the move. In a vehicle with wireless smartphone mirroring and heated seats, the lack of automatic climate control feels like a bizarre cheapskate move.
The engine is also a Volkswagen unit but thankfully a far more appealing prospect. The 2.0-litre diesel only puts out 120bhp but the 236lb ft of torque makes sure it’s got plenty of pulling power even fully laden. It’s a little gruff but with the seven-speed auto gearbox it’s easy to make progress and while it steers and handles like a van the ride is good enough that passengers won’t grumble.
The engine also marks the Connect Tourneo as one of the very few diesel-powered MPVs still available. The Vauxhall Combo Life/Peugeot Rifter/Citroen Berlingo equivalents can match it for space and practicality etc but the Vauxhall and Peugeot are EV only, which won't suit everyone, especially when the Tourneo with its 53mpg offers up to 580 miles on a single fill-up. In recognition of this, Citroen recently announced it was bringing back the diesel-powered Berlingo.
That leaves it along with the Connect Tourneo (and VW Caddy) with a more or less captive audience but the Ford serves that audience well. It’s spacious, comfortable and practical as well as being decent enough to drive and be driven in. The hateful touchscreen and awkward rear seats aside, it’s a worthy replacement for the likes of the S-Max.
Ford Connect Grand Tourneo Active
- Price: £32,696 (£33,296 as tested)
- Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
- Power: 120bhp
- Torque: 236lb ft
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
- Top speed: 106mph
- 0-62mph: 13.3 seconds
- Economy: 52.9mpg
- CO2 emissions: 140g/km
Rivals: Citroen Berlingo, Peuoget Rifter, Vauxhall Combo Life, Volkswagen Caddy