Ford Transit Connect M-Sport review

  • Rally car-inspired version of Ford's small van priced from £22,550
  • Leather interior and lowered suspension - but still practical
  • "Most extreme" M-Sport model has outstanding visual presence

UPDATE: these is a newer version of this van - read our review of the Ford Transit Connect MS-RT for more info.

At the headquarters of British motorsport company M-Sport, where all of Ford’s rally cars are built, they refer to the Ford Transit Connect M-Sport as the “most extreme” model in the burgeoning M-Sport commercial vehicles range. It’s not hard to see why – even parked next to its Transit Custom M-Sport big brother, this customised Connect oozes aggression.

There’s just something about the smaller Connect’s proportions that seems to magnify the intensity of those jutting bumpers and side-skirts, made meaner by the lowered suspension and 18-inch OZ Racing wheels.

Yet there’s another reason it’s extreme as well – the price. If you want one of these with the latest 1.5-litre 120hp Euro 6 turbodiesel engine it’ll cost you £22,550 (plus VAT and road tax). The regular version of the Limited trim the M-Sport is based on has a basic price of £17,445. That's nearly £5k less…

So what, you may wonder, is going on here?

What’s going on here?

As we’ve laid out in greater detail in our overview (which you can click here to view), these M-Sport Fords are built by a company called Van-Sport, in association with both M-Sport and Carlex Design, which does the beautifully hand-crafted leather upholstery you also get as part of the package. They’re not official Ford products in the traditional sense, but they are sold by a number of UK Ford dealers, where they no doubt liven-up the showrooms like an explosion in a Dulux factory.

Launched in August 2016, the Transit Connect M-Sport is the collaboration’s second model, and as with the preceding Transit Custom M-Sport, its eyeball-arresting looks are inspired by the World Rally Championship Ford Fiesta rally car. Plainly put, the idea is to provide a particularly sporty and luxurious small van for the admittedly modest number of buyers who can see the appeal of such a thing.

Ford Transit Connect M-Sport review - side view with door open

While this certainly includes lifestyle customers, to date the Connect M-Sport has largely been sold to professional valeters and detailers and the like – business users who can understand the benefit of having an inordinately distinctive vehicle that functions as a means of additional advertising for their services.

And although they are expensive – proportionally much more so than the Transit Custom M-Sport – most of this cost goes into the quality of the upgrade, and you only need to spend a few moments with the vehicle to appreciate how the money has been spent.

Besides, Van-Sport includes a number of factory Ford options within the asking price, and because they’re expected to have higher resale values, when bought on commercial vehicle finance the difference in monthly payments between an M-Sport and a regular Transit Connect should prove pleasantly slight.

What’s the Transit Connect M-Sport like to drive?

Van-Sport’s modifications are largely cosmetic – so while the beautifully-finished Nappa leather which adorns the seats, the steering wheel and even the floor mats certainly improves the ambience within the Transit Connect’s spacious, massively-windscreened cab, nothing that’s been done inside really interrupts the driving experience.

Not that this is any reason for complaint, since the ergonomically agreeable position of the gearlever and the decent job Ford has already done of the steering means that this was already one of the best small vans to drive.

Similarly, there’s not much to say about the engine – regardless of whether you go for the latest Euro 6 model or the earlier Euro 5 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 115hp (still available while stocks last, priced from £21,995), you’ll get smooth responses and enough grunt for this size of vehicle, just as Ford originally intended.

Ford Transit Connect M-Sport review - wheel detail

Where the M-Sport does vary from stock is the suspension. Eibach lowering springs are fitted alongside the standard shock absorbers, and together with the larger wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, these reduce bodyroll and increase grip. There’s a small ride comfort penalty to pay for this additional roadholding, but this really is a minor difference, and the upgrades don’t negatively restrict the Connect’s payload capacity.

In fact, we thought it drove rather nicely. The only other thing to worry about is the reduced ground clearance, caused in part by all that additional bodywork. You’ll just have to be careful over speedbumps and in proximity to low kerbs until you get used to it.

How practical is the M-Sport Transit Connect?

Obviously you’ll need to avoid damaging the expensive leather upholstery in the cab, and the test example had a full-size spare wheel attached to the back of the bulkhead, but otherwise the M-Sport is really no less practical than any other Transit Connect – although you will see a slight reduction in the legal 705kg payload (of the Euro 6 model) due to the additional weight of all those extra components.

Van-Sport only lists the short-wheelbase L1 variant of the Connect panel van in its brochure, which means a maximum load length of 1,753mm, a maximum load width of 1,538mm (1,226mm between the wheelarches) and cubic capacity of 3.0 cubic metres. Factory options included in the price are metallic paint, rear barn door, dual side load doors, DAB radio and sat-nav, and LED loadspace lighting.

Ford Transit Connect M-Sport review - front view

However, if you want something other than a short-wheelbase diesel, Van-Sport can probably accommodate you.

What makes you say that?

M-Sport the motorsport firm told us it had a long-wheelbase Transit Connect fitted with the same goodies for its own use, while Van-Sport has built at least one “R2” special edition based on the 100hp 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbo petrol model.

We say “based” – the R2 demo van has fully adjustable suspension, racing brakes and 180hp, the same amount of power as the R2 variant of Fiesta rally car that uses the same engine…

So what’s the verdict on the Ford Transit Connect M-Sport?

We think it looks great, and all of the customisation is done to an exceptionally high standard. And while none of the M-Sport vans are cheap, they still feel like value for money. So if you’re looking for an especially distinctive small van to help get your busines noticed, we can think of few better places to start.

Also read:

>> Ford M-Sport overview and reviews of the rest of the range

>> Ford Transit Connect full review on Parkers Vans

>> Find a deal on the Ford Transit Connect near you in the Parkers Vans for sale section