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MS-RT Transit Connect review - sporty makeover for small Ford van

  • New small van from Ford-approved MS-RT driven
  • Features full bodykit, quad-exit exhaust, 18-inch alloys
  • Costs from £24k but is packed with attitude and standard kit

Many readers will already be familiar with MS-RT. This small Welsh company is the first firm in Europe to achieve Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) status as a customiser rather than a converter, and has had great success with its series of upgraded Transit Customs - several of which we've reviewed here on Parkers Vans and Pickups.

Now MS-RT is turning its attention back to the smaller Transit Connect. Based on the facelifted 120hp short-wheelbase 200 series model introduced by Ford in late 2018, the new MS-RT Transit Connect is a follow-up to the earlier Transit Connect M-Sport, and deploys all the experience and techniques MS-RT has built up over the last few years to outstanding effect.

MS-RT Transit Connect - front view, grey, 2019

As a result, it's arguably MS-RT's most cohesive design yet. And although as a smaller van it perhaps has less wide-ranging appeal than the MS-RT Transit Custom, if you're a small business that wants some visual punch to help you stand out, the MS-RT Transit Connect surely delivers.

We've now driven it and seen it in production at MS-RT's fully certified facility in Pontypool, so keep reading for everything you need to know about this exciting alternative to all those boring small vans.

What’s different about the MS-RT Transit Connect?

As with its big brother, the MS-RT Transit Connect gets a full visual makeover completely designed, produced and assembled in-house by MS-RT.

MS-RT Transit Connect - white, front bumper and splitter detail, with optional bronze alloy wheel, 2019

Using a small-scale injection-moulded plastic production technique that MS-RT has pioneered in the UK, new exterior parts include the bumpers - with a splitter at the front and a diffuser at the rear - side skirts, grille and rear spoiler.

There's also a set of extended wheel arches, just wide enough to cover the bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels. Made by OZ Racing, these come in a multi-spoke silver design as standard, but an optional bronze alternative is available at extra cost.

MS-RT Transit Connect - optional bronze OZ Racing alloy wheel, side skirt, white, 2019

MS-RT acknowledges the bronze wheel finish is a little 'Marmite', but with the right paint colour (the Connect comes in a choice of seven) we think they look really good.

At the rear you’ll also find a quad-exit stainless steel exhaust, while on the inside there’s a new steering wheel alongside hand-stitched nappa leather and suede upholstery for the seats. The stitching is all done with the same quality of cotton that Ford uses, meaning things like airbags still function as they should.

MS-RT Transit Connect - white, rear bumper with diffuser and quad exhaust, 2019

Similarly, not only do all the body kit pieces have the same level of flexibility and durability to withstand small knock as the standard Ford parts they replace (something you certainly can't say about fibreglass modifications), they all fit in exactly the same way as well.

As a result, they can be removed - and even repaired - just like the standard parts, making it simple for any Ford technician to work on the van.

What standard equipment do you get with the MS-RT Transit Connect?

The MS-RT Transit Connect is based on Ford’s Limited specification, but every van that MS-RT sells also comes with bi-xenon headlights, LED loadspace lighting, twin sliding side loading doors and a premium Ford Sync 3 infotainment package that includes sat-nav and a reversing camera fitted as standard.

MS-RT Transit Connect - cab interior showing custom steering wheel, infotainment and manual gearbox, 2019

These are regular Ford optional extras, but included in the price as part of the van here.

Buyers also get an MS-RT gift pack, including cleaning and care products.

What options are available on the MS-RT Transit Connect?

We’ve already mentioned the bronze alloy wheel option; other extras include Ford's eight-speed automatic gearbox, a full-carbon steering wheel, ceramic black exhaust tips and a Maxhaust exhaust system.

The Maxhaust features an external speaker controlled by a phone app that can make the van sound like a supercar. We’ve tried it on the MS-RT Transit Custom R-Spec.

MS-RT Transit Connect - white, rear side view, rally sticker pack, driving, 2019

You can also choose to add a rally sticker pack – a traditional MS-RT trademark since the company is closely associated with M-Sport, the firm that builds Ford’s rally cars and the MS in MS-RT. The RT stands for Road Technology.

The MS-RT Transit Connect is only offered in the short-wheelbase (SWB) L1 bodysize and as a standard panel van. You cannot get a long-wheelbase (LWB) L2 model nor a Double-Cab-in-Van (DCiV), although L2 is being considered for 2020.

For now, if you need extra choice you'll have to move up to the MS-RT Transit Custom intead..

What's the MS-RT Transit Connect like to drive?

Unlike some other MS-RT vans, there are no suspension modifications here, so despite appearances this drives in exactly the same way as any other Transit Connect 200 series fitted with the most powerful 120hp 1.5-litre TDCI diesel engine.

MS-RT Transit Connect - white, front view, driving, low down, 2019

But this is no bad thing, as the Ford has a clear lead in terms of driver enjoyment in the small van sector, and you'll have a good time behind the wheel nonetheless.

And we do mean a good time. The Transit Connect barely feels like a van at all from the driver's seat. Steering is well-weighted and direct, giving you plenty of confidence to push on through the corners, there's very little body roll and even without anything loaded in the back it rides rough surfaces like a dream, with only the occasional jitter and bounce from particularly nasty potholes or bumps.

MS-RT Transit Connect - cab interior showing whole dashboard, 2019

MS-RT's bespoke steering wheel, with its heavily sculpted grips, adds a tactile element that goes beyond the standard van, though. And the new leather finishing on the seats is decidedly high class.

The 120hp engine is smooth, impressively refined and feels more than powerful enough for a van of this size, with a chunky 270Nm of torque available between 1,750 and 2,500rpm to get things moving swiftly.

MS-RT Transit Connect - white, rear view, driving, 2019

Opt for the eight-speed auto, and this goes up to 300Nm - though so far we've only driven the regular six-speed manual version. The car-like vibe continues with this gearbox, which is postive and robust feeling, making it swift and easy to use.

There's a hint of boominess in the cab when talking - although this is slightly lessened in the MS-RT thanks to the leather upholstery - but otherwise even long journeys are going to pass with very little complaint.

How much can the MS-RT Transit Connect carry?

MS-RT has worked hard to make sure its modifications don't add too much weight to the van, in order to keep payload and practicality as high as possible.

Even so, you will inevitably lose a few kilograms off the theoretical maximum for a 120hp Transit Connect Limited with the 200 series gross vehicle weight; Ford sells a high payload version (the 220 series), but MS-RT says the 200 is the best fit for its customers and looks better, too.

MS-RT Transit Connect - white, roof spoiler, 2019

Load space on an L1 model like this is a relatively modest 2.9 cubic metres, but these vans are aimed at small businesses - such as mobile valeters - where a sharp image is more important than outright carrying capacity.

For the latest payload info, see our dedicated Transit Connect Dimensions page.

How much is the MS-RT Transit Connect?

Prices start at £23,995 for the manual gearbox, or £24,995 for the automatic - excluding VAT.

That looks like a lot for a small van - indeed it's around £5,000 more than a standard Limited and roughly equivalent to a 150hp Volkswagen Caddy with six-speed DSG auto.

MS-RT Transit Connect - grey, front view, driving, 2019

However, you are getting a lot of fitted kit - which goes a long way towards bridging the price gap to the standard Limited, even before you consider the cost of the wheels and properly engineered bodykit - not to mention a highly individual appearance.

Having seen the love and attention MS-RT puts into every build, and it takes around 75-78 hours to transform a standard Transit Connect into one of these, we think it's well worth the cost. The end product is a lovely piece of kit.

MS-RT Transit Connect - grey, rear view, 2019

What's more, MS-RT vans typically hold their value well, which means it should still be worth more than a regular Transit Connect when you come to sell it, keeping total cost of ownership down.

Where can I buy one?

All MS-RT vans are sold through Ford, via a currently select number of dealers.

The plan is to make them part of Ford's 'One Stop Shop' converter programme in 2020, though, which would get MS-RT added to the main Ford pricing and ordering system - and see MS-RT vans go on sale in Europe for the first time.

MS-RT Transit Connect - grey, side view, driving, 2019

Like we said in the beginning, MS-RT is the only firm in Europe with QVM status for customisation; this currently only applies to the Transit Custom, but the Connect has been built with all the same processes so it should just be a formality to get this QVM-approved, too.

Was there an MS-RT Transit Connect Launch Edition?

Yes. Limited to the first 40 customers to want one, the Launch Edition is finished exclusively in Magnetic Grey with the bronze alloy wheels as standard.

It also has a unique Launch Edition interior, sticker pack and numbered plaque.

It costs the same as the standard model, but by this point you'll be lucky to get your name on the list, ass the van is now in full production.

What’s the warranty on MS-RT Transits?

Part of the QVM process includes Ford being satisfied that the vehicles van maintain the standard warranty - so Transit Custom buyers are now completely covered.

The Transit Connect has not been approved as a QVM model yet, but MS-RT offers exactly the same three-year / 100,000-mile level of cover on its parts anyway, and holds the necessary QVM levels of stock necessary for speedy repairs and so forth. It's a quality product.

What if I want to modifiy my own van - can MS-RT help?

If you want the MS-RT look you'll have to buy a whole van - in order to keep values high and guarantee future owners the correct level of quality, MS-RT does not sell its bodykits separately.

Any 'MS-RT' kit you therefore find on the open market is almost certainly going to be an unauthorised replica. Same goes for the sticker packs (which are commonly copied) and the wheels.

However, if in future you're interested in changing the suspension on your van to make it lower, or perhaps improving the performance by adding bigger brakes or an intercooler for the engine, MS-RT is planning to offer a range of aftermarket accessories.

These won't be available fitted directly, however, in order to preserve the QVM status of the factory-built vans.

Also read:

>> Ford Transit Custom MS-RT 2018 review

>> Ford Transit Custom MS-RT R-Spec automatic review

>> Ford Transit Guy Martin Proper Edition review

>> Visit to Van-Sport – builders of the MS-RT and M-Sport Transits and Rangers