Connect with the space race

Remember the days when your dad, or a friend's dad, would get an old coach seat, an even older van, and marry the two together to create a family car?

There were kits so he could fit side windows and then, from your precarious, unbelted, untested perch you could watch the world whistle by.

Things are very different now in how families obtain their mobility but there's even more demand to have it. In recent times this has led to the rise of the MPV - Ford got there in 1995 with its first Galaxy and now it has eight people movers in its range.

The Galaxy has been joined by the S-MAX, C-MAX, C-MAX Grand, and B-MAX among Ford's cars but there are now also three models using its Tourneo name to create even more spacious cars.

The big difference between now and 50 years ago is that these Tourneo models pass muster as cars because their presence was designed into the range from the point the vans upon which they are based were created. So the Tourneo Connect and Grand Tourneo Connect make great people movers, as does the Tourneo Custom based on the next model up in the Transit range, the Custom.

They really are a practical way to move people and plenty of kit but you would be hard-pressed to recognised their van origins when you look at how well styled and constructed they are. They are also safe with their five star EuroNCAP rating.

The Tourneo Connect offers a choice of trim levels, engines, body length, and seating combinations that would astound the average car buyer. And even those who thought they knew their way around the world of MPVs will marvel at just how connected these Tourneo models are with the demands of busy families.

Interiors are finished to a level that you would expect in a car but what you get enveloped in that car-like trim is a huge amount of space. But it doesn't have to come at the expense of fuel consumption because the Tourneo Connect we drove in Zetec trim was averaging 50 mpg from its combination of 1.6 litre diesel engine and five speed manual gearbox.

When you take to the road in the Tourneo Connect you realise what a great advance it makes in the world of family motoring. In exchange for not having the very latest and swoopy car-like styling instead you get a practical car that drives as you would expect any car to drive. The ride is smooth, the seats superbly comfortable, and there's more stowage space around the interior than many owners will ever find stuff to fill.

It's possible that some people may be put off by the boxy exterior by the stylists have done a great job of blending in side windows. The van base also brings a huge advantage because there are sliding rear doors on each side, a feature you never truly appreciate until trying to load kids into safety seats while occupying a modern, therefore too narrow, parking space.

The seats tumble to reveal a superb load space set behind a one piece tailgate that rises and shuts easily. There's plenty of capacity as a five seater, which is what makes this such an appealing car for growing and active families. When you take a look at all it gives for its £16,395 its value is unbeatable. Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Ford Tourneo Connect Zetec 16. Diesel five speed

Does it fit your ego... 0-62 mph: secs Top speed: mph Bhp: 95 Torque: 170 lb ft

...and your wallet... Price: £16,395 Combined: 56.5 mpg CO2 emissions: 130 g/km Insurance Group:

Best bits: combination of space and value