New & Used Ford Transit Connect: In Depth
2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon - First Drive, May 2014Enlarge Photo
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It’s been several years since Ford has built a true minivan. With the 2014 Transit Connect, though, Ford hopes to move a mainly commercial vehicle closer into the mainstream market—into a niche abandoned by flexible utility vehicles like the old Honda Element.
And with the completely redesigned version of the Transit Connect Wagon that's slated to arrive later this year, for the 2014 model year, Ford should get much closer to covering all those passenger- and family-oriented bases. This 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon is dressed up for family duty in a way that it hasn't before; and with a new front-wheel-drive platform and new engines (either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo four) and a six-speed automatic transmission, it's going to be much more responsive than the previous model, yet also more refined and more fuel-efficient. This passenger version also has three rows of seating, with a sliding third row and folding second and third rows--plus a choice of a tailgate or hinged cargo doors and up to 2,000 pounds of towing capability.
The outgoing version of the Transit Connect, sold through 2013, has been made in Turkey and sold across Europe since 2003. For a time, it had some unique competition in the Honda Element and the Chevrolet HHR panel wagon--both of which were cancelled for the 2012 model year.
This Transit Connect arrived to the U.S. with a single powertrain; it's powered by a 136-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission. As you might expect, acceleration is leisurely with the combination, but fuel economy is an estimated 21/27 mpg. The front-drive van isn't a tedious handler, though--its steering is reasonably quick and the ride quality occupies a good middle ground of firmness.
With its hauling duties dictating its proportions inside and out, the Transit Connect's no looker. It's plain and transparently boxy--in some circles, a good thing--but lacks all the design verve you'll see in the details of a Honda Element. The TC's interior has the most fusty design cues and materials; it's like 1994 all over again, what with the van's hard plastic pieces and oddly integrated bits, like the electric window switches between the seats, instead of on the doors.
Still, with its vertical expanses and the side-hinged doors at the back, the Transit Connect is a useful, flexible option for small businesses and private uses. It's remarkably wide inside, and the windshield is very tall. There's even a shelf above front passengers' foreheads, where no doubt you'll lose pens, bank deposit slips, and other errata--it's that expansive.
Commercial versions come with just front seats, by the way. To avoid a 25-percent tax on each one imported into the U.S., Ford builds all Transit Connects headed here as five-seat wagons--then removes, shreds and recycles the rear seats in 80 percent of them at a port facility on the East Coast. It's a clever dodge around an antiquated rule, but a waste of materials and time all the same. The tax is the same one that prevents foreign-assembled pickup trucks from being inexpensively imported into the U.S.
Ford has previously offered an all-electric Transit Connect with a driving range of 70 to 100 miles, and a recharging time of 6 to 8 hours, but bankruptcy of the conversion company in 2012 sealed this model's place as a small blip in electric-vehicle history. Ford also sells versions prepped to run on CNG or propane, and markets a model built specifically for taxi use.