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2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon: First Drive

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Ford is calling the 2014 Transit Connect Wagon the unminivan.

It’s a tag that elicits eye rolls, as with the most cursory look at this vehicle's profile—its sliding doors, its three rows of seating—it's...unmistakable. It’s almost as if a soft-drink company had decided to call Pepsi—rather than 7-Up—the uncola, or if Mazda suddenly decided to tag its MX-5 Miata the unsportscar.

Of course, the Transit Connect Wagon is a minivan—albeit one that’s far more true-to-form than the bloated vehicles that we currently call minivans. Yet it seats seven up (!), in three rows. And Ford hasn't had anything that might be seen as a minivan on its roster since the inglorious Windstar and Freestar.

A familiar formula, brought back better

Just like the original K-car-based Chrysler minivans of the 1980s, or the revered Honda Accord-based Odyssey of the mid-1990s, the new Transit Connect Wagon feels like what it is: a van made out of a car, and a van that drives like a car. And for the most part, the results are stellar. It’s delightfully responsive, refined-riding, nimble, and efficient.

Built in Spain, on the underpinnings of the current Ford Focus (Ford Motor Company’s Global C platform), the 2014 Transit Connect Wagon is the more passenger-oriented version of a vehicle that was developed primarily for commercial duty. Although this time around, engineers allowed for a sort of parallel-development path for the Wagon from the start—bringing such a level of improvement (and refinement) that the previous-generation Transit Connect models that just recently cleared dealerships might suddenly appear crude and aged.

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

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The engines in the Transit Connect, along with much of what's laid out under the hood, are roughly in synch with the Ford Escape; and that means you get a choice between either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 169 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque, or a 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four, making 178 hp and 184 lb-ft. Versions with the 2.5-liter get EPA ratings of 20 mpg city, 28 highway, while those with the 1.6 return 22/29 mpg. And in either case, you get a six-speed automatic transmission (also the same unit as in the Escape).

Similar outputs, different personalities

Models with the 2.5-liter four are a little more vocal, although not at all thrashy. Go for the 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo four and you sacrifice the towing capability but gain a smoother character and a little more pep in the low-to-mid revs. These two engines are remarkably close in output; and in full, foot-to-the-floor acceleration they feel about as quick. But in real-world driving, and in any kind of partial-throttle transition maneuver, the 1.6T answers almost right away with a wave of torque and fewer needs for downshifting. In either case, the transmission is smooth to upshift and quick to downshift, and it includes a little toggle on the shift knob for manually selecting gears.


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