- Big-box bargain
- Small-business special
- Four-cylinder is pretty frugal
- Not really a passenger car
- Drab 1990s interior
- Overhead console too close to foreheads
If you're supporting a small business and need a scaled-down van to fit its needs, the 2012 Ford Transit Connect Wagon fits the bill.
It chalks up a few civilian sales a year, but the Ford Transit Connect van is primarily aimed at small businesses that put its very tall cargo area and somewhat rudimentary cabin to good use.
With just a few running changes this year, the Turkish-built Transit Connect still looks every bit like the very slightly modified commercial vehicle that's been sold in Europe for a few years. It's a utility vehicle in the most utilitarian sense, and its styling is limited to honing down some of the harder corners and dressing up the functional cabin in the barest amount of material possible. It's a smaller version but for sure, the Transit Connect has a lot more in common with the big commercial vans still offered by Ford, than it does with any of their luxurious crossovers.
The Transit Connect isn't a V-8-powered big boy like those Econolines. It's based off compact-car running gear, and sports a single drivetrain offering--a 136-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, teamed to a four-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. It's just adequate for the urban duty cycle, and slow to accelerate up to highway speed, though passing is a little more secure and confident. The TC's fuel economy is 21/27 mpg, a vast improvement over the numbers you'd earn in a full-size van. A battery-powered Transit Connect electric van is being prepared for the 2012 model year, but we haven't had a chance to drive it yet.
The tall TC scores points with us for its maneuverability on city streets. The turning circle is tight, and the wheels are pushed out to the corners, giving it the squeeze-through ability that's absolutely necessary for its Euro duties. In anything more challenging, the Transit Connect's mass and height makes themselves known, as it rolls and leans into corners and runs out of suspension travel.
It's really all about the humongous interior space, accessible from sliding side doors or the rear tailgate. It's a spacious carrier for all sorts of gear and goods, with 135 cubic feet of space behind the front seats. Ford helps drivers make the most of the space with a range of add-ons and accessories that can configure the Transit Connect with removeable racks, rails and cargo bins. It's the perfect conveyance for owner-operators like locksmiths and petsitters who need rugged, configurable, washable space.
Safety is improved a bit this year on some versions, as Ford's added standard stability control with anti-roll programming to all models. Every version comes with anti-lock brakes and six airbags. Passenger versions have glass windows in the rear, but they're church-style doors with a center pillar that blocks visibility--but it's still far better than the commercial version, which replaces all the back glass with metal panels.
Features are skimpy for this mostly commercial-minded maxi-van. Bluetooth is available, but Ford's SYNC phone and audio controller isn't. Parking sensors and a rearview camera are options--along with a business-oriented tracking package that keeps tabs on the location and time spent there by drivers.
We can't recommend this van for anyone looking to replace a conventional minivan or crossover, but if your family has a small family business on the side, the Transit Connect could be the only vehicle on the market today that can tackle all your daily needs.
For an in-depth look at this van, read our most recent full review of the Ford Transit Connect.