- Smart styling
- Truly carlike handling, responsiveness
- Choice of wheelbases and cargo doors
- Improved feature set
- Surprisingly comfortable, quiet
- Low payload rating
- Affordable price, but cheapness shows in places
- Is it a minivan or not?
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect takes some baby steps away from its almost purely commercial root -- and ends up with a nimble, appealing Wagon that will remind some of when minivans weren't so big, bloated, and expensive.
Will crafty hipsters, hobbyists, and DIY types bring the minivan back to form? If you study the 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon, and consider the way that Ford is positioning it, the automaker is trying hard to bypass what the pricey, bloated devices that the minivan mainstream has become today, and revisit what they were so loved for in the 1980s: providing economical, spacious, versatile transportation for people and stuff.
With the 2014 Transit Connect, Ford is hoping it can nudge a primarily commercial-duty vehicle a little closer to the mainstream--into a niche abandoned by flexible utes like the old Honda Element. To do this, it's again tapping its Focus family of vehicles to deliver better driving dynamics.
The new Transit Connect bridges the gap between the Ford C-Max hybrid hatchbacks and the coming Transit van, a full-size vehicle that one day will replace the Econoline. And it definitely blends some clear influences and hardware from the Escape crossover into the mix.
The front-wheel-drive Transit Connect Wagon offers a choice of either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a 1.6-liter turbocharged four. Both are teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission. Mileage is a slightly better with the 178-horsepower EcoBoost 1.6, at 22 mpg city, 29 highway, and that engine is a more refined pick because of its accessible mid-rev torque, which results in more comfortable, responsive driving in traffic -- although the 169-hp 2.5-liter feels nearly as quick foot-to-the-floor.
No matter which configuration you get, steering is very nicely weighted, via a well sorted electric-boost rack-and-pinion system, while brakes are four-wheel discs across the model line. If it weren't for the marvelous Mazda 5, a vehicle that manages to drive every bit as well as a small hatchback, we'd call the Transit Connect Wagon the lightest-driving van.
Base curb weight for the seven-passenger version is nearly 4,000 pounds, but we would have guessed hundreds less. Payloads range up to 1,270 pounds (modest, actually, if you plan to carry passengers, too). The passenger-oriented Wagon can tow up to 2,000 pounds with the Tow Package, which unfortunately is only offered in 2.5-liter versions.
Body configurations include short-wheelbase (SWB) and long-wheelbase (LWB) versions, and the Transit Connect Wagon will be offered in XL, XLT, and Titanium trim levels. If you want the short-wheelbase version, you'll have to settle for the middle XLT. Safety equipment includes three-row airbags on seven-passenger models, and two-row curtain airbags on five-passenger models, and the federal government has already crash-tested a 2014 Transit Connect Wagon—with a five-star overall rating, four stars for frontal impact, and five stars for side impact.
From a purely practical standpoint, the Transit Connect gets business done -- with surprisingly good passenger comfort and a tight, quiet interior. The front area feels, as in the Ford Escape, like the interior of a small car but elevated several inches—and with the raised roof on every model, more drivers will have more than a foot above their head. In three-row versions, the back-seat arrangement is impressive, with the second row split 60/40 and generously sized to fit adults; it has seatbacks that flip forward, then the entire seat folds forward and then deep into the floorwell with a continuous motion. The twin third-row seats can jockey fore and aft a few inches, while they fold flat and an extending shelf allows the cargo floor to be perfectly flat with everything in place.
With wide-opening sliding doors on either side, plus a huge cargo opening, the Transit Connect Wagon is just plain easy to load or reconfigure; adding to that convenience is that this vehicle rides pretty much at car height—so you don't have to step up first, as in many crossover vehicles. You can choose between a setup with a one-piece lift-up hatchback or dual side-hinged rear doors; unless you're height-limited (by a garage door, for instance), we like the hatchback setup best for its easy load opening—and for the lack of another visibility-obstructing pillar in the middle.The 2014 Transit Connect Wagon is offered in three different trim levels—XL, XLT, and Platinum. MyFord Touch is available on the XLT and Titanium and includes a rearview camera system, HD Radio, satellite radio, and USB port, in addition to its larger 6.5-inch touch screen. All models include keyless entry and power windows. XLT models step up to standard cruise control, MyKey, heated power mirrors, Top Titanium models include dual-zone automatic climate control, Remote start is an option, as are reverse sensors and a panoramic roof. Leather seats are available on the XLT and standard on the Titanium, but an option that we don't necessarily recommend, as the cloth upholstery is comfortable and breathable.