- Sharp, sleek styling
- Handles and responds like a car
- Choice of sizes, and even liftgate styles
- Great feature set
- Surprisingly comfortable, quiet
- Affordable price, but cheapness shows in places
- Is it a minivan or not?
- Low payload rating
The 2015 Ford Transit Connect eschews the ungainly mass and size of traditional commercial vans, while the nimble, appealing Wagon that will remind some of when minivans weren't so big and bloated.
As a sort of utility infielder for the Ford lineup, the 2015 Transit Connect might not fit into a clear U.S. vehicle class at first glance, but it can be outfitted to cover a wide range of needs, whether you're a business owner or just a busy parent.
Take what makes SUVs and vans so appealing, and omit much of what might turn you off, and you get the 2015 Ford Transit Connect. It manages to dodge the stigma (and bloat) of modern, not-so-mini minivans; and it's a great alternative to hefty full-size vans.
With the freshly redesigned Transit Connect, a model that was released last year, to an abbreviated 2014 model year, Ford is hoping it can nudge what was formerly a commercial-duty vehicle a little closer to the mainstream. The new 2015 Transit Connect bridges the gap between the Ford C-Max hybrid hatchbacks and the new Transit van, a full-size vehicle that will soon fully replace the Econoline. And it definitely blends some clear influences and hardware from the Escape crossover into the mix.
In the passenger-oriented Transit Connect Wagon, the model with seating for up to seven, there's also a newfound focus on personal use. Taking aim at crafty hipsters, hobbyists, and DIY types -- and yes, even some families -- Ford is largely bypassing the minivan message yet revisiting what made minivans so popular in the 1980s: offering up transportation for people and stuff, in a way that's economical, spacious, versatile.
It's no exaggeration to say that the 2015 Transit Connect family has the driving dynamics of a small car, matched with enough space and payload to handle most of what small-business owners will throw at it. The front-wheel-drive Transit Connect and Transit Connect Wagon offer 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, 30 mpg 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.
Mechanically, the Transit Connect and the Transit Connect Wagon draw from the same goodness, derived from the Ford Focus platform and with some parts shared with the Ford Escape crossover. Handling is very responsive; steering is well-weighted; and with the exception of the Mazda5, perhaps, it's the most nimble, tossable vehicle with three rows of available seating. It sure doesn't feel its 4,000-pound base curb weight, for the seven-passenger Wagon. One key difference is that cargo-oriented Transit Connect models have rear drum brakes, whereas passenger-oriented Transit Connect Wagon models come with four-wheel disc brakes.
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. 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 with the 2.5-liter engine. And if you want the short-wheelbase Wagon, you'll have to settle for the middle XLT.
Safety equipment includes three-row airbags on seven-passenger Wagon models, and two-row curtain airbags on five-passenger models (Transit Connect models still include six airbags for driver and passenger); and the federal government has crash-tested Transit Connect Wagon—with a five-star overall rating, four stars for frontal impact, and five stars for side impact protection.
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.
From a purely practical standpoint, the Transit Connect and Transit Connect Wagon get business done -- with surprisingly good 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 Wagon 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, all 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 flush.
The Transit Connect earns a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA.
The 2015 Transit Connect Wagon is offered in three different trim levels—XL, XLT, and Platinum—while the Transit Connect is offered only in XL and XLT trims. One of very few changes for 2015 is a new exterior color, Magnetic.
XLT and Titanium models can be equipped with MyFord Touch, and as such they include a 6.5-inch touch screen plus a rearview camera system, HD Radio, satellite radio, and USB port. All models include keyless entry and power windows. At the XLT level, you get standard cruise control, plus MyKey and heated power mirrors. Then on top Transit Connect Wagon Titanium models, there's dual-zone automatic climate control and other upgrades, 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. Remote start is an option, as are reverse sensors and a panoramic roof.