- Sleek styling
- Truly drives like a car, not a van
- Wide range of options and bodies
- Comfortable and quiet
- Low payload ratings
- Limited appeal as a people-hauler
- Affordable price, but cheapness shows in places
Roomier inside than you might expect, the Ford Transit Connect makes a terrific cargo hauler and a decent option for those looking for a minivan alternative.
You've probably passed a dozen Ford Transit Connects today without even realizing it. Although they're surprisingly stylish for commercial-oriented vehicles, they tend to blend into the background.
Typically emblazoned with decals promoting a delivery company or a plumbing service, the Transit Connect was designed initially for the European market but has adapted well urban, suburban, and rural America. It's a polished, flexible cargo and human hauler that easily rates a 6.4 out of 10 overall and is a compelling choice for a small business.
The Transit Connect was redesigned a couple of years ago as a far more practical model than its car-with-a-box predecessor that ushered the nameplate into the American market. It squares off against an increasingly wide range of rivals, including the Chevrolet City Express, Ram ProMaster City, and Nissan NV200.
Take what makes crossovers and minivans so appealing, and omit much of what might turn you off, and you end up with the Transit Connect. It's a great alternative to hefty full-size vans, yet definitely manages to dodge the stigma (and bloat) of modern, not-so-mini minivans.
Two variants are on offer: The Transit Connect and the Transit Connect Wagon, the latter a passenger-oriented variant that offers seating for up to seven. It's not really a minivan alternative since interior room is tight, but for those may need to haul a few humans to a job site, the Wagon may make some sense as it's versatile, frugal, and spacious, without being cumbersome to drive.
Ford Transit Connect styling, performance and comfort
Let's face it, you're not in the commercial-oriented van market because you want something that's going to make you do a double-take every time you park it, but the Transit Connect looks decent for what it is. Inside, its interior could have been plucked from the automaker's Focus and Fiesta small cars or its Escape crossover, which were all penned primarily in Europe. That means you'll find a lot of buttons on the dash but also a generally convenient feel.
The Transit Connect family doesn't drive much like a commercial van, and that's a good thing. It mostly delivers small car driving dynamics, 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 models offer a choice of either a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine or a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4, both of which are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The 178 horsepower turbo can be a little laggy, but it offers slightly better fuel economy, at least on paper, and it's a little peppier overall than the 169-hp base engine.
The Transit Connect and Wagon draw from the same goodness mechanically as they are both generally underpinned by the same platform you'll find in the Ford Focus. That's a good thing, since it delivers remarkably responsive handling and well-weighted steering. The Wagon, in particular, stands out as the most nimble and sporty three-row vehicle we've come across in a while. That may be lost on your average commercial fleet operator, but at least the drivers themselves will be enjoying themselves.
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 be jockeyed fore and aft a few inches, while they fold flat and an extending shelf allows the cargo floor to be flush.
With wide-opening sliding doors on either side, plus a huge cargo opening, the Transit Connect Wagon is easy to load or reconfigure; adding to that convenience is that this van rides pretty much at car height—so you don't have to step up first, as in many crossover vehicles. You're allowed a choice between one-piece lift-up hatchback or dual side-hinged rear doors; unless you're height-limited (by a garage door, for instance). Of those, we prefer the hatchback setup best for its easy load opening—and for the lack of another visibility-obstructing pillar.
The Transit Connect Wagon is offered in XL, XLT, and Titanium trim levels, with configurations including short-wheelbase (SWB) and long-wheelbase (LWB) versions.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. Payloads range up to 1,270 pounds (modest, actually, if you plan to carry passengers, too).
A new-for-2017 optional roof rack expands the Wagon's capacity and its lifestyle positioning.
Ford Transit Connect safety, features, and fuel economy
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's NHTSA has crash-tested Transit Connect Wagon—with a five-star overall rating, four stars for frontal impact, and five stars for side impact protection.
Ford Transit Connect XLT and Titanium models can be equipped with MyFord Touch, and as such they include a 6.5-inch touchscreen 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.
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 and a panoramic roof are optional, as are reverse sensors.
Fuel economy depends greatly on the body style and engine options you select for your Transit Connect, but the high-volume model comes in at a respectable 22 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined.
There are even versions that run on natural gas and LPG.