Suppose you're a business owner drawn to the form and function of a utility van like the Sprinter, but you operate in confined urban settings or just don't need its full-size capacity and full-size price tag. With the relatively compact and affordable Ford Transit Connect, your search could be over. This Euro-derived cargo (or passenger) van offers impressive functionality in a maneuverable and fuel-efficient package.
A scaled-down alternative to traditional full-size work vans, the Ford Transit Connect features a car-based architecture and an economical four-cylinder engine. Its payload and towing capacities are pretty meager compared to a regular van, but in return the Transit Connect should woo commercial buyers with its affordable price, maneuverable size and remarkably practical interior.
Current Ford Transit Connect
Redesigned for 2014, the latest Ford Transit Connect compact commercial van is available in two different wheelbases. Compared to the previous-generation Transit Connect, the smaller one is 6.7 inches shorter in length while the larger one is 9.1 inches longer. Both of the new versions, however, are nearly 7 inches shorter in height compared to the first-gen Transit Connect, which means taller folks won't have it as easy moving around inside as they did with the older van.
Besides the different wheelbases, the Transit Connect is offered in cargo van or passenger-oriented wagon body styles. Trim levels are comprised of base XL, midlevel XLT and, for the wagon only, the plush Titanium. All the cargo vans can be had in short- or long-wheelbase form. The XL and Titanium wagons are long-wheelbase only and seat seven; the XLT wagon can be had in either short- or long-wheelbase versions and as such seats five or seven, respectively.
Standard power is provided by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 169 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A turbocharged 1.6-liter four with 178 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque is optional on select variants. Both engines send power to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is quite good, as EPA estimated combined fuel economy ranges from 23-25 mpg.
Standard feature highlights of the XL cargo van include air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power front windows and door locks and a two-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack. The XL wagon has second- and third-row seats, a center console and power second-row windows. The XLT cargo van adds body-color bumpers, foglights, heated power mirrors, cloth upholstery, a 4.2-inch multifunction display, cruise control and a CD player. The XLT wagon features rear privacy glass, a rearview camera and rear climate controls. The Titanium wagon adds alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, power-folding mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, heated front seats, four speakers and Ford's voice-controlled Sync system.
Major options include a compressed natural gas engine prep package, front and rear parking sensors, a towing package, a fixed panoramic sunroof, a roof rack, the MyFord Touch electronics interface (includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen and a navigation system) and the Crew Chief telematics system designed for fleet operators.
While we've yet to spend any time behind the wheel of the latest Ford Transit Connect, we know enough to suggest that the standard 2.5-liter engine will likely prove adequate for most buyers' needs. We also expect this small van to possess relatively nimble handling, especially in short-wheelbase form. Check back for additional driving impressions as they become available.
Used Ford Transit Connect Models
The first-generation Ford Transit Connect was produced from 2010 through 2013. The front-wheel-drive compact commercial van was offered in two styles: Van (with or without side and rear glass) and Wagon. The former's rear compartment was strictly for cargo hauling, while the latter featured a bench seat for transporting passengers. Both came with dual sliding doors, though these could be deleted upon request. The trim levels (depending on year) consisted of XL and XLT for the Van, and XL, XLT and XLT Premium for the Wagon.
All models were powered by a 2.0-liter inline-4 with 136 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. EPA estimated fuel economy stood at a relatively frugal 23 mpg combined.
The Van XL came with the basics, such as 180-degree-opening rear doors, stability control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a two-speaker stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. To that, the Wagon XL added a two-person bench seat. The Van XLT featured body-color bumpers, full power accessories, heated mirrors, cruise control, a cargo area 12-volt power point and a CD player. The Wagon XLT model further included a 60/40-split-folding three-passenger second-row bench seat. The Wagon XLT Premium also featured flip-open rear side windows, storage pockets in the rear doors and a four-speaker audio system.
Cargo vans could also be equipped with a tool tracking and inventory system, as well as customizable rear shelving for optimizing cargo management. Other options included rear parking sensors, 255-degree-opening rear doors, remote start and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
In reviews, we praised the first-generation Transit Connect's excellent cargo capacity and carlike maneuverability. The maximum payload is just 1,600 pounds, but the cargo area's 135 cubic feet of storage includes lots of useful vertical space. On the road, the Ford Transit Connect is extraordinarily agile for a work van, and its relatively compact footprint enables it to squeeze into spaces that full-size vans would have to pass up. The diminutive 2.0-liter engine struggles against the van's 3,500-pound curb weight, though the payoff is relatively impressive fuel economy.
Changes were minimal for this generation. The Wagon XL trim was only available the first model year, while the XLT Premium debuted for 2011. Most notably, stability control was made standard across the board for 2012; previously it was standard on the Wagon but optional on the Van.