The Ford Transit Connect is like a minivan only cooler, if you have mountain bikes or motorcycles or kayaks or dogs and stuff. Or like a minivan, only who-would-want-a-truck? It’s not likely to be in demand among soccer moms. But it’s well worth reviewing. Built on the Focus platform, it’s polished, flexible, thrifty and nimble. A lot of people need one and don’t know it.
Transit vans blend into the road scene, usually with signage from a tradesman. They make a compelling case for business. Ford brought the first Transit vans over from Europe, where small work vans are ubiquitous, and we’re finally catching on to the intelligence of them. If there weren’t a strong market, the Transit wouldn’t have competitors like the Chevrolet City Express, Ram ProMaster City, and Nissan NV200.
The vans are front-wheel drive, with two four-cylinder engines available: a 2.5-liter making 169 horsepower, or 1.6-liter turbo making 178 hp. Both use a six-speed automatic transmission.
It can tow up to 2000 pounds with the 2.5-liter engine and tow package; while payloads range up to 1270 pounds, which isn’t all that much.
There’s the Transit Connect and Transit Connect Wagon that seats up to seven, although with less room and comfort than a minivan. But the driver will love it, for its responsive handling and steering. It’s the most nimble and sporty three-row vehicle we’ve come across in a while.
The interior is definitely not cargo van-like; in front at least, the cabin feels like the Ford Focus, Fiesta or Escape. It’s tight and quiet inside. Lots of convenient buttons on the dash.
Different models get different fuel mileage, but you can figure on about 22 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 24 combined. A bit more for the 1.6-liter turbo than the 2.5-liter four. If you want to abandon gasoline altogether, natural gas and LPG models are available.
The Transit Connect has six airbags for driver and passenger, while the seven-passenger Wagon models have three-row airbags, and the five-passenger models have two-row curtain airbags. The NHTSA gives it five stars overall in crash testing, with four stars for frontal impact and five stars for side impact.
All that’s new for 2017 is a roof rack.
The Transit Connect Wagon comes as an XL, XLT, or Titanium trim levels, with a long wheelbase or short wheelbase in the XLT only. Prices start at about $20,000.
Keyless entry and power windows are standard. The XLT gets cruise control and heated power mirrors. Titanium gets leather and dual-zone automatic climate control. The XLT and Titanium can be equipped with a rearview camera, panoramic roof, and MyFord Touch with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, satellite radio, and USB port.
The Transit Connect looks like a small cargo van from the year 2017, with attention to aerodynamics.
The Transit Connect Wagon looks like a mini minivan from the year 2017, with attention to aerodynamics. We like it.
The combination of small-car interior and minivan high seating is cool. You think you’re stepping into a truck but when you get there it’s a car. And it is step and not climb, because the ride height is about the same as a car. And because the roof is so high, there’s plenty of headroom even with the elevated seat.
The comfort is surprisingly good, just not as good as a minivan. What we’re saying is we didn’t expect it to be half as good as a minivan, although we can’t really see why not, and it turned out to be three-fourths as good. The standard fabric upholstery is comfortable and breathable, so we don’t see the need to fancy it up with leather.
In the three-row Wagon, the second row is split 60/40 and there’s plenty of room for adults. It folds down beautifully: the seatbacks flip forward, the whole seat then folds forward and down into the floorwell, all with one pull. Now there’s room for cargo in the middle and passengers in the third row with legroom. Then they fold flat (the seats, not the passengers) and the cargo floor is flat.
There’s a big sliding door on each side, and a huge cargo opening at the rear. You can choose between a hatchback rear door or barn doors. With the hatchback, rearward vision is better because there’s no pillar.
The Transit Connect’s driving dynamics are more like a small car than a cargo van.
There’s some lag to the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, but it’s still quicker than the standard 2.5-liter four.
If it works for you, it’s a great choice. But there’s competition worth checking out, from Chevy, Dodge and Nissan.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.