AUTO REVIEW: Ford Transit Connect Searches for Identity as Passenger Van

(Detroit Free Press/MCT) -
(Ford/MCT)
(Ford/MCT)

Ford’s plan to push the 3-star 2014 Ford Transit Connect short wheelbase and 2-star 2014 Ford Transit Connect long wheelbase compact vans beyond their core market as business-delivery vehicles is elementary. Simply put, the automaker hopes a lot of customers who miss the old Honda Element will buy passenger versions of its small van.

So far, so good. Ford reports that a surprising 34 percent of Transit Connect sales this year went to non-business customers buying the passenger models for their personal use.

Despite that, the new Transit Connect is not an ideal passenger vehicle. Ford developed it primarily as a delivery van for businesses. The Transit Connect has some rough edges when viewed as a competitor for full-time passenger vehicles like the Element, Nissan Cube, Scion xB and Mazda 5. In addition, the Transit Connect may compete with passenger versions of the Nissan NV200 and the Ram ProMaster City small commercial vans.

Ford calls its passenger-oriented Transit Connects wagons. Like the commercial models, they come in two wheelbases and have sliding doors on both sides. The short-wheelbase (SWB) model is 173.9 inches long. The longer (LWB) is 189.7 inches long. The previous Transit Connect was 180.6 inches long.

Prices for the 2014 Transit Connect wagon start at $24,525 for an SWB van with a 169-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The long-wheelbase models with the same engine start at $26,525. All Transit Connects, including the less-expensive cargo models, have a six-speed automatic transmission.

The SWB van had a perky 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that boosted torque and horsepower and cost $795. Other options, including a touchscreen, parking sensors, backup camera and electrically defrosting windshield, raised the sticker to $29,495.

My LWB had the less-powerful base engine, but offered a fixed sun roof and remote start in addition to the touchscreen, parking assist, rear-view camera and electric windshield. It cost $32,320. All prices exclude destination charges.

The 1.6L SWB was surprisingly quick and responsive in traffic. Among quirky models well-suited to hauling dogs and bikes, its EPA rating of 22 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway and 25 combined beats the Element and the Scion xB, but trails the Nissan Cube.

At 4.6 inches shorter than a Ford Focus sedan, the little van is remarkably easy to park. It offers plenty of storage space behind the rear seat.

The interior materials are very basic. Hard plastic doors, dash and console betray the Connect’s origin as a delivery van. The mechanism to flip the rear seat forward to increase cargo space is primitive compared to minivans and crossovers. The voice recognition in my test car functioned poorly.

Despite those shortcomings, the SWB’s fuel economy and performance may please buyers looking for an efficient and roomy small vehicle.

The LWB van suffered from comparison to both the optional 1.6-liter engine and the excellence of traditional minivans.

The 2.5-liter engine was badly underpowered in the bigger and heavier long-wheelbase model. Its EPA fuel-economy rating of 20 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 23 combined trails the Mazda 5 compact minivan. The LWB beats full-size minivans by several miles per gallon, but it’s simply not as good for carrying people, and my test vehicle cost more than a well-equipped Dodge Grand Caravan R/T.

The second- and third-row seats are less comfortable and harder to fold than those in minivans. There’s very little cargo space behind the third row. Like the SWB, the interior is covered in hard materials and the touchscreen is too small for use in a moving vehicle.

The 2014 Transit Connect’s styling is more contemporary than the boxy van it replaced. Its big windshield provides excellent forward visibility.

The short-wheelbase Transit Connect wagon is a good alternative to cars like the discontinued Element and Cube and the Scion xB. Shoppers looking for more-conventional people carrying will be better served by a conventional minivan than the Transit Connect’s LWB model.

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BEHIND THE WHEEL

 

2014 Ford Transit Connect SWB

All-wheel drive, seven-passenger SUV

Price as tested: $29,495 (excluding destination charge)

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Reasons to buy: Room; looks; fuel economy; acceleration

Shortcomings: Voice recognition; small touchscreen; interior materials

 

2014 Ford Transit Connect LWB Titanium

All-wheel drive, seven-passenger SUV

Price as tested: $32,320 (excluding destination charge)

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Reasons to buy: Room; looks; fuel economy

Shortcomings: Power; interior materials; hands-free phone performance; seats

 

Competitive EPA fuel-economy ratings:

(Automatic transmission models)

 

Ford Transit Connect SWB 1.6L: 22 mpg city/29 highway/25 combined. Regular gasoline.

2010 Honda Element: 20/25/22. Regular gasoline.

Nissan Cube SL: 27/31/28. Regular gasoline.

Scion xB: 22/28/24. Regular gasoline.

 

Ford Transit Connect LWB 2.5L: 20/28/23. Regular gasoline.

Dodge Grand Caravan R/T: 17/25/20. Regular gasoline.

Mazda 5: 21/28/24. Regular gasoline.

Nissan NV 200: 24/25/24. Regular gasoline.

Ram ProMaster City: NA. Regular gasoline.

Source: www.fueleconomy.gov

(Automatic transmission models)

 

Price comparison:

Ford Transit Connect XLT SWB 1.6L: $29,495

Nissan Cube SL: $19,000

Scion xB: $17,920

Ford Transit Connect Titanium LWB 2.5L: $32,320

Dodge Grand Caravan R/T: $29,995

Mazda 5 Grand Touring: $24,670

Nissan NV 200 SV: $21,480

Ram ProMaster City: NA.

Sources: www.fueleconomy.gov; Autotrader.com

 

2014 Ford Transit Connect XLT SWB 1.6L

 

Specifications as tested:

Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged 16-valve four-cylinder

Power: 178 horsepower at 5,700 r.p.m.; 184 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

EPA fuel-economy rating: 22 mpg city/29 highway/25 combined. Regular gasoline

Dimensions

Wheelbase: 104.8 inches

Length: 173.9 inches

Width: 72.2 inches

Height: 72.6 inches

Curb weight: 3,630 lbs.

Where assembled: Valencia, Spain

 

2014 Ford Transit Connect Titanium LWB 2.5L

Specifications as tested

Engine: 2.5-liter 16-valve four-cylinder

Power: 169 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 171 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

EPA fuel-economy rating: 20 mpg city/28 highway/23 combined. Regular gasoline

Dimensions

Wheelbase: 120.6 inches

Length: 189.7 inches

Width: 72.2 inches

Height: 72.0 inches

Curb weight: 3,979 lbs.

Where assembled: Valencia, Spain

 

Key features on vehicles tested:

 

Ford Transit Connect XLT SWB 1.6L

Standard equipment: Antilock brakes; stability control; front-seat side air bags; curtain air bags; emergency brake assist; full-size spare; hill-start assist; power windows and locks; three power points; air-conditioning; AM/FM/CD audio; floor console with cup holders; overhead storage shelf; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; fog lights; 180-degree rear doors; dual sliding side doors; halogen headlights; integrated spotter mirrors; power, heated side mirrors.

Options: Rear-view camera; touchscreen; electric windshield defrost; 17-inch alloy wheels; front and rear parking assist; power adjustable driver’s seat; leather seats; daytime running lights; splash guards.

 

Ford Transit Connect Titanium LWB 2.5L

Standard equipment: Antilock brakes; stability control; front-seat side air bags; curtain air bags; emergency brake assist; emergency brake assist; full-size spare; hill-start assist; power windows and locks; three power points; voice recognition; air-conditioning; AM/FM/CD audio; leather trimmed seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel; overhead storage shelf; power drive seat; tilt and telescoping steering column; dual sliding side doors; rear lift gate; halogen headlights; integrated spotter mirrors; power, heated side mirrors.

Options: Rear-view camera; touchscreen; electric windshield defrost; 17-inch alloy wheels; front and rear parking assist; power adjustable driver’s seat; leather seats; daytime running lights; splash guards.

(Ford/MCT)
(Ford/MCT)