By Allyson Harwood
Although the 2014 Ford Transit Connect has sliding side doors and room for up to seven people (or 130.7-cubic-feet of cargo in 2-seat form), it's hard to put it in the same category as traditional minivans. It's on a version of the platform that underpins the Focus and Escape, which gives the van a much sportier attitude than the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Town & Country. The Transit Connect is minivan-size, yet feels small and fun, and handling is surprisingly good. It comes with a choice of two wheelbases, two engines, and is offered as a Wagon (for people) or Van (for cargo). The Wagon lacks some of the creature comforts minivans offer, but it's loaded with value.
Some people buy minivans and cargo vans because they have to, not because they want to. Ford's Transit Connect combines the function of a van with the fun of driving a car, and does it for a reasonable price. This is a very easy van to park and maneuver, another plus.
To fold the second row flat, you have to learn how to pull the attached straps and push down and pull the spring-loaded seats forward. The second row doesn't slide or recline, either. Cargo van buyers may need more space for gear than this van has to offer.
The only thing the 2014 Ford Transit Connect shares with the model it replaces is the name. It uses a new platform, has slick new styling, two new engines backed by a new transmission, it's now available with two wheelbase lengths, and there are new tech infotainment options.
Driving Impressions With the new Transit Connect, you get a choice of two 4-cylinder engines – a 2.5-liter or a turbocharged 1.6-liter – and two wheelbases. The 2.5-liter doesn't accelerate with as...... much gusto as the 1.6-liter does off the line, but the 6-speed automatic transmission manages the power quite well. The combination of the turbocharged 4-cylinder with the short-wheelbase platform makes driving this van downright fun: Power comes quickly, as do the transmission's shifts. The 2014 Transit Connect's platform is shared with the Ford Escape and the Focus, and adopts those vehicles' confidence in corners. This van feels small and agile. The Transit Connect passenger Van's ride isn't as soft as a minivan's, but it's still comfortable and all three rows are roomy. We'd expect the cargo Van to feel quicker than the passenger Wagon, as it weighs less, but we also anticipate that it would have a noisier interior.
CREW CHIEF TELEMATICS
One of the coolest features for fleet owners, this system tracks a vehicle's location, and also monitors its speed, how long it sits idle, and the van's location. It would also come in handy for parents of teenage drivers. (We didn't just say that.)
FOLD FLAT SEATS
Folding the second and third rows in the passenger Wagon takes only seconds. Panels magnetically attached to the third row seatbacks unhinge to create a flat floor from the back of the front row to the liftgate, making room for over 104 cubic feet of gear.
The new Transit Connect has a higher roof than other small vans. That, combined with the large side windows and the fixed glass panorama moonroof in the passenger Wagon, makes the cabin feel airy and spacious. The dash uses hard-touch plastics, but also incorporates Ford's Sync infotainment system, which is very easy to use. A 4.2-inch screen makes it easy to note fuel economy and towing information. If so equipped, the 2nd-row seat is roomy and the third row is surprisingly spacious. The colors and materials are several steps up from the previous model and competitive within the segment as well.Exterior
Cool exterior style – now looking more like a big Kia Soul than a warmed-over European utilitarian van – should appeal to younger buyers, as should unique colors like Solar (yellow) and Burnished Glow (brown). This is one of the few small vans that offers the choice of a traditional liftgate or split cargo doors that open up to 180 degrees, and both styles are offered with both wheelbases on the passenger and cargo models. The Focus-like nose and new design of the Transit Connect make this a fresh alternative in a traditional market.
Overhead storage like you would find in an RV (above the sun visors) comes standard, as do dual heated outside mirrors. A rearview camera comes standard on every passenger Wagon, but it is optional on cargo Vans. There is no extra charge for choosing a liftgate or cargo doors.
This van is available with additional overhead storage above the middle row. The options list also includes front and rear parking sensors, a fixed-glass panorama moonroof and leather seats (passenger Wagon only), and a towing package that allows the new Transit Connect to haul up to 2,000 pounds.
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect comes with a choice of two 4-cylinder engines, either a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter with 169 horsepower, or a turbocharged 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that puts out 178 horsepower. The engines are backed by the same 6-speed automatic. But there are some ordering limitations: If you want a 7-passenger (long-wheelbase) passenger van, you can only get the 2.5-liter. If you are looking at the 5-passenger (short-wheelbase) model, you can get either engine. When it comes to the cargo van, you can get either engine with either wheelbase.
169 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
178 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect starts at $22,995 for a short-wheelbase XL (cargo) Van, adding $1,000 more for the long-wheelbase version. A 5-passenger XLT Wagon costs $25,520, and the 7-passenger XLT costs $27,520. The starting price of the 7-passenger Transit Connect is within a few hundred dollars of the Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest. The 7-passenger top-of-the-line Titanium with every single option maxes out at $34,955. Other minivans, such as the Toyota Sienna, top out at right around $50,000. To get a better idea of what people in your neighborhood or business community are paying for their Ford Transit Connect vans, check out the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com. And while the Transit Connect is all-new for 2015, the passenger and cargo vans have historically held their resale value quite well over time.