By Matt Degen
Not too big and not too small, the 2016 Ford Transit Connect aims to attract families and businesses seeking an alternative to a bulky, gas-guzzling full-size van. The Transit Connect is available in two versions: the passenger wagon that seats up to seven, or a cargo van ready for commercial duties. Each is available in two lengths. About the size of a midsize sedan, even the longer model is easy to maneuver and fuel-efficient. Larger than a Mazda5 and cargo haulers like the Nissan NV200, the Transit Connect doesn't offer the spaciousness of a full-size van like the Honda Odyssey or its own big brother, the Ford Transit, but for families and businesses seeking a solid in-betweener, the Transit Connect could be their Goldilocks.
The 2016 Ford Transit Connect deftly splits differences between larger vans, with appealing fuel economy of up to 30 mpg and a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range. Whether used as a customized delivery vehicle or family hauler, this compact Ford van is a snap to park in a garage.
The Transit Connect lacks the power and optional bells and whistles found in full-size vans like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Commercial users, meanwhile, may find the Transit Connect's size too small and its power output too modest.
For 2016, the Transit Connect Wagon can be had with a pair of captain's chairs in the second row instead of the 3-person bench. Also, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert is now optional on XLT and Titanium variants of the Transit Connect Wagon.
With only a pair of 4-cylinder engines in the offering, the 2016 Ford Transit Connect isn't all that quick, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun to drive. Compared...
... with larger minivans, the Transit Connect feels lighter and nimbler. More practically, it's easier to park and maneuver. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter engine doesn’t propel Ford's compact van with as much gusto as the smaller yet turbocharged 1.6-liter, but the 6-speed automatic transmission manages the power quite well with both engines. The Transit Connect passenger van's ride isn’t as cushy as a more substantial minivan like the aforementioned Odyssey, Sienna, Chrysler Town & Country or the revamped Kia Sedona, but it's still comfortable and all three rows are roomy.
CREW CHIEF TELEMATICS
A potential asset for fleet owners, this system tracks a vehicle's location and also monitors its speed and how long it sits idle. It would also come in handy for parents of teenage drivers – theoretically speaking, of course.
VALUE AND EFFIECIENCY
With a low-to-mid $20,000 starting price and fuel economy that reaches 30 mpg on the highway, the 2016 Ford Transit Connect van and wagon are appealing to both businesses and families watching their budgets.
Short-wheelbase (SWB) wagons seat five passengers across two rows, while long-wheelbase (LWB) models hold seven across three rows. Second-row captain's chairs are standard in the topline Titanium Wagon and optional on the XLT. This setup reduces passenger count to six but offers more comfort for those in the middle row. Cargo vans have two seats up front, with 128.6 cubic feet of rear storage for LWB models and 103.9 for SWB versions. Up front, the Transit Connect looks familiar to the Ford family’s Focus and Escape. Climate controls are easy to use, but models with the higher-end infotainment systems can be perplexing.
When it entered its second generation three years ago, the Ford Transit Connect said goodbye to its former high-top sneaker shape and hello to a far more stylish aesthetic. Thankfully its larger shape still works in its favor where practicality is concerned. This is one of the few small vans offering the choice of a traditional liftgate or split cargo doors that open up to 180 degrees, and both styles are available on long- or short-wheelbase passenger and cargo models. A short-wheelbase Transit Connect is 173.9 inches in length, while a long-wheelbase model is over a foot longer at 189.7 inches.
Base XL models of the Ford Transit Connect come with air conditioning with rear-seat climate control (wagon passenger models), AM/FM stereo with auxiliary input, keyless entry, tilt-telescoping steering wheel and 4-way-adjustable driver's seat (6-way in Wagon models), but lack features such as cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity. Practically speaking, dual sliding side doors are standard, and wagon passenger models include power 2nd-row windows and 60/40-split folding 2nd-row seats. Climbing trim levels brings features such as a 4.2-inch information display and power-adjustable mirrors.
There are many upgrades available for both wagon and cargo models of the Ford Transit Connect. Helpful features include front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera and choice of swing-out rear doors. Ford's Sync infotainment system with navigation, phone connectivity and more is available. A fixed-glass panoramic Vista Roof is available in higher-end versions of the Connect wagon, as is the new blind-spot warning system. The top-line Titanium edition of the passenger van offers leather-trimmed seats (heated up front), dual-zone climate control and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Cargo models can be configured to accommodate a variety of commercial and delivery needs.
Two 4-cylinder engines are available in the 2016 Transit Connect. Standard is a 2.5-liter, optional is an EcoBoost 1.6-liter turbocharged powerplant that makes slightly more power and has higher fuel-economy ratings. Seven-passenger wagon models come only with the 2.5-liter. Each engine is connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and all Transit Connects are front-wheel drive. The 2.5-liter can be specified for compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, aka propane). The Transit Connect is rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds with either engine, but that figure can't match the 4,960-pound tow rating of Mercedes-Benz's new, more expensive Metris van. Nor can the Ford’s commercial payload capacity of 1,620 pounds meet the Metris figures of 2,502 pounds (cargo) or 1,874 pounds (passenger model).
169 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg (passenger wagon), 21/29 mpg (cargo van)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
178 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30 mpg (passenger wagon and cargo van)
The 2016 Ford Transit Connect has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $23,550 for a cargo van. Wagon models begin at $26,180 for a 5-passenger model. A loaded, 7-passenger Ford Transit Connect Titanium wagon can reach the mid-$30,000 range. At its starting price, the Transit Connect begins slightly above the Nissan NV200 cargo van and several thousand below the new Mercedes-Benz Metris, which debuts just under $30,000. Passenger versions start slightly higher than the Mazda5, and several thousand below larger minivan rivals like the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Transit Connect. In the years ahead, both the Transit Connect wagon and cargo van are expected to hold their value quite well.