DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: The mini-minivan niche is small enough I’m kind of surprised Ford bothered to field a competitor. Now, after 800 miles of seat time, I’m still kind of surprised.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder/six-speed automatic combo is fine for a van this size -- I carried six around the snow-covered hills of northern lower Michigan and drove 600 highway miles with four people plus 100 pounds of dog, and the Transit Connect wagon did fine. Ford’s rated 28 mpg highway must be on level ground at 55 mph with only a driver, though -- I wasn’t lead-footing the TC at all, yet my freeway driving struggled to top 24 mpg…not bad, but only marginally better than what I’d have gotten from a full-size minivan (oxymoronic, perhaps) with far more space.
There’s a decent amount of storage in the Transit Connect wagon, and some of it is in places the average minivan owner won’t be used to looking: Thanks to the high roof construction, overhead bins above the front two rows (the rear bins are a $100 option) provide space for books, DVDs and lightweight boxes, freeing up floor space. There’s a decent-size center console and some depressions in the huge dashtop that can hold pens and small items. However, there aren’t any underfloor storage options like those found in most full-size minivans.
Seating feels…small. The Transit Connect’s thrones are designed for smaller folks, and I found the only way to get comfortable was to jack the driver’s seat up all the way so my legs were supported by the shallow seat cushion. Neither the second nor third seat rows recline, though both fold flat, and the second row is removable to make sort of a pass-through conversion-van sort of space. Overall, the impression is that of a minivan from the outside, but the interior configuration options reveal a compact platform at heart.
Still a European at its core (our TC was built in Spain), there are a few quirks that U.S. buyers will find endearing or frustrating. In the former category are cutouts in the rear interior panels into which the second-row seat-belt tab inserts to keep them from becoming entangled in the sliding door. In the latter column are utterly useless seat heaters and a climate control system that seems barely up to the task.
Ford introduced its family of Transit vans on Friday. The full-size, futuristic Transit will join the smaller Transit Connect to fulfill all your hauling needs.The Transit will arrive with a choice of ...
Worth noting is the optional electrically heated windshield on our Transit Connect wagon, a $300 add-on that, at least on paper, seems essential for the massive expanse of front glass. I’ve encountered these windshields on Land Rover models and most recently the Volkswagen e-Golf EV, but none offered the level of nighttime refraction found on the Transit Connect’s glass -- oncoming headlights refract in the tiny wires creating tons of glare, and even in the daytime the squiggly lines impart a sense of vertigo. The system did melt through ice and snow in a hurry, but drivers with any kind of night vision trouble should avoid it.
In the end, the Transit Connect wagon will be shunned by 99 percent of potential buyers in favor of a larger, comparably equipped traditional minivan. With an MSRP over $32,000 and scant volume with which to offer deals, vehicles like theDodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country and Kia Sedona offer a ton more space in their ‘Murican-size packages for about the same money, with very little sacrifice in fuel economy.
Urban core families could prove the exception, for whom compact dimensions and “parkability” in a vehicle that seats seven (theoretically) will place the Transit Connect LWB wagon in a category featuring only itself and the dated but spunky -- and cheaper -- Mazda 5. Ford, of course, knows its market, and can’t be expecting tremendous sales; given that, I’m glad they’ve brought over this mini people-mover option rather than saving it for Europe…even though I’ll be in a Town & Country.
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect Titanium Wagon LWB can be best described as the mesh between stereotypical minivan and cargo work van.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: The Ford Transit Connect is one of those funky vehicles that I like, and one that I’d even go so far as to recommend to friends who aren’t looking to raise gigantic families. Yet I can’t see many folks buying it for personal use, even as I see its potential usefulness to small business owners.
To start, this van seems to be set up for city driving. There’s good forward visibility through the expansive windshield, aided by an upright seating position. All the better to maneuver in heavy traffic areas. Despite only 169 hp, it’s quick off the line -- a product of the gearing, I imagine -- and urban drivers probably won’t notice that it starts to run out of steam at expressway speeds.
All in all, it’s very European. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as many of Ford’s strongest offerings of late have been European, or at least global, in origin. But while the surprising number of families I’ve seen packed into Mazda 5s on American expressways (maybe I just keeping seeing the same family over and over again) suggests that at least some of us are willing to accept European-sized MPVs, I don’t know that there’s a strong case to be made for private ownership here -- especially at north of $30,000.
There are simply too many minivans on the market that offer more space, from the Nissan Quest to the Honda Odyssey to the Chrysler Town & Country, for the Transit Connect to make sense to the average suburban family. They might cost a little bit more, but with the Transit Connect, you’ll be trading a lower sticker for less space and nonexistent cargo capacity with the third row up.
Now, I did say that the Transit Connect might not be the best for private ownership -- that doesn’t mean it is entirely superfluous. If you’re an aspiring Uber driver or something, or if your business runs a shuttle service…the Transit Connect wagon could make a lot of sense. It’s certainly a capable point-A-to-point-B people-hauler, even if it lacks some of the capaciousness and luxuriousness of its not-so-mini-van competitors.
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