2016 Transit Connect New Car Test Drive
The Transit Connect is Ford's originated-in-Europe compact van. It's smaller than full-size cargo and passenger vans, including the so-called minivans, such as the Odyssey, Sienna and Town & Country, but larger than the Mazda5 and with more cabin space than most small to mid-size crossovers. Its primary mission is moving cargo and people, not towing family boats or using all-wheel drive as a substitute to common sense.
Transit Connect is the only vehicle in this class to offer two different lengths and in passenger trim a choice of five or seven seats. You can't mix and match every variable, but there are more permutation than others.
It also offers an engine choice no one else does. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder is similar to Ram ProMaster City's 2.4, more powerful than the Nissan NV200 or Chevrolet City Express 2-liters. Transit Connect Van and one short-wheelbase passenger model offer a 1.6-liter EcoBoost that makes more power and torque, at lower revs, than the 2.5 and gets higher EPA ratings. Both come with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
The Van is merely for hauling one or two people and cargo, up to 1620 pounds of it, or 104 cubic feet in the short wheelbase and 129 in the long. At six feet wide and 190 inches or less long it's easier to maneuver than most pickups or anything else that carries that much.
The Wagon derivative offers a 5-seat XLT short-wheelbase model with passenger space for five on par with family sedans and 47 cubic feet of cargo space; 77 with the rear seat folded. Long-wheelbase seven-seat wagons offer 15.7-20 cubic feet behind the sliding third row, 59 behind the middle row and 104 behind the front seats. Those numbers shame many seven-seat crossovers (the larger, heavier Explorer offers 21/44/81 cubic feet, respectively), and the low floor height and sliding side doors offer superior access. There are plenty of places to stow things inside, many you'd not normally think of, and while the seat-folding isn't state-of-the-art simple, it's a very practical apparatus.
From the driver's seat Transit Connect feels like you're in a slightly higher Focus seat facing the same hexagonally oriented dash design, inside a big motorhome because of huge windows and lots of open space. Feature content is closer to Focus or Escape than an optioned-up Fusion or Explorer, but so is the price, and you can get navigation, leather upholstery and many conveniences.
Transit Connect drives like a car, with controlled body motions, predictable road manners and an excellent view for skipping through traffic. The Wagon's ride is comfortable and quiet enough for road-tripping, and it rides best with a few people on board, while the Van is better with something in back so it's not a big empty echo chamber.
The 2.5-liter engine is adequate for traipsing around town or interstate cruising. Heavy load acceleration, mountain grades and passing will require lots of revs but it never felt stressed or that it couldn't do that all day long. The transmission does its job well and the shifter's an easy reach. Disc brakes all around are a step up from the competition and proved happier bounding down steep hills.
An optional turbocharged 1.6-liter delivers more power in a relaxed manner, and unless you're exploiting that power frequently, nominally better fuel economy than the 2.5; alas, it is not available in seven-seat Wagons. EPA estimates range from 20-22 city to 28-30 highway depending on configuration, with Wagon usually 1 mpg lower because of additional glass and insulation weight.
Transit Connect competes directly with Ram ProMaster City (cargo and 5-seater) and Nissan NV200 and Chevy City Express cargo vans; the two different wheelbase Wagons frame the six-seat, three-row Mazda5. If you don't need all-wheel drive or moderate towing capacity, it's often a less-expensive, more practical alternative to three-row crossovers. If you don't need as much room, especially in the third row, a Mazda5 does it for thousands less.
Transit Connect offers Van (cargo) and Wagon (passenger) versions, two wheelbases and three trim levels. A 169-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder is standard, a 178-hp (on premium fuel) 1.6-liter turbo four optional on short-wheelbase only ($795); a CNG conversion is available for some 2.5 models. All come with a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive.
XL is the base model (Van $22,330/Wagon $25,185). Add $1,000 for long-wheelbase on Van. XL comes with vinyl upholstery, air conditioning, power front windows, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 4-way manual front seats, sliding side doors, 180-degree swinging rear doors, 16-inch steel wheels (with full-size spare), AM/FM stereo, aux-in and 12-VDC ports and trip computer. Vans include cargo tie-down hooks; Wagons include side and rear glass, seatback map pockets, map lights, center console, 6-way driver seat, rear air conditioning controls, day/night rearview mirror and rear liftgate.
XL options include liftgate for Van or barn doors for Wagon. Van options include rear side door glass ($35/side) and rear door windows ($295). Available on most XL are Crew chief telematics ($925), power heated mirrors ($130), rear window defrost ($150), electric windshield defrost ($375), reverse park sensors ($295), trailer pack ($395), 6-way manual driver seat ($95), cruise control ($225), MyKey ($5) and LED cargo area lighting ($70). An XL Taxi package ($1650) includes AM/FM/CD 4-speaker stereo, 180-degree swing rear doors, heated power mirrors, power front and second-row windows, longer legroom second seat/no third row, rear ventilation controls, electric rear defrost and the option of School Bus Yellow paint.
XLT Van ($23,855) adds cloth upholstery, full carpeting, map lights, CD player, 4.2-inch MFD, body-color front bumper and many of the XL options come standard. The XLT Wagon ($24,170: less than XL because this is five-seat short-wheelbase) comes with 60/40 split folding removable second-row seat and adds an acoustic laminated windshield, rear camera, overhead glasses holder and observation mirror, and body-color rear bumper, side moldings and door handles. Long-wheelbase Wagon ($26,710) gets the seven-seat configuration, and both XLT Wagon offer a choice of rear liftgate or doors.
XLT options include automatic headlights, cornering fog lights, leather upholstery, front and rear park sensors ($495), rain-sensing wipers, 16-inch alloy wheels ($495) and dual-zone front climate control ($275).
Titanium Wagon ($29,185) includes leather upholstery, three-zone air conditioning, heated front seats, power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming inside mirror, cornering lights, alloy wheels, aux-in and USB ports, SYNC, body-color power-folding mirrors with wideangle elements, backup camera and rain-sensing wipers. Options include privacy glass ($435), overhead rear storage ($95), stereo/MyFordTouch/navigation options ($350-970), 17-inch alloys ($420) and front/rear park sensors ($495).
Standard safety equipment includes front, front-side and side-curtain airbags for all seats, tire-pressure monitors, electronic stability control, antilock brakes with brake assist.
Safety options include MyKey, front/rear park sensors, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers.