The original Explorer was a barely disguised Ranger pickup truck with a backseat and enclosed cab bolted on, and it also went on to wild popularity. Will it do so again, even though this concept of civilizing a workhorse has succeeded in the past? We merely bought a Ford Transit Connect to find out choosing, the family-grade edition of this commercial-focused van.
Following its past minivan naming conventions, Ford calls the mainly people-carrying Transit Connect version a wagon; otherwise, the commercial model is named a van.
Based on the Ford Focus, the Transit Connect offers seating for five or seven passengers, comes with dual-sliding side doors, and can haul lots of stuff when you fold all the seats. Well, that sounds like a minivan. Additionally, it offers a choice of fuel-thrifty four-cylinder engines. Seems like a good start.
We bought a 2014, seven-passenger XLT version with the base 169-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic. Your best option we got was 16-inch alloy wheels, bringing the grand total to $28,015. (The optional powertrain is actually a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that promises slightly better fuel economy.)
The first thing you find when you slide behind the steering wheel is it has enough head room for just about the tallest person you’ll ever meet. Its upright design for your driving position, door openings, and low step-in causes it to be one of the easiest models to obtain in and out of. The cloth seats in ours have drawn mixed reviews; some testers are finding them reasonably comfortable, others thought these were a bit hard and narrow.
Our miles accumulated thus far show that, despite its tall stature, the Transit Connect returns fairly nimble handling-specifically for a van. Even though Ford affectionately calls this a “wagon,” it doesn’t feel as carlike as a lot of our favorites, including an Acura TSX, Audi Allroad, or Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen.
The transmission and engine seem to be a sufficient pair, even though some drivers describe the performance as lazy. We haven’t yet taxed it with a full load aboard, even though engine power is reasonable. We’re seeing about 22 to 24 mpg overall in mixed driving.
Tooling about on secondary roads and highways shows that the ride is sort of choppy and stiff yet not backbreaking. Noise levels are amped up on the highway with many wind and engine racket seeping in. Not surprising, as this thing has the aerodynamics of a brick. You won’t accuse this big box of being as quiet as being an opera house, though it is not necessarily the noisiest van we’ve driven.
But a couple of things have really torqued us off. First, configuring the rear for either passenger or cargo hauling is among the most frustrating exercises we’ve been through for a while. Knowing which fabric straps to pull or seatbacks to push to raise or lower the seats has confounded more than one driver. Good luck attempting this minus the owner’s manual in hand. The second glaring problem is the lack of modern electronic features. Ours doesn’t have Bluetooth or even a USB port. Sync with MyFord Touch is available.
All in all, the Transit Connect doesn’t seem poised to overtake the Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna as top minivan picks. But plumbers and electricians might check this out as a lower-priced and fuel-efficient alternative. To the general population, perhaps the simplest way to look at the Transit Connect is in comparison with the overlooked (and also good) Mazda5 and the Ford C-Max-vehicles that provide a lot of space in a small footprint and also for not a whole lot of money. For now, we’ll still drive this vanlike vehicle and prepare it for more formal testing.