Pros: Easy to maneuver; big interior; numerous aftermarket configurations; good fuel economy
Cons: Needs more horsepower; no side curtain airbags for passenger models; dated interior styling
What we love most about the Transit Connect are all the things its critics said would ensure the little work truck's failure. In a world of massive pickup trucks and full-size vans, the Transit Connect stands apart. Powered by a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine, this little work vehicle may have been alien to its U.S. audience at its introduction here in 2010, but it is well known in Europe and Asia. Ford's gamble in bringing it here has paid off in spades as businesses of all sizes discover the Transit Connect's many talents.
While its small size makes it easy to maneuver through confined city spaces, the Transit Connect is not diminutive by any means. A number of customizable cargo configurations allow businesses to maximize space efficiency and provide a more secure space for precious cargo. Ford has partnered with a number of aftermarket companies that can work with customers to provide everything from stick-on graphics to custom shelving and electrical accessories.
Manly-man truckers may swear they'll never drive one, but their bosses will likely say otherwise. The Transit Connect is cheap to own, cheap to operate and cheap to repair, making it the darling of fleet managers and startup companies everywhere.
Comfort & Utility
From behind the wheel, the Transit Connect's interior looks as though it could have come from any number of 1990s Ford products. But you don't buy a TC for its stunning interior or modern design; you buy it because of what's behind the driver's seat. Its big, roomy cargo area measures 129 cubic feet and can be configured to deal with any number of possibilities. There's a Taxi Prep package that adds a vinyl rear bench seat. There is also a standard five-passenger XLT model with a cloth rear bench seat that allows the Transit Connect to substitute as a roomy and efficient family transport.
The Transit Connect offers five feet of vertical room that can be equipped with any number of aftermarket features including lockable storage drawers, multi-tiered shelving and flat work surfaces. And with a payload capacity of 1,600 pounds, the Transit Connect isn't limited to carrying only small, lightweight objects.
Two minivan-like sliding side doors make it easy to get people and cargo in and out of the Transit Connect, although those same doors, when not outfitted with a side window, severely limit side visibility. Thankfully, Ford equips the mini mover with large side mirrors and an available Reverse Sensing System. Access through the van's rear is also made more convenient via available double doors that swing open a full 255 degrees, permitting them to be folded flush with the Transit Connect's side panels.
One other notable option is Ford's Mobility Motoring Package, which includes a heavy-duty battery and wiring harnesses for a wheelchair uplift device.
Although there are not a lot of high-technology features on board the Transit Connect, you can certainly add any number of work-oriented items such as the Nokia Bluetooth option, SYNC voice-activated communications and Crew Chief fleet tracking device. Ford's radar-based Reverse Sensing System warns of objects directly behind the TC's path, as does the optional rear-vision camera.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The Transit Connect offers only one engine choice: a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder producing 136 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. While not big on power, the 2.0-liter is remarkable peppy around town. We credit the low gearing of the 4-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy figures of 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway are certainly enough to bring a smile to any fleet manager's face, as is the Transit Connect's sub-$25,000 starting price.
Environmentally conscious business owners can opt for the CNG/LPG engine prep that allows for conversion to compressed natural gas or liquid propane.
Every Transit Connect comes with Ford's AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, as well as front and front side-impact airbags.
From behind the wheel, driving the 2012 Ford Transit Connect is much like driving a small minivan or a compact SUV. About the same width as a Ford Focus, the Transit Connect is easy to maneuver through tight spaces, although you must be careful not to bump the high roof into low garage openings or covered loading docks. With its 39-foot turning radius, the Transit Connect is much easier to move around than a full-size van or pickup, and it fits into smaller parking spaces ordinarily passed up by delivery vehicles.
The Transit Connect 2.0-liter gasoline engine isn't going to win any races, and although it does just fine in sub-40-mph around-town driving, freeway driving is another matter. The engine struggles to reach 65 mph, and matters only get slower when there are additional passengers or cargo on board. For the most part, the Transit Connect is a city dweller in search of more power when asked to venture onto the open road.
Other Cars to Consider
Mazda5 - The Mazda5 is a better people mover than the Transit Connect, with better safety features such as side curtain airbags, a more powerful engine, and a more passenger-friendly interior. But the Transit Connect can hold more cargo and is more flexible than the Mazda5.
Scion xB - Like the Mazda5 and the Nissan Cube, the xB has a safer and more passenger-friendly interior. And although the Transit Connect has more interior room and a more powerful engine, the xB gets better fuel economy and has higher resale value.
Nissan Cube - The Cube, like the Mazda5 and Scion xB, cannot be configured for cargo hauling, nor does it offer any type of mobility prep package. However, the Cube does have a roomy interior, gets better fuel economy and is more youth-oriented.
There really is nothing else like the Transit Connect in the current marketplace, so for business use, our best recommendation is to pick one of the work-oriented models and customize it to fit your needs. If you're looking for something solely for the purpose of transporting the kids, there are much safer and more comfortable vehicles (like the Mazda5 and the Scion xB) from which to chose.