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's New: There are no major changes for the 2013 Ford Transit Connect.

The 2013 Transit Connect has proven its critics dead wrong and its owners wise beyond their years. While it's true that big, expensive and fuel-thirsty trucks and vans still have their place, the little Transit Connect has earned a place near the top of food chain in the urban jungle. Its fuel-sipping 4-cylinder engine has enough power to scoot around crowded city streets, and even performs adequately at highway speeds below 65 mph. While Transit Connect's small size makes it easy to maneuver through confined city spaces, it is not diminutive by any means.

Thanks to the wide and varied number of possible configurations, business owners can maximize space efficiency and provide a more secure space for precious cargo. Ford has partnered with a number of aftermarket companies to provide customers with everything from stick-on graphics to custom shelving and electrical accessories.

Once they overcome the stigma of leaving their big trucks behind, we're confident most drivers will fall for this clever little truck. The Transit Connect is cheap to own, cheap to operate and cheap to repair, making it the darling of fleet managers and start-up 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 cu-ft 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's also a standard 5-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, multitiered shelving and flat work surfaces. And with a payload capacity of 1,600 lb, 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. When not outfitted with a side window, those same doors 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 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.

Another notable option is Ford's Mobility Motoring Package, which includes a heavy-duty battery and wiring harnesses for a wheelchair uplift device.

Technology

Although there are not many high-technology features onboard the Transit Connect, you can certainly add any number of work-oriented items, such as the SYNC voice-activated communications with Bluetooth 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 remarkably 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. The same goes for the Transit Connect's sub-$24,000 starting price.

Environmentally conscious business owners can opt for the CNG/LPG engine prep, which allows for conversion to compressed natural gas or liquid propane.

Safety

Every Transit Connect comes with Ford's AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, as well as front and front side-impact airbags.

Driving Impressions

From behind the wheel, the 2013 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, but you must be careful not to bump the high roof into low garage openings or covered loading docks. With its 39-ft turning radius, the Transit Connect is much easier to move 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. While it does just fine with around-town driving below 40 mph, freeway driving is another matter. The engine struggles to reach 65 mph, and things only get slower when there are additional passengers or cargo on board. For the most part, the Transit Connect is a city dweller.

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. 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. But the Cube does have a roomy interior. It gets better fuel economy and is more youth oriented.

AutoTrader Recommends

There really is nothing else like the Transit Connect in the current marketplace, so for business purposes our best recommendation is to pick one of the work-oriented models and customize it according to your needs. If you're looking for something solely for the purpose of transporting the kids, there are much safer and more comfortable vehicles to choose from.



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Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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