The all-new 2014 Ford Transit Connect is like an athlete rounding into mid-season form. We're not saying the previous Transit Connect was a bad vehicle, but it was definitely held back by its advanced age, having debuted many years earlier in Europe. That didn't stop Ford's handy compact van from winning Stateside fans, of course, but it was clear that the company could do better with a more modern design. Enter the 2014 Transit Connect, which picks up where the old model left off and adds a slew of appealing new features.
Practically everything except this van's manageable size has changed, and even there, the new Transit Connect does its predecessor one better with an optional long-wheelbase variant. The anemic 2.0-liter engine has been replaced by two stronger motors: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and a turbocharged EcoBoost 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. Despite the added power, highway fuel economy is up to around 30 miles per gallon from last year's 27 mpg. What's more, the Transit Connect has been restyled inside and out, featuring crisp, sleek lines that reflect Ford's current design language.
If you're a business owner looking for a fuel-efficient delivery van, the Transit Connect is a no-brainer -- particularly with the flexibility of two available wheelbases. But this van isn't just for contractors anymore. With 2- or 3-row seating, big side windows and a cavernous cargo hold, the family-oriented Wagon version is perfect for families that want something more practical than a crossover SUV but more maneuverable than a minivan.
We know American drivers are accustomed to bigger vehicles, but here's hoping the new Transit Connect gets a fair chance to win their hearts. Ford's right-sized van has caught a serious second wind.
What's New for 2014?
The Transit Connect is all-new this year, beginning its second generation on American soil.
What We Like
Big versatility in a small, nimble package; strong fuel economy; reasonably priced; two wheelbase lengths; cargo-van and passenger-wagon body styles
What We Don't
Modest towing capacity; lower trim levels are sparsely equipped
The 2014 Transit Connect's standard engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder rated at 169 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates this engine at 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway in Van models and 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy in Wagon models.
Also offered is a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that churns out 178 hp and 184 lb-ft. In the Wagon, this engine returns 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. EPA had not rated the turbocharged Van as of this writing, but Ford projects a highway rating of 30 mpg or better.
All Transit Connects are front-wheel drive and employ a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Standard Features & Options
The Transit Connect comes in numerous forms. The Van has two standard seats, windowless side panels and dual rear cargo doors, while the Wagon is a passenger vehicle with full windows all around and a choice of rear cargo doors or a lift gate. Both have dual sliding side doors and are offered in short-wheelbase (104.8 inches) or long-wheelbase (120.6 in) configuration. The short-wheelbase Wagon has five seats, while the long-wheelbase Wagon adds a third seating row for 7-passenger capacity. Both the second- and third-row seats fold flat and can be removed.
The Van comes in XL or XLT trim, while the Wagon gets those trims plus the top-of-the-line Titanium.
The Van XL ($22,995) starts with just the basics, including 16-in steel wheels, remote keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary input jack.
The Van XLT ($24,520) adds features such as power heated mirrors, fog lights, a 4.2-in driver information display with steering wheel controls, a CD audio system and an upgraded driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment.
The Wagon XL ($25,995) comes only with the long wheelbase for now, and it's equipped similarly to the Van XL except for upgrades such as its three seating rows and power second-row windows.
The Wagon XLT is offered with either the short wheelbase ($25,520) or long wheelbase ($27,520) and is equipped similarly to the Van XLT.
Finally, the Wagon Titanium ($29,995) cranks up the content with 16-in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic front climate control, separate manual rear climate controls, SYNC voice-command functionality and a rearview camera.
Some of the higher-end standard features are available as options on lesser models. Other options, depending on trim and configuration, include MyFord Touch (which adds a 6.5-in touchscreen with navigation), 17-in alloy wheels, MyKey with programmable usage restrictions (maximum speed and volume levels) and Ford Work Solutions Crew Chief telematics with tracking functions for location, speed and idle time.
Long-wheelbase Transit Connects can accommodate about 130 cu ft of stuff, which is nearly as much as a full-size minivan like the Toyota Sienna.
The 2014 Transit Connect comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags for each seating row.
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the new Transit Connect.
Behind the Wheel
The new 2014 Ford Transit Connect's dashboard features no-nonsense materials and a surprisingly sleek control layout that reminds us of the Focus and Escape. Equipment levels range from bare-bones in the Van XL to rather lavish in the Wagon Titanium. That's a definite improvement over the original Transit Connect, which was bare-bones no matter what. The target consumer may be on the business side, but the Titanium offers plenty of creature comforts for family-minded buyers as well.
In the Wagon, the second- and third-row seats are also a major upgrade over the outgoing model, which had flat, featureless seats decorated with strange neon splotches. This time around, the sensible contours and available leather upholstery are consistent with what American consumers expect.
On the road, the 1.6-liter turbo is both peppier and more efficient than the base 2.5, but the difference isn't significant. We prefer the turbo for its superior low-end punch, but there's no shame in sticking with the 2.5 here. The only real letdown is the Transit Connect's modest 2,000-lb towing capacity. In terms of ride and handling, expect a nimbler, more composed feel than you'll find in any van save for the sporty Mazda5.
Other Cars to Consider
Nissan NV200 -- The NV200 was designed expressly to compete with the Transit Connect, though it doesn't offer a long-wheelbase option.
RAM C/V Tradesman -- Essentially a Grand Caravan without the seats and windows, the C/V Tradesman is a cost-effective option if you need a larger work van.
Have it your way. With the Transit Connect's numerous trim levels and body styles, there's a model for everyone except heavy-duty haulers.