In addition to the big Transit, Ford also showed off its compact 2014 Transit Connect van today. While the original Transit Connect only launched in the U.S. three years ago, the model had been available in Europe since 2002, so it's more than time for a refresh.
"I don't think a lot of people were expecting that we would come so soon with a new Transit Connect," admits chief engineer Darren Goddard. But the current one has been a surprising success for Ford: sales were just 8800 units in 2010, but this year the company expects to sell 35,000 Transit Connects.
Ford already told us about this new Transit Connect, but the briefing today did reveal that it will be offered in two wheelbases --104 inches and 121 inches -- yielding cargo capacities of 105 or 130 cubic feet, respectively. It's based on Ford's C1 platform, elements of which also underpin cars like the Escape, C-Max, and Focus.
The rubberized cargo floor features plenty of tie-downs and cargo hooks; a divider between the two front seats and the cargo area is optional and almost all buyers are expected to choose it. Unlike the last Transit Connect, buyers can now choose between a traditional center-opening rear doors or a crossover-style liftgate. Up front, dashboard and door plastics are more durable than in regular Ford passenger cars. That will help them stand up to years of delivery usage, but they look and feel somewhat cheap. There are "aircraft-style" overhead bins, too, for even more storage.
As we already knew, the base engine is Ford's 2.5-liter inline-four and the upgrade mill is a 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline-four. The latter is expected to achieve more than 30 mpg on the highway; both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Ford says Transit Connects with the 2.5-liter engine can tow 2000 pounds while those with the EcoBoost can pull just 1900 pounds. Still, the old TC wasn't rated for towing at all, so it's a big improvement.
There are several innovations to help keep costs low by making it easy to repair minor collisions. The headlights are mounted high, for instance, so they're less likely to be cracked by a small bump in the city, and the hood shutline was moved higher to prevent crunching the expensive-to-replace panel in an accident. The taillights are split in two sections, and the bumpers are all made from small units that, again, can be replaced easily and affordably in case the Transit Connect suffers a minor scrape.
New safety tech includes a backup camera, parking sensors, standard curtain airbags, trailer sway control software, plus the use of tough boron steel in the A-pillars, door-impact beams, and rockers.
Ford also announced that it will create a taxi-prep package for the Transit Connect. That seems like an odd decision given that Nissan's vanlet has already been crowned the official, exclusive taxi of New York City. But Ford notes that every major metro area needs taxis, and is confident that a new lawsuit will open up Manhattan to more taxis than just the Nissan. It has a slightly lower roof, so it's easier to install and see the illuminated taxi sign. Taxi Transit Connects are long-wheelbase models with just two rows of seats, allowing the rear seats to be set back farther in the body to allow more legroom and more space for a taxi partition.
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect will be built in Valencia, Spain, alongside the C-Max and Kuga. It should reach American showrooms by the fourth quarter of 2013.