I was part expecting and part hoping that the Transit Connect with rear windows and five seats would become a cult family vehicle for a small subset of the American population. Having driven the cargo version, I should have known better. The wagon variant is slightly more livable than the hauler with marginally reduced wind noise and far better visibility. But the rough ride, mediocre mechanicals, and Spartan interior mean it will only appeal to a handful of buyers outside of fleets.
The biggest disappointment to me, though, is the inflexibility of the rear seats. Configured for passengers, legroom is less than generous. To remove the rear chairs completely, you’ll need tools, and simply folding them forward requires that you remove the three massive headrests. Also, Ford’s Work Solutions that packages a computer into the navigation display, is an abomination. Not only are the applications like the Internet browser and Microsoft Word finicky to use, basic functions like navigation and stereo control are crummy. If you’re a business owner looking to pick up the Transit Connect for your fleet, I recommend you keep employee morale and productivity up by supplying workers with a laptop and air card instead.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
So, a month or two ago I spent a few days in a Transit Connect that was configured as a cargo van. It had only the two front seats and the vast, tall, cargo space behind them. My household loved it, and during our time with the vehicle we hauled dogs and dog crates, hockey gear, and several dozen used car tires.
So I was interested to see if we would like this passenger version of the Transit Connect as well as the straight cargo version. How does it differ? First, it has side and rear windows. Second, it has a second-row seat, which brings the total seating capacity to five. The question was, will the Transit Connect be as useful even when its cargo space has been diminished?
In a word, yes. Even with the rear seat in place, our large dog crate fit north/south behind the seat in the cargo area. In fact, I think there would have been room for two crates, side-by-side. We’re talking about a crate that easily accommodates an 85-pound German shepherd. As far as hockey gear, there was room for that, as well: we folded down the rear seat and used the folded seatback as a tall shelf. The rear seat is not removable, or at least not without tools.
Naturally, we appreciated the extra visibility provided by the additional glass area. Although the rear Dutch doors impede rearward vision slightly, there are two wipers, one for the window in each door, which is a nice touch.
Although the hockey player in my household was not convinced that the Transit Connect is worth considering over a full-size van, which he thinks wouldn’t return significantly worse fuel economy and would provide superior towing capability, I still am enchanted by the Transit Connect’s size, capability, and looks. I sometimes fantasize about opening a catering firm just so I could dash about town with trays of hors d’oeuvres secured into the built-in shelving that the aftermarket surely is already providing for this clever little trucklet.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
It bothers me to no end to hear folks compare the Transit Connect to full-size commercial vans like the Dodge (now Mercedes-Benz) Sprinter and the Chevrolet Express. I understand that they’re all panel vans born and bred to serve as commercial runabouts, but the Transit Connect plays in a completely different segment. Instead, let’s compare it to the long-departed Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari. An unusual comparison, perhaps, but it is one that Ford management made when building a business case to bring the European Transit Connect to our shores.
Although GM’s M-vans were aging quickly as consumer minivans, they were still relatively beloved by commercial customers. They offered a substantial amount of cargo room, yet their smaller stature meant that they were easier to drive and great for maneuvering in tight spots. GM took a lot of flak from fleets when the last Astro rolled off the line in 2005 and tried to recoup by offering a van body for its Chevy Colorado chassis cab. Understandably, it didn’t appease the working masses.
The Transit Connect, however, just may. Here, finally, is an interesting package that combines great interior space with a relatively compact footprint. There’s a remarkable amount of room in back, even with the three-passenger bench seat in place. Better yet, it drives like a Focus wagon with some extra weight on its cargo rack. The 2.0-liter I-4 is relatively potent, and I was impressed with how smooth the four-speed automatic shifts. Best of all, I managed to tuck this thing into a compact car parking spot in our parking garage with room to spare; I dare you to do the same in an Econoline…
I fear, however, that the typical consumer will look at the Transit Connect’s vanish shape, and immediately expect be expecting the Transit Connect to be a competitor to the likes of the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo. It isn’t, nor is Ford billing it as such. Measuring this vanlet against conventional minivans will have the family demographic disappointed in the bare cargo walls, the stiff ride, or the easy-to-clean plastic materials scattered throughout the interior — all things commercial buyers, however, will appreciate or ignore.
For the time being, I think the Transit Connect will find the most success as what it was meant to be: an agile, versatile little business van. However, if you’re looking for something with room for five, coupled with an expansive cargo hold that isn’t too hard to clean, this is quite an interesting (and inexpensive) option.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Thanks largely to its low price, maneuverable size, and economical powertrain, the Transit Connect makes a fantastic cargo vehicle. However, I just don’t think that the Wagon edition is a very good family vehicle.
Why? Many reasons … It takes a long time to warm the cavernous cargo area during a Michigan winter, especially for my crying one-year-old in the back seat. Average-size adults sitting in the back seat will have their knees near their chins, as the bench is pretty low. I’m not sure why the back bench is so low, either, because there’s a ton of headroom. Considering the high ceiling, the Transit Connect Wagon perhaps would be a good family vehicle for someone with young triplets, as the high roof-along with an easy step-in height-makes it very easy to plunk kids into position on the wide bench. All that cargo space behind the rear seat would be nice for triplets’ sundries, too, but there’s no easy way to separate it from the occupants in the back seat. It’d be nice if Ford offered a retractable cargo cover like what you find in most station wagons and SUVs; perhaps that accessory will become available at a later date.
I’m still fairly impressed with how peppy the TC feels once underway, despite its inadequacies against the stopwatch. (Our technical editor Don Sherman clocked an empty cargo version of the Transit Connect at a superslow 11.1 seconds to 60 mph in a test for our March 2010 issue.) Wind noise is still a big issue on the highway, but overall, this Turkish-built Ford van drives like a much smaller vehicle. An extra bonus from behind the wheel of the Wagon is that the rearward visibility is actually decent, thanks to the big windows in the sliding-side and split-rear doors.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I have to agree with Rusty – the Transit Connect makes more sense as a simple, cheap utility van than a do-it-all family hauler. For about $20,000, there’s nothing quite like the Transit Connect panel van. We’re talking about a vehicle that drives like a Ford Focus and gets great fuel economy, and yet is capable of supporting a small business. But $25,000-people movers? We have quite a few of those, many of which are more comfortable and more efficient than this Ford. Yes, the Transit Connect Wagon can still handle taller, bulkier items than your average crossover, but tell me, are you really going to stack cargo four feet high when you have kids in the back seat? (The right answer is “no,” by the way).
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Before I drove a Transit Connect, I thought this little workhorse would make a great addition to virtually anyone’s fleet. Now that I’ve had a chance to drive a Transit Connect I’m thinking this is an ideal vehicle for one of my friends to own.
When you’re hauling big items you want out of the snow (a motorcycle, a futon, and a collection of furniture and empty boxes were all in the mix for me) the Transit Connect is wonderful. There’s no need to hustle and you feel good using the enormous cargo area. Even this passenger version offers an incredible amount of room once you flip and fold the rear seats. Since the ride height is so low, it’s very easy to load big, heavy, or otherwise awkward items.
Since the Transit Connect is first and foremost a commercial workhorse the lack of refinement and creature comforts is understandable. The plastics and fabrics used inside are plain and seem to be durable — perfect for the commercial user. However the lack of refinement gets old quickly during daily driving. If you opt for the Ford Work Solutions version of navigation/audio systems it’s not user-friendly and you’ll be wondering how Ford can offer a consumer solution that’s among the best in the business with Sync and a commercial solution that looks like it was programmed with a Commodore 64.
Like a pickup truck, the Transit Connect is most rewarding to drive when it’s being used for some sort of hauling. Unless Ford finds a way to actually finish the interior of the van behind the B-pillars, the Transit Connect Wagon is best suited to commercial users who need to send a crew of more than two people out with a load of equipment. I’d love it if a friend could justify the purchase of a Transit Connect so I could borrow the van a few times each year, but even the passenger-oriented version is too commercial in nature for a consumer like me.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
2010 Ford Transit Connect XLT Wagon
Base price (with destination): $23,045
Price as tested: $24,975
2.0L 4-clyinder engine
4-speed automatic transmission
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Full size spare tire
Anti-lock braking system
Second row seat, three-passenger
Options on this vehicle:
In-dash computer – $1395
Reverse sensing system – $280
255-degree-opening rear cargo doors – $190
Carpeted floor mats – $65
Key options not on vehicle:
Crew Chief telematics – $550
Remote start – $345
Bluetooth connectivity – $220
22 / 25 / 23 mpg
Size: 2.0L inline 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 136 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 128 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
Curb weight: 3425 lb
15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers
205/65R15 95T Continental ContiProContact all-season tires