2012 Ford Transit Connect XLT Passenger Wagon Review By Carey Russ
Compare Ford Transit Connect Models and Trims - Ford Buyers Guide
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2012 Ford Transit Connect XLT Passenger Wagon
Ford's Transit Connect has been quite successful in the American vehicular marketplace, if the numbers I see on the road are any indication. That's no surprise, as the small-footprint multi-purpose vehicle doesn't really have any competition.
In this country.
The Transit Connect has been a mainstay of Ford Europe's commercial vehicle line for a while. While nearly every European manufacturer has something competing with it, none of those are sold in the U.S., nor do domestic or Asian automakers have anything like it. So, at the moment, the Transit Connect is a class of one. It's primarily a small commercial truck, meant for small to medium package delivery. To better deal with narrow European streets and congested cities, it gains interior space by sitting high on a short length and narrow width compared to an American van or (nowadays not so–) minivan. On the sides, dual sliding doors improve access to whatever may be inside, and side-hinged rear doors that open 180 degrees or more and a two-foot liftover height make loading cargo easy and painless.
Like utility vehicles in the days before "Sport Utility Vehicle" became a fashion statement, the Transit Connect is offered in cargo -- panel truck "van", with blacked out side windows -- and passenger "wagon" forms. As a passenger vehicle, it's suitable for shuttle or taxi duty -- there is even a semi-factory taxi conversion -- or even personal use.
Why would you want a Transit Connect for your own, rather than the more common choice of a crossover, minivan, full-size van, pickup, or SUV? You want to be different. You need large space in a small footprint, with decent fuel economy (20 city, 24 to 25 highway). A Transit Connect works for your work, and your budget allows one vehicle. Or you haul large items around on a regular basis, and prefer secure inside storage to a pickup bed.
I have smallish motorcycles and bicycles, and so the Transit Connect looked interesting. Alas, there is not space inside for a motorcycle, at least not any that I have. Possibly a vintage 175 or smaller could fit, in the cargo van. Or there's always a trailer… Parts? Plenty of room, and that low two-foot floor height. Bicycles and bike stuff, no problem. Camping bivouac inside? Van, not wagon. It's smaller in footprint than any current pickup, with far more room inside than a small pickup with a shell. If you have a personal need for which it could work, you'll figure it out. As for commercial use, see above. Or see an increasing number on the road. The Transit Connect is a vehicle that makes sense.
It's no luxury SUV, just an honest working class truck. Acceleration is adequate and appropriate, brakes and handling are more car than truck, and fuel economy meets or beats most minivans and crossovers. With multiple trim levels and, in the top-level XLT Premium Wagon available options like Ford's SYNC connectivity package, the Crew Chief™ fleet and tool management system, backup camera, reverse-sensing system, and more, the Ford Transit Connect has already found many uses, and will find more.
APPEARANCE: If the Transit Connect looks like a tall, narrow, short box, that's only because it is. It's functional, and form follows. Frank Lloyd Wright would approve. Its tall, boxy shape means that interior space and cargo capacity are maximized for its footprint. The well-raked windscreen and short hood are the look of a European van, sculpted by aerodynamic efficiency. Yes, it looks similar to the larger Dodge/Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, but that's more convergent evolution than copying -- it's even more similar to the larger (Europe-only at this point) Ford Transit van than the Sprinter. And that aero work works, as the Transit Connect is more stable in winds than many cars. Cargo vans have covered rear windows and side sliding-door windows (optionally glass), passenger wagons get glass all around. A low front side window line improves side and rear visibility.
COMFORT: This is an honest working-class utility vehicle, so the interior is plain and functional. There is less (weight-adding, so performance- and mileage-decreasing) soundproofing than in even a low-budget subcompact, with most of the shell bare inside, but interior road, engine, and wind noise levels are comparable to a small sedan. All models get a six-way manually-adjustable driver's and four-way front passenger seats, with firm European-spec padding for good comfort. Interior materials are plastic, with synthetic cloth upholstery. XLTs get power windows, mirrors, and locks with a remote fob. There are key locks for the hood and gas cap. In most vehicles, "overhead console" means a small storage space for sunglasses. Here it means a large tray above the windshield, with a net to keep objects in place. The instrument panel presents all necessary information well, including miles to empty, and the center console is basic, with two cupholders and some open storage. Headroom is absolutely not a concern. Nor is legroom, even in the rear, which in the XLT wagon is a 60/40 flip and fold bench. The two-foot load floor height has anything else I can think of beat, and the dual sliding side doors are as useful here as in a minivan, especially in tight parking spaces. They should also help to position cargo loaded from the rear. With 78 cubic feet of cargo volume, the wagon is surpassed only by the van's 130. Maximum payload is 1600 lbs.
SAFETY: The Ford Transit Connect has front and front-seat side airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes (disc/drum), and a tire-pressure monitoring system. For 2012, the AdvanceTracŪ with RSCŪ (Roll stability Control) electronic stability control system, formerly offered only on top-line models, is standard equipment for all.
RIDE AND HANDLING: It's a commercial vehicle, but that doesn't prevent the Transit Connect from having the driving qualities of a comparably-sized car. While the MacPherson strut front, leaf-sprung solid axle rear suspension is meant for cargo hauling, the ride quality is more "car" than "pickup truck", with good compliance and no jarring. Moderately-weighted power steering and a tight 39-foot turning circle and short overall length mean that the Transit Connect is easy to maneuver in tight urban parking situations, and can go where larger vans can't.
PERFORMANCE: On paper, the Transit Connect's powertrain specs don't sound too promising. Paper is not necessarily reality. The venerable "Duratec" alloy twincam four-cylinder engine makes its 136 horsepower at 6300 rpm, with 128 lb-ft of torque at 4750, but there is ample torque at lower revs. The transmission is "merely" a four-speed automatic, with overdrive, but it works well for the vehicle's purpose and niche. It's a smallish truck, not a race car… and acceleration is quick enough not to impede traffic or cause the drive fear of being rear-ended. EPA estimates are 21 mpg city, 26 highway. In a week of mixed driving I got 22. Earlier, in the last example I drove, most time was on the highway -- at real highway speeds -- and that returned 24.
CONCLUSIONS: Ford is opening new market niches with its Transit Connect.
2011 Ford Transit Connect XLT Premium Wagon
Base Price $ 23,585 Price As Tested $ 25,225 Engine Type dohc aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in. Horsepower 136 @ 6300 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 128 @ 4750 rpm Transmission 4-speed automatic w/overdrive Wheelbase / Length 114.6 in. / 180.6 in. Curb Weight 3400 lbs (approx) Fuel Capacity 15.1 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P205/65 R15 95T Continental Conti ProContact m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / solid axle with leaf springs Ground clearance 7.2 inches Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 26 / 22 0 to 60 mph (est) 10-11 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Rearview camera $ 470 Reverse sensing system $ 280 Fleet key, two remote fobs $ 65 Destination charge $ 825