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2014 Ford Transit Connect LWB 7 Passenger Wagon Platinum Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon



2014 FORD TRANSIT CONNECT PLATINUM LONG WHEELBASE 7-PASSENGER REVIEW

By Steve Purdy
TheAutoChannel.com
Michigan Bureau

Here is an alternative to the full-size soccer-mom van or the trucky SUV/CUVs. We’re talking about the cavernous 7-passenger, Ford Transit Connect long wheelbase, compact people mover, brand new for 2015.

Is it a good alternative? Let’s see.

This passenger version of the small utility van is built on Ford’s global Focus compact car platform used all over the world for small sedans and a variety of other vehicles. It doesn’t really appear compact. To paraphrase an old 100mm cigarette add; “it’s not how big you make it, it’s how you make it big.”

This is just the second-generation front-wheel drive Ford Transit Connect we’ve had here in the U.S. It has been a common utility vehicle in Europe for many years. Formerly made in Turkey, the assembly plant is now in Spain. Lest you think this makes it exotic I’ll confirm it is essentially designed for cargo hauling and as a work van, but this passenger version makes it reasonably practical as a three-row people hauler and the top-of-the line trim of this one makes it feel quite civilized.

Stylish in appearance the Transit Connect gets a swoopy front fascia with gaping grille, squinty headlight bezels sloping rearward and a modestly-raked huge, windshield. Bulging wheel arches and distinctive character lines along the side break up the tall profile and vertical shape that makes interior space so generous. Rear view with high-mounted taillights also offers enough style to belie its utilitarian heritage. No question, this is a huge leap forward in style from the previous Transit Connect.

The driver’s environment has no utilitarian feel at all with all the amenities we would have in the top level Focus. In fact, I’m guessing the dash may come directly from the Focus. Materials, fit, finish and functionality are all good. Controls and driver interface systems are comprehensive, modern and easy to manage, though we’re still not fond of the audio control screen.

The tall, broad windshield is what we first notice getting in. They could call this a “panoramic” windshield and not be guilty of hyperbole. Our Platinum edition comes with decent leather seating and good quality complimentary plastics. While we would not suggest it offers a substantial level of luxury, we’ll assert that it projects something close to that in this top trim level. The roof is so high you could easily wear your stovepipe hat. A handy utility shelf stretches across the cabin just above the windshield.

Most amazing ergonomically is the ease with which we open and close the sliding side doors. Just a gentle pull on the handle unlatches the door and then we can slide it open and closed almost effortlessly. The rear hatch as well is nicely damped requiring little effort to open and close.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The least enamoring feature is the effort it takes to manipulate the second and third row seats. They are released from their mooring by way of a multitude of fabric pull straps that do not always release easily and there is no spring loading or other tactile feedback to know when it is released. Then slamming them back into position does not always result in securely latching them. We tried folding the third row seatbacks for cargo and it remained at about a 30-degree angle. Not good. We’re assured it goes flat as well, but it didn’t for us. I suppose if one was living with the car for a length of time and manipulating these seats regularly one may become adept and find it serviceable.

With all seats in position cargo area is decent but quite limited behind the third seat. With seatbacks folded (even the front passenger seatback folds flat for long cargo) we have over 100 cubic-feet of space to fill. Towing capacity is best in class at 2,000 pounds and payload for the passenger van (considerably less than cargo versions) is just under 1,300 pounds.

A choice of two engines can be had in most of the Transit Connect line, the 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo and this 2.5-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder. The 2.5 is the only engine available for the long wheelbase wagon. This engine makes a modest 169 horsepower, the EcoBoost just a few more. Both get an electronically controlled 6-speed automatic transmission. Our tester is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. We managed 28 mpg on a country road jaunt, a 50-mile drive at about 50-mph, but highway mileage on our Chicago trip resulted in only to 24.3. Of course that is at slightly extra-legal speeds keeping up with prevailing traffic and against a sturdy headwind on the westward leg.

On the road (and we spent close to 1,000 miles on the road this week) we found it comfortable and competent. Steering, ride quality and overall handling were better than expected. Noise infiltration and powertrain feel were a bit less than ideal. While full-throttle acceleration was decent, normal driving dynamics are tuned so as to provide little reason for enthusiasm. Of course, this car is not meant to appeal to driving enthusiasts.

Prices begin at just about 24 grand for the Transit Connect Wagon line. Our dressed-up “Titanium” version is the long wheelbase, 7-passenger configuration and shows a base price of $29,000. That price includes a good level of amenities like heated front seats, halogen headlights, dual-zone climate control, leather seating, privacy glass, hill start assist, rear-view camera, keyless entry, SYNC system, and lots of other stuff. We have the optional premium audio with MyFordTouch, 17-inch alloy wheels (16s are standard), front and rear sensing system and splash guards. The bottom line on our sticker shows just over $32,000.

While the Transit Connect Wagon does not compete directly with the soccer-mom minivans, or the 7-and 8-passenger crossovers, it does have a couple of competitors in the Nissan NV200 and Ram ProMaster City. We’ve not reviewed either of those so stay tuned or search other reviews here at TAC to see how they might compare.

Fords new car warranty covers the Transit Connect Wagon for 36 months or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The long wheelbase Transit Connect Wagon is compact enough to fit into the average garage, nimble enough to skitter around the inner city with ease, big enough inside to haul big people or lots of stuff and economical enough not to bust the budget. It also comes with enough airbags to challenge a Senate panel and a 5-Star crash rating including the new “small-overlap” test that left lots of others vehicles wanting.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved