by Roger Biermann
The Ford Transit Connect is a versatile platform that offers shoppers a multitude of customizations to suit their particular needs. Whether you opt for a cargo van or a family wagon the Transit has a solution. For 2017 basic specification levels have been improved and an engine option has been removed.
While it feels immediately more spacious than a smaller crossover the basic dashboard design is not all that far removed from the rest of Ford's offerings such as the C-Max. It may not be the last word in quality but it compares well to competitors in its class and looks far more modern compared to some dedicated van offerings. The main difference from the 2016 model is the new Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen (standard on Titanium trim models) otherwise the controls, buttons and upholstery is much as before.
Behind front seats is where the Transit's versatility comes into its own. The cargo van offers a cavernous cargo area with basic vinyl coverings and mounting points for whatever you may need to fit or transport in the back. If you opt for the wagon you get an extra two rows of seats and additional luxuries, especially on the higher trim levels. Seats are not quite as easy to fold away as in dedicated minivans and SUVs. A long wheelbase model offers seating for 7 or in the case of the cargo van, additional loading space.
The jack of all trades nature of the Transit translates into a ride and handling combination that doesn't quite do it justice. When configured as a people carrier its rough ride quality and jittery highway composure see it fall short of the minivans it is attempting to emulate. As a cargo van, the ride and handling is more acceptable although the cavernous rear does make for a noisier cabin.
It's light weight and well-weighed controls make it a pleasure to drive and it is also more maneuverable than most cargo vans and it is in this role that it feels the most competent.
The Ford Transit for 2017 is now only available with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder 169 horsepower engine. It produces 171 lb-ft of torque and the sole transmission option is a 6-speed automatic. As the 1.6-liter turbocharged unit has been dropped those wanting more power will either have to settle for the 2.5-liter model or look elsewhere.
In low-speed driving there is not much to complain about but the Transit lags behind most competitors when it comes to off-the line acceleration as well as in-gear responsiveness. Fully loaded the Transit Connect will not be a confidence inspiring overtaking machine.
When it comes to options the Transit Connect shopper is spoilt for choice. There are two wheelbases, two body styles (cargo van or passenger wagon) and three trim levels.
The base XL cargo van is the least well equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery, 2-speaker audio system, power front windows and of course a flat rear cargo area with various hooks and an overhead storage shelf. The long-wheelbase only XL wagon adds two more rows of seats, rear speakers, power rear passenger windows and rear parking sensors to the list.
The XLT cargo van includes cloth upholstery, cruise control, multifunction display and carpet floor covering. The XLT wagon includes these trim items and also adds a rearview camera, 6-way power driver seat, 4-front speakers, auto headlights and wipers and can be had in both short (5-seater) and long-wheelbase (7-seater) forms.
The Titanium trim option is reserved for the wagon body style and can be had in either wheelbase. It adds the Sync3 touchscreen, navigation, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather seat covering and heated front seats.
A number of standalone options can also be chosen such as a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitor and a towing package.
The Ford Transit Connect is a versatile vehicle that can be equipped as a 7-seater family wagon or a bare-bones cargo van with a fair few options in-between. Standard specification levels are low, with refinement and performance not quite on par with dedicated minivan offerings, the Transit does counter with a lower price and a spacious interior though.