by Jay Traugott
The 2019 Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van forms part of the second generation of the Connect range, first introduced to the American market in 2014. The Transit Connect is a smaller, but just as capable cargo hauler to the full-blown Transit. The 2019 Model is fitted with a new 2.0-liter four-pot engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and is available in long and short wheelbase. In cargo configuration, the features list takes a bit of a knock, but with two available wheelbases and a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, there's enough space to get the job done, while luxuries on the XLT trim like cruise control, wireless phone charging and Ford's Sync3 infotainment system make the Transit Connect more livable. The only downside, the diesel engine Ford promised us isn't actually arriving!
The most significant changes for 2019 appear under the hood of the Transit Connect Cargo Van, where Ford has decided to drop the old 2.5-liter engine in favor of a new 2.0-liter four-pot and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A diesel version of the Connect Transit Van was planned to launch in the spring of 2019 but was canned by Ford USA. This was quite the letdown, as a bit of diesel torque would've gone a long way. Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard on the more expensive XLT model. Safety levels, an often overlooked aspect when it comes to commercial vehicles get a good going over, and Ford now offers frontal collision warning and pedestrian warning as standard for both trim levels.
The Transit Connect Van moves away from the square and purposeful look of the original Transit Van in favor of a more family-friendly look. Ford has attempted to give the Transit Connect a crossover-inspired look, which is more apparent when you opt for the short-wheelbase version. The front of the Transit Connect gets the now-classic trapezoidal grille and sharply raked headlights that have become staples of Ford's passenger vehicle design ethos. From the front door back, it still screams cargo hauler thanks to a lack of rear side windows. Exterior features such as side-view mirrors with incorporated blindspot mirrors remind the driver that the Transit Connect Cargo Van is more business than pleasure. Daytime running lights are standard for both the XL and XLT and the van is wrapped in black plastic moldings all-round. All models are available with either symmetrical rear doors or a liftgate.
The Transit Connect Cargo Van is available in short- and long-wheelbase forms. The SWB version rides on a 104.8-inch wheelbase and is 174.2-inches long; rather compact for a designated cargo vehicle. The SWB version is 72 inches tall and 72.2 inches wide (84.1 including the mirrors). The long-wheelbase Transit Connect Cargo Van sits on a 120.6-inch wheelbase and is 190 inches long. The LWB has a slightly lower height at 71.6 inches and matches the SWB in terms of width, track, and overhang measurements. The Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van weighs between 3,581 and 3,698 lbs depending on the configuration.
The utilitarian nature of the Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van makes it easy for Ford, and the buyer to decide on a color choice, as most of these vehicles will either be branded in business colors or will just be had in white. Ford offers the Connect Cargo Van in Dark Blue, Shadow Black, Race Red, Silver, and the classic Frozen White. The passenger version of the Connect Van gets an additional six colors that are more suited to its SUV-like nature. Whichever color you go for, there's no hiding the fact that the Transit Connect Cargo Van is a bulky beast.
For 2019 the Transit Connect has seen a slight decrease in overall performance which is slightly perplexing, seeing as its competition offers more performance in almost every category. The 2020 Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van for instance, still makes use of a large-capacity engine that gives it the edge over the Transit Connect in terms of low-speed power delivery and overall tractability. Forget about 0-60 times and top speeds, the Transit Connect Cargo Van will spend most of its life driving at or under the speed limit, and the 2.0-liter engines cater to that perfectly, as does the front-wheel drivetrain. But the biggest disappointment is the lack of the originally-planned diesel engine, which would've given the Transit Connect a much-needed edge over rivals in the segment. As things stand currently, though the Transit Connect has a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds and can carry a maximum payload of 1,570 pounds.
The 2019 Transit Connect Cargo Van drops the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and in its place, you now get a 2.0-liter inline-four. The old engine produced 164 hp and more importantly, 177 lb-ft of torque, while the new engine makes 162 hp and sees a significant drop in torque to 144 lb-ft. With a full load, the difference is notable. A turbodiesel engine would sort this issue but would bring with it added complications and maintenance costs. The transmission, on the other hand, has seen an improvement for 2019. Gone is the old six-speed automatic, and in its place, you get an eight-speed automatic that does a reasonable job of keeping the asthmatic 2.0-liter engine in its powerband. The Transit Connect sends its power to the front wheels. While the Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van and Nissan's NV are priced slightly higher, both offer engines with torque figures well above the 250 lb-ft mark.
A cargo van is never going to be the most dynamic car on the road. This holds true for the Transit Connect Cargo Van. The van makes use of independent front Macpherson struts in the front, and a twist-beam setup in the rear. Direction is controlled by electrically assisted power steering and torque vectoring control.
Around town, the steering is light enough to make the Transit Connect Cargo Van feel nimble and maneuverable, but the ride can get bumpy over rough surfaces. Heavy loads tend to settle the Transit Connect, but without an abundance of torque you're left wanting for performance, and the best of both worlds is something you'll have to make do without. But the body motions are well controlled, so even when things get rough, you never feel like the Connect is unsettled or out of control.
The ride doesn't get much better on the highway. The tall and boxy shape of the van leads to swaying when the wind picks up, and the tracking can feel off when cruising, constantly needing minor correction to stay in a straight line. Despite these issues, the Transit Connect Cargo Van feels the most car-like when compared to its competitors, and can definitely be placed close to the top of its class for nimbleness and road manners.
One benefit from replacing the old 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a 2.0-liter is the fact that fuel consumption improves, but the power trade-off might not be worth it when you consider how close the numbers are. The old engine managed 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. The new 2.0-liter four-cylinder achieves 24/27/25 mpg, but the 2.5-liter engine provided much more torque. The Dodge Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van, powered by a 2.4-liter inline-four engine makes significantly more power (178 hp and 174 lb-ft) yet is able to return figures of 21/28/24 mpg, only one mpg off the Ford Transit Connect. The Transit Connect is fitted with a 15.8-gallon fuel tank which gives it an estimated range of 395 miles in mixed conditions, and notably when unladen. Expect that figure to climb with any sort of load in the back placing strain on the engine.
As can be expected from a dedicated cargo van, the interior of the Transit Connect Cargo Van is a spartan affair, with only basic amenities making an appearance on the base model. The layout and design of the interior will look recognizable to those who are familiar with other Ford products; an attractive center stack houses the controls for the airconditioning and infotainment system and is flanked by a set of swooping air vents. There's an overall feeling of modernity and passenger car-like ergonomics which becomes even more apparent in the XLT trim. The sizeable sloping windscreen affords the driver and passenger excellent forward visibility, and large side mirrors help with the blind spots. Reversing might be an issue due to the lack of rear windows, which makes a rear-view camera a necessity, or otherwise, Connect Cargo Van drivers can rely on the tried and tested buddy guidance system.
The Transit Connect Cargo Van feels more SUV than utility vehicle once you're seated. The seats in the Connect are comfortable, but struggle to suppress the occasional harshness of the suspension setup. Getting in and out of the Transit Connect is effortless; the front doors open up wide enough for large drivers and passengers to get in and out. The Transit Connect spoils its front passengers with 46.9-inches of headroom, 41.5-inches of legroom and 54.2-inches of hip room. The shoulder distance between occupants is 57.6-inches. These are class-competitive numbers, and almost no occupant will be too large to be uncomfortable.
The Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van keeps things simple; hard-wearing materials abound, and it makes sense, as cargo vehicles tend to live hard lives filled with use and abuse on a daily basis. The van's cargo area is covered in durable vinyl flooring that should last a reasonable period of time. A combination of hard and soft-touch plastics are used in the cabin and feel on par with Ford passenger car offerings, which is pleasing to see in a cargo van. The base model XL is available with two seating materials; Ebony vinyl and Ebony cloth. The cloth material is of passenger car quality and makes the Connect feel more refined, but the Vinyl will withstand daily abuse, and hide dirt better. The higher-spec XLT gets the option of Ebony or Palazzo cloth seats or optional Palazzo Grey leather.
The most important aspect of the Transit Connect Cargo Van is how much stuff it can carry. Due to its SUV crossover styling, it sacrifices valuable cargo space, especially in SWB configuration, while the LWD version makes up for it with a longer wheelbase (104.8 vs. 120.6 inches). Payload capacity is similar for both wheelbase configurations with the SWB capable of hauling 1,510 lbs in a 104.8 cubic foot space while the LWB manages a few more at 1,570 lbs in 127.4 cubic feet. Double rear swing doors are standard, but a traditional liftgate can be equipped at no cost.
The length of the cargo bed measures 71.8 inches in the SWB, growing to 87.6 inches for the LWB, while the width of the cargo bay remains the same on both, measuring 48.7-inches between the wheel wells. But there's more space to be found by folding the front passenger seat, enabling the SWB to achieve 101.7 inches of load length, while the LWB gets 117.5 inches. The load floor height is 23 inches for both models, enabling easy step up and loading of heavier items, while 49.8 inches of height in the cargo bay ensures most large items can easily be accommodated, even if an adult inside can't stand up to help to load from within. Aiding loading is a range of ways in which to cram your stuff in the back, with a side cargo door opening width for the SWB of 24.2 inches, improving on the LWB to 32.8 inches.
Internal storage is generous, with an abundance of large bins and pockets to cater to everything from smartphones to map books and delivery rosters. With large cupholders and deep console bins proving most useful.
Features are few and far between on the base model, but the higher-spec XLT gets just enough gadgets to make it feel like a non-commercial vehicle. Standard features across the Connect Caro Van range include front and rear 12V power points, six-way manually adjustable seats, manual air conditioning, a basic infotainment system, dual sliding doors, daytime running lamps, and a rear cargo light. Stepping up to the XLT, you get, lumbar seat adjustment, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, a reverse assistance system, a wireless phone charging pad, rain-sensing window wipers, and Ford's MyKey system that allows the owner to set speed limits and more, to encourage safe and efficient driving. Driver assistance features aren't numerous, but the Connect does get pre-collision assist with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
In base form, the Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van has to make do with a very basic infotainment system that just about makes the cut for 2019 standards. The system consists of a 4.2-inch display screen with one USB port, a four-speaker sound system with AM/FM stereo and Bluetooth capability. The four-speaker system sounds tinny, especially when driving around with an empty cargo bay. The better equipped XLT gets Ford's Sync3 infotainment setup that can be found on Ford's passenger vehicles. In this guise, the Connect Cargo Van gets a single CD player, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, two USB charging ports and SiriusXM with a six-month trial subscription. The Sync3 system is compatible with Applink, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The XLT infotainment system works well and offers class-leading functionality; a worthwhile investment for those who drive long distances or spend long hours in traffic.
Since its introduction to the American market back in 2014, the Transit Connect Cargo Van has had nine recalls and ranges from engine problems through to trim fitment issues, however in the last three years there has only been one for a potentially faulty seatback that may not remain upright in the event of an accident. There have been no recalls issued for the 2019 model. The Transit Connect Cargo Van comes with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty, a five-year/ unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty and roadside assistance for five-years or 60,000 miles.
The Transit Connect was tested by the NHTSA in 2018 in passenger van guise and managed to score an overall result of five out of five stars. But the Cargo Van hasn't been evaluated, and neither has the 2019 iteration of the passenger van, while the IIHS hasn't tested any Transit Connect variants.
Standard safety features across the range include Ford's AdvanceTrac stability control system which keeps a close eye on body roll stability, an important safety factor when it comes to tall and top-heavy cargo vehicles. You also get front and side airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a basic anti-theft security system. The XLT can be optioned with adaptive cruise control, LED foglamps, forward and reverse parking sensors and HID headlamps. The Ford MyKey system also allows owners to set speed limits and max rpm in individual gears which not only helps with fuel economy and engine longevity but keeps things safe on the road. The driver-assistance package offers lane-keep assistance and auto headlights.
he Ford Transit Connect strikes a balance between a full-blown cargo van and urban SUV, which makes sense when you're looking for a cheap and reliable people carrier, but struggles to translate into a cargo carrier, especially in SWB format. The exterior styling is more attractive than the standard cargo van thanks to sedan-like styling, which flows into a more traditional rear. The base model's interior is basic but feels like a passenger car, making long hours behind the wheel a more comfortable affair. The XLT feels more premium and gets Ford passenger car tech such as the Sync3 Infotainment system. The Transit Connect Cargo Van offers class-leading handling, but it can't hide its van underpinnings which result in a jarring ride on uneven surfaces when unloaded. The LWB model will make more sense for businesses who need as much cargo space as possible, while the SWB van will work for smaller businesses and active couples who need lots of space for camping gear and mountain bikes. The Connect straddles the line between work and play but doesn't convince on either front, and it's largely due to the absence of a more powerful engine. Whatever happened to the diesel we were promised, Ford?
The Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van is priced between $24,100 and $27,045. The base model XL starts at an MSRP of $24,100 for the SWB with symmetrical doors. The rear liftgate option doesn't add to the cost. The LWB will cost you an extra $1000. The high-spec XLT starts at $26,045 for the SWB model, stepping up to $27,045 for the LWB version. Competitors such as the Ram ProMaster City begin at a similar price of $24,380. All prices exclude a destination fee of $1,295. An interesting fact about the Transit Connect Cargo Van is that before 2019, Ford imported them as passenger vehicles with full interiors to dodge the 25% tariff on imported light commercial vehicles, known as the Chicken Tax, and then stripped them out for commercial use as vans.
The Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van is available in two trims; the base XL and the top-spec XLT.
The XL comes standard with twin 12v powerpoints, manually adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning and steering column, and front and rear interior roof lights. The infotainment system on the XL mirrors the rest of the interior; you get a basic four-speaker sound system mated to a 4.2-inch AM/FM radio system with a single USB port and Bluetooth connectivity.
The XLT includes all the standard features found on the XL but adds automatic headlights, cruise control, carpet flooring, fog lights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The XLT also gets Ford's MyKey system that can be used to set road and engine speed limits. The infotainment receives a significant upgrade in the form of Ford's Sync3 system that consists of a larger display screen with Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
There's a wide variety of additional options available for the Transit Connect Cargo Van. Starting with the base model. You can opt for the XLT's Sync3 infotainment system, cruise control and cloth trimmed seats as well as the MyKey system and a wireless phone charging pad. The XLT can be optioned with adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, LED fog lamps, and a remote start system. Over and above these options, the Connect Cargo can be fitted with blindspot monitoring, a heavy-duty alternator, privacy glass, and an engine block heater.
There are also three package options. The Driver-Assist package brings lane-keep assistance, and automatic headlights to the party, the Smoker's package will get you an ashtray, and the Trailer Tow package consists of a trailer hitch receiver with a four-pin module and anti-swing trailer control.
The Transit Connect Cargo Van will interest three types of buyers; the small business owner, fleet managers, and adventurous or active people looking for a basic hauler. The SWB version lags behind the competition in terms of cargo space, but it shouldn't have to compete with traditional cargo haulers; instead, it should be regarded as a cargo SUV crossover that can be used for business and pleasure. The LWB model is a more believable cargo van but still mixes passenger car features with basic cargo haling duties. In terms of outright capability, you'll find that the competition offers more space and better engines. The XL in LWD form should be the choice for those who need a simple cargo hauler, while the SWB XLT will be an interesting alternative to the usual SUV crossover.
The Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van offers the same passenger car in the front, cargo van in the rear design, and starts from $24,545 for the base Tradesman cargo van. Powering the ProMaster is a 2.4-liter inline-four gas engine developing 178 hp and 174 lb-ft, significantly more than Ford's 162 hp and 144 lb-ft. Power is sent to the front wheels via a nine-speed auto. The ProMaster returns 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined, despite the larger engine. The ProMaster boasts a class-leading cargo capacity of 131.7 cubic feet and can tow up to 2,000 lbs, matching the Transit Connect in this regard. It doesn't handle as well as the Ford, but it is the better cargo hauler; you can thank greater space and more torque for that.
The Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo Van is a direct competitor to the SWB Transit Connect. Both cars are powered by 2.0-liter inline-four engines, but the Nissan only produces 131 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT auto, and the NV200 Compact will use 24/26/25 mpg city/highway/combined, matching the Transit Connect SWB. In terms of size and load capacity, the NV200 offers a total cargo capacity of 122.7 cubic feet, significantly more than the Ford Transit Connect in SWB format. The NV200 offers less standard features, and won't be as comfortable to live with, but starts off at a lower asking price of $22,300. The Ford, meanwhile, is easier to drive and boasts a longer list of amenities. If you care about your delivery driver's comfort, the Ford is the better option.