by Morgan Carter
The Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon was designed to fill a gap in the market between the popular full-size Ford Transit and traditional minivans. To do so, it required an interesting duality of purpose that is hard to engineer. With only a long-wheelbase option, the small van offers a pretty spacious interior that can accommodate up to seven passengers while still offering a decent amount of cargo space. As commodious and practical as the Passenger Wagon is, it's still more than compact enough to maneuver around town with relative ease. It isn't lacking in features, either, with a capable infotainment suite and a number of standard safety features. Both can be upgraded significantly, just by going up a trim level. Still, it's not a particularly nimble vehicle, and isn't as luxurious as some of its pricier rivals like the Mercedes-Benz Metris. It also doesn't get any engine options aside from the weak 150-horsepower inline-four engine that comes standard on every model. The Transit Connect is far from perfect, but it manages to do enough things well to make a name for itself in the market. Whether or not it will suit your needs, though, will depend largely on you.
The new year brings a few updates to help keep the Ford Transit Connect modern and competitive. Automatic headlights are now standard across the range, and come connected to rain-sensing wipers. Configurable daytime running lights are also standard. Ford Co-Pilot360 is present on every trim level, although in varying degrees of complexity. The Titanium Premium Package is no longer available, and Guard Metallic paint has been deleted from the palette.
Passenger vans aren't designed to look pretty, so it's not surprising that the Transit Connect isn't a head-turner. It gets plain 16-inch steel wheels as standard, with utilitarian black front and rear bumpers. The XL gets a three-bar black grille with black surround, while the upper trims get a five-bar black grille with chrome surround. Automatic halogen headlights curve upwards from the grille, with fog lights embedded low within the bumper on the XLT. These are upgraded to LED variants on the Titanium. The top-tier trim also gets HID headlights with chrome bezels, and chrome bumper molding. The XL and XLT offer a choice of a rear liftgate or symmetrical rear doors, while the Titanium is restricted to a liftgate.
While smaller than the regular Ford Transit, the Connect is still quite large. The Passenger Wagon doesn't get the option of the short wheelbase, so length is standard across the range at 190 inches with a 120.6-inch wheelbase. Without accounting for mirrors, the small van is only moderately girthy at 72.2 inches wide. Only one roof height is available, too, with the Transit Connect standing 71.6 inches tall. The base model weighs in at 3,998 lbs, while the fleet-only 2.5-liter engine adds a few pounds, bringing weight up to 4,029 lbs. The ground clearance isn't overly high at 5.7 inches, making loading passengers and cargo a little easier.
The Ford Transit Connect can be dressed in one of ten cost-inclusive paint colors. The standard solid options comprise Frozen White, Silver, Race Red, Shadow Black, and Dark Blue. There are also a number of metallic options, including Diffused Silver, Kapoor Red, Blue, and Magnetic. School Bus Yellow is available, too, but only to fleet vehicles equipped with the Taxi Package.
Ford's small passenger van is not a great performer, but it does get the job done. The standard four-cylinder engine only develops 150 hp and 144 lb-ft of torque, while the fleet-only variant doesn't raise these figures all that much, developing 169 hp and 171 lb-ft from its 2.5-liter motor. Neither powertrain is particularly quick, but there is enough torque there to give the illusion of some agility when keeping to low speeds around town. Try to accelerate up to 60 mph too rapidly, though, and you'll find the engine running out of breath.
When properly equipped, the Transit Connect can tow up to 2,000 lbs. This is on par with rivals like the Ram ProMaster City, and should be enough for the Ford to handle luggage trailers when hauling a full complement of seven passengers. Front-wheel-drive is the only option when it comes to small passenger vans, so it's not surprising that the Transit doesn't offer an alternative.
As standard under the hood of every Transit Connect is a 2.0-liter GDI inline-four-cylinder engine, delivering 150 hp and 144 lb-ft to the front wheels only. The engine comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and offers an EcoMode. Even on a smaller van like the Connect, the powertrain doesn't supply enough power to pull it around quickly. There is enough low-end torque to get you and your passengers around town, but try to pass even slower vehicles on the highway, and the engine will run out of steam quickly.
The 2.5-liter i-VCT four-cylinder engine is available on the XL trim, and only to buyers placing orders for fleets. Mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, this powertrain develops 169 hp and 171 lb-ft. The extra torque certainly helps the engine lug heavier loads around, making it more suitable for passengers with lots of luggage.
Thanks to its car-based platform, the Transit Connect handles better than its more truck-like rivals. The steering is light enough to make maneuvering around town easy enough, and the boxy body remains composed when driving at reasonable speeds. Apply some pressure to the gas pedal, however, and the Passenger Wagon's boundaries quickly come into view. If the whine of the engine isn't enough to convince you to slow down, the rattle of the body as it struggles to keep straight on the highway will. Try to take a corner at anything higher than a crawl and the body rolls significantly.
Stay within the low limits of the van, though, and ride quality remains acceptable. The basic abrasions you're likely to encounter around town are absorbed without too much fuss, while the constant wind and road sounds melt into a sort of white noise. All this is exacerbated to unbearable levels if you need to get somewhere in a hurry.
Large, unwieldy vehicles like vans are not known for their impressive fuel economy, but the Transit Connect manages to be quite economical. Equipped with the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon is able to get 24/29/26 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. By comparison, the 2.4-liter Ram Promaster City Wagon gets 21/28/24 mpg. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine available to Ford Fleet vehicles is stronger, but it drops in efficiency to 20/26/22 mpg. The fuel tank can hold up to 15.8-gallons of regular gasoline, enough to carry the passenger van across 411 miles before needing to refuel.
The small passenger wagon boasts minimalist, functional styling inside the cabin. The materials aren't the highest quality, but the construction is rugged and durable. There aren't that many features as standard, with only a few more to be had, so the controls don't clutter up the dashboard. The infotainment is pretty straightforward, with smartphone integration available on the upper trim levels, along with voice-activated navigation. Despite being a passenger-centric van, Ford's passenger wagon still offers a fair amount of cargo space.
The interior of the Transit Connect is capacious thanks to the long wheelbase. In its standard configuration, the van has seating accommodations for up to seven passengers. However, the middle-row bench can be swapped out for captain's chairs, reducing capacity to six passengers. There is plenty of headroom, no matter where you are seated, thanks to the high roof, but legroom is only average in the rear two rows. The driver gets pretty good forward visibility due to the high seat position, but rear and blind-spot visibility is poor. A six-way manual driver's seat with manual lumbar is equipped to the XL, while the XLT and Premium get a six-way power driver's seat. The wide-opening rear sliding doors make it easy for passengers to get in and out of the van.
The cabin focuses on function over comfort, with middling materials used throughout. Construction is hardy, with plenty of hard plastics on display. This also means that there is some rattling at higher speeds. The base-level XL trim comes upholstered in Ebony vinyl, but buyers can swap this out for Ebony cloth at no extra cost. The XLT gets the cloth upholstery as standard and expands the palette with Palazzo Grey in either cloth or leather, which is a $1,550 standalone option and can also be had with the $1,990 XLT Premium Package. The Titanium trim gets leather as standard, also in Palazzo Grey.
For a small van focused on hauling passengers, the Transit Connect still provides a decent amount of cargo capacity. With the third-row seats in place, a minimum of 16.3 cubic feet of space is supplied, but this can be expanded to 24.9 cubic feet by moving the rear seats as far forward as possible. While not enough space for seven people's luggage, it's more than enough for their hand-luggage, the kid's sports bags, or a full day's shopping. If you need more than the standard amount of cargo space, the third-row seats can be folded down flat to free up 60.1 cubic feet, while lowering the second-row seats opens up an impressive 106-cubic-foot area to store even larger items. This turns the passenger hauler into a functional cargo van, of sorts. The maximum payload capacity of the Transit Connect is 1,420 lbs.
Small-item storage around the cabin isn't excessive, but it is creative. There is a passenger-side glove compartment and pretty spacious door pockets up front. There are also two cupholders and modestly sized armrest storage bin. The rear seats don't offer much in the way of nooks and crannies to store your knick-knacks with only two small cupholders in the very rear and quasi door pockets in the middle row. However, there is an overhead storage compartment above the front dash.
The base model of the Connect Passenger Wagon comes with only the bare minimum of features, but it's still great value for the price. Buyer's can choose between vinyl or cloth upholstery, but they are limited to a six-way manual driver's seat with manual lumbar settings, paired with a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering column. Dual-zone climate control keeps the cabin comfortable, while two 12-volt power outlets and a 110-volt power outlet keep you passengers charged and connected. Cruise control and remote keyless entry comprise the standard convenience features, while the basic safety suite comprises forward collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, a rearview camera, and rear sonar. The XLT enhances this with lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and driver alert. It also upgrades the driver's seat with six-way power-adjustability. The top-tier Titanium gets intelligent access and keyless ignition, leather upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Adaptive cruise control and front sonar can be optioned on the upper trims, along with remote engine start and a panoramic vista roof.
The infotainment suite on the van manages to be both simplistic and surprisingly modern at the same time. The standard 4.2-inch LCD screen is a bit on the small side, but it comes equipped with Bluetooth accessibility and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. A single USB port is supplied to charge your devices, and the standard sound system consists of four speakers. If you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you will need to upgrade to at least the XLT, which also adds SiriusXM and a larger 6.5-inch LCD screen. Furthermore, the XLT comes with an extra USB port and a wireless charging pad to keep even more devices connected. At the top of the range, the Titanium adds voice-activated controls, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, HD Radio, and a nine-speaker premium audio system. A DuoCinema DVD system is available as a standalone option, installing two 10.1-inch screen on the back of the front-row seats.
J.D. Power has not rated the Passenger Wagon for 2020, but the authority scored the almost-identical 2019 iteration at 61 out of 100. The van was last recalled in 2018 for the possibility that the seatbacks may not stay upright in a crash. Ford offers a 36,000-mile/36-month bumper-to-bumper warranty on new purchases, along with a powertrain and roadside assistance plan, both of which are valid for 60,000 miles/60 months.
The NHTSA has only crash-tested the 2020 Transit Connect for rollover safety, for which it received four stars. The IIHS has not rated the van at all.
A few new safety features have been made standard on the Wagon for 2020. It already had ABS, stability and traction, side-wind stabilization, hill start assist, a rearview camera, and six airbags: dual front, front side, and side curtain. Forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and rear sonar are new standard features. Available features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams.
As a more compact version of the class-leading Ford Transit, the Connect has quite a legacy to live up to. Unfortunately, it's held back by a lackluster gasoline engine, with no alternative options offered. But there is more to a good van than just a bit of zip around town.
The Passenger Wagon supplies plenty of cargo space without sacrificing on passenger space, and the new year sees it get even more safety features than it already boasted. The Sync 3 infotainment suite is pretty comprehensive, especially at the mid-tier level, and remains easy to use across the range.
The Ford Transit Connect is among the best small vans available on the market with impressive handling dynamics for its size, but it will never be as nimble as non-commercial minivans.
Ford's small passenger van has always been popular, and with a price below the Ram Promaster, and only slightly above the less refined Nissan NV200, it's not hard to see why. While sparsely equipped, the entry-level XL is reasonably priced at $27,020. The mid-tier XLT only asks for slightly more at $29,135, but it is more customizable than the base model. Getting behind the wheel of the top-of-the-range Titanium will cost you $32,250. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing and Ford's $1,295 destination fee.
The 2020 Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon can be had in three distinct trim levels: XL, XLT, and Premium. Under the hood of any of these models, you will find a 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that delivers 150 hp and 144 lb-ft to the front wheels only. An eight-speed automatic transmission rows the gears. The XL can opt for a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 169 hp and 171 lb-ft, but only when ordered for fleet use. This engine comes mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.
Riding on 16-inch steel wheels, the XL gets automatic halogen headlights and configurable daytime running lights. The interior is upholstered in vinyl as standard, with a six-way manual driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, remote keyless entry, and cruise control, comprising the standard creature comforts. The infotainment consists of a 4.2-inch LCD screen that grants access to Bluetooth functions and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The XL only gets some of the Ford Co-Pilot360 safety suite, such as forward collision avoidance, pedestrian detection, and rear sonar. A rearview camera, two 12-volt power outlets and a 110-volt power outlet are also included.
The mid-tier XLT adds halogen fog lights to the exterior, while the interior gets upgraded cloth upholstery. The driver's seat is replaced with a six-way power seat, while the infotainment screen is upgraded to a 6.5-inch LCD model. This upgraded system supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and SiriusXM. Additional features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an extra USB port and a wireless charging pad. The safety suite is bolstered by lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and driver alert.
The most premium Titanium trim gets the HID headlights and LED fog lights. Leather upholsters the interior, as well as the steering wheel and shifter. Intelligent access and keyless ignition add convenience, while the infotainment gains voice-command interactions, navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, and HD Radio. The standard sound system is also upgraded to a nine-speaker premium set-up.
For the most part, the trim levels for the Ford Transit Connect are self-contained, with access to more features and creature comforts requiring you to upgrade models. However, there is some wiggle room, with a few packages offered to enhance each trim. The Trailer Tow Package ($395) can be equipped to any model and adds a Class I trailer hitch receiver, trailer sway control, a trailer wiring module, and a four-pin connector, unlocking the full towing potential of the van. The XLT gets access to the XLT Premium Package ($1,990), which upholsters the interior in leather while adding HID headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels on the outside. It also gets a mid-vehicle overhead console to allow passengers to control some of the comfort features. A DuoCinema DVD system ($995) is available across the range, adding two 10.1-inch screens with USB, DVD, and HDMI playback capabilities.
The XLT is the trim we would recommend from the range, as it gets Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation and Wi-Fi. It also gets advanced safety features like blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert and lane keep assist. If you're going to be using it as a family hauler, then the Trailer Tow Package may be worth it to help you haul trailers (so you don't have to fold down rear seats for extra cargo capacity). This trim can also be upgraded with XLT Premium Package to bring it close to Titanium levels of comfort and luxury.
While it may be, in many regards, perhaps the most direct competitor to the Ford Transit Connect, the Ram ProMaster City Wagon isn't quite as versatile. It gets a more potent powertrain, with 178 hp and 174 lb-ft at its disposal, but it can carry no more than five passengers in its optimal configuration. The stronger engine does result in slightly worse fuel efficiency, with the Ram getting 21/28/24 mpg. On the more technical front, the Ford wins out again, with a more capable infotainment suite and more standard and available safety features. Due to the reduced number of seats, the ProMaster City does supply more cargo space, while it offers comparable towing capabilities. With a price difference of just $940, the ideal van for you will come down to whether you need more passenger or cargo space. Still, the Ford Transit Connect is the better all-rounder.
As you'd expect from any vehicle bearing the Mercedes-Benz logo, the Metris is quite a bit pricier than its rivals, at more than $8,500 more than the well-balanced Ford at entry level. But this extra investment comes with some benefits, such as seating for up to eight passengers and impressive cargo capacity. The Mercedes badge also means that the interior is far more upscale than you'll find in more traditional commercial vans. Even the entry-level models come with a fair number of convenience and comfort features. Strangely enough, smartphone integration isn't offered, even at higher trim levels. The Metris gets a much more capable engine, though, developing 208 hp and 258 lb-ft, which allows it to tow an impressive 5,000 lbs, but this also means it is far less fuel-efficient. If you have the money to spare, the Metris is certainly tempting, but if it's value you're after, then the Ford Passenger Wagon makes more sense.