by Gabe Beita Kiser
The Ford Transit has become the benchmark van in both the passenger and cargo segments thanks to decades of proven reliability and capability, but over the last decade and a half, Ford has found a way to bridge the gap between the full Transit van and the popular minivan segment, with the Transit Connect providing a duality of purpose - capable commercial hauler and comfortable family commuter - in one package. Subsequently, it revamped the compact passenger van for the 2019 model year to not only keep it competitive but to render it a more than competent daily family cruiser as well. In that pursuit, a smaller 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is put into play this year for improved fuel economy; it's tethered to an eight-speed automatic gearbox that drives the outputs of 150 horsepower and 144 lb-ft of torque to the standard front-wheel-drivetrain. The Transit Connect Passenger Wagon is commodious and highly practical yet at the same time still compact, but it can also be outfitted with all the features needed to deliver adequate levels of entertainment, comfort, convenience, and safety for an entire family. However, it's susceptible to crosswinds with its tall and boxy shape, has a firm ride quality, and a rather lackluster powertrain, which begs the question of whether the Transit Connect has successfully broached into minivan territory or whether it's just another passenger van.
Primary changes for the 2019 Transit Connect Passenger Wagon include the replacement of the prior year's 2.5-liter inline-four engine with a smaller 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit, which is coupled to an also new eight-speed automatic transmission. A consignment of features has also been made standard for the 2019 model year, including forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automated emergency braking, as well as 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability for up to ten devices. Newly available features include high-intensity-discharge headlamps, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. There have also been some mild front-end restyling and a revised interior with added front and second-row seat padding, a new instrument cluster, and a redesigned center stack. The U.S. market was originally going to get a diesel engine for the new model, but before it even arrived, Ford cut the oil-burner from the lineup, citing a lack of demand.
Ford has claimed the Transit Connect Passenger Wagon as the most affordable seven-seater vehicle available on the U.S. market, with a starting MSRP of $26,845 for the XL trim, the XLT follows closely with an MSRP of $27,100, and the Titanium closes the lineup off with a sticker price of $30,215. All prices exclude Ford's acquisition fee of $645 and a destination charge of $1,295 as well as any tax, registration, and licensing fees.
See trim levels and configurations:
The LWB Passenger Wagon handles surprisingly well despite its heft and boxy shape, it actually even feels agile when sauntered around town thanks to its light and accurate steering responses and properly composed chassis. As long as it's in town, it drives a lot like a typical crossover rather than a hulking van. It's at higher speeds, however, where the Passenger Wagon exhibits its expected inadequacies: it struggles to track straight on the highway even without the presence of crosswinds, body roll intensifies significantly when taken around corners and sharp bends, and the engine audibly begins to sound like it's struggling - making for an uncomfortably noisy ride.
As for ride quality, comfort is reasonable - at least in town. The powertrain propels the Passenger Wagon around effortlessly and smoothly and small road imperfections and typical undulations are dealt with reasonably well. At higher speeds, the engine gets annoyingly loud and feels as though it's struggling to cut the Wagon through the air, and furthermore, hitting bumps become disturbingly audible throughout the cabin.
The Ford Transit is a dominant full-size van, and Ford had hoped it could imbue the Transit Connect with the same dominant traits. But while it's spacious, comfortable, practical, and nimble through tight city streets, the new engine is simply underpowered. The diesel engine that was supposed to arrive would've remedied the issues with an abundance of torque, but the fact that it never materialized means we're stuck with this subpar gas four-pot. But there are some things the Transit Connect still does exceptionally well - it's got more cargo space than its rivals without compromising on seating space, and the new suite of safety features makes it impressive compared to segment rivals. Intuitive infotainment and nimble handling are true highlights and despite the downsides, the Transit Connect is still one of the best small passenger vans out there. Just don't expect the mod-cons of a traditional minivan.
We wouldn't suggest the XL for its lack of, well, almost everything, and the Titanium really only improves on driver-focused elements. Therefore we recommend opting for the XLT: as the mid-spec model it comes standard with a few interior and exterior cosmetic improvements, and with more comfort and convenience features benefiting all passengers. We also suggest including the available XLT Premium Package which includes the addition of the Driver-Assist Package with all its advanced safety and driver-assist features along with wheel and lighting upgrades and leather-trimmed seats. Perhaps opting in the optional panoramic fixed-glass vista sunroof could help keep rear passengers a little more accommodated too. If any towing will be required then the available trailer tow package will have to be optioned in as well. Unlike the Titanium, the XLT can also be optioned with either a rear liftgate or with rear symmetrical doors.
|Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon||162 hp||24/28 mpg||$35,600|
|Ram ProMaster City Passenger Wagon||178 hp||21/28 mpg||$33,075|
|Mercedes-Benz Metris Passenger Van||208 hp||18/22 mpg||$38,600|
The Ram ProMaster City is arguably the Ford's most comparable competitor, however, its maximum passenger occupancy is capped at only five, which means if it's the seven-seater occupancy you require, then the RAM is a no go. If not, then it'll help to know that the RAM is equipped with a slightly more powerful engine and a more refined transmission, which makes for quicker and smoother acceleration and driving. It is, however, a little less fuel-efficient than the Ford, with returns of 21/28/24 mpg. In terms of standard and available features, the Ford has got the superior consignment and options, it gets a larger touchscreen and greater smartphone integration too. The Ram offers a greater cargo capacity than the Ford and an equal max tow capability, but without the option to increase occupancy to seven, deciding between the models really comes down to personal requirements. The Ram is a little more than $2,000 cheaper than the Ford, but the Ford is the better passenger vehicle and better value for money buy.
The passenger version of the Metris may be nearly $7,000 more than the Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon, but it has a few points over the Ford in that with its longer wheelbase, it offers seating for up to eight passengers in a commodious cabin as well as a considerably larger cargo area. Being a Mercedes, the Metris is also a lot more luxurious than the Ford, with higher-quality materials and standard features boasted even at the base level; it also has a better consideration for its rear passengers with a nine-speaker audio system featured as standard. However, unlike the Ford, it doesn't have full smartphone integration at all. The Metris offers a significantly greater maximum tow capability too at 5,000 lbs, thanks to its more powerful turbo engine, but it is far less fuel-efficient than the Ford. The Metris is certainly the more premium of the two vehicles, especially in comfort and practicality, but with full smartphone integration, reasonable capability and practicality, its efficient powertrain, and considering its exceptionally affordable price, the Ford Passenger Wagon is simply better value for money.
The most popular competitors of 2019 Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon: