Prior to the arrival of the first-generation Ford Transit Connect to the U.S. market in 2008, there weren't many small cargo van choices in the U.S. market. Although a rather dated package by the time it made its way across the Atlantic, the first-gen Transit Connect quickly became a popular alternative to the large and thirsty Econolines and Chevy Express vans that had previously been the mainstay for small businesses. Although we could commend the previous TC for being "smaller" and "easier to drive" than the big vans, it didn't do much to move the needle in terms of driving enjoyment. With the introduction of the 2014 Ford Transit Connect, the fun-to-drive factor takes a definite turn for the better.
Even a cursory glance at the spec sheet of the 2014 model hints at more compelling hardware. The previous rear leaf spring suspension and rear drum brakes have been swapped out for a more precise torsion beam and coil-spring setup with rear discs. The story gets even better in the drivetrain department, with the previous four-speed automatic swapped out for a six-speed, and the choice of a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter I-4, or in the case of our tester, the 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 shared with the Escape SUV.
The prospect of 178 hp hauling around 3606 lb may not sound like a recipe for fun, and its as-tested 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds is likewise no record-setting run. But the numbers tell only part of the story. The Transit Connect's low, carlike seating position makes it feel like a small, nimble sport compact, even though you have literally almost 2 feet of headroom above you, and a surprisingly cavernous cargo hold in the long-wheelbase model. The suspension tuning and steering feel give it a tossable character that's a rarity in this segment, and certainly a marked contrast from its closest marketplace rival, the Nissan NV200. With the EcoBoost, the Transit Connect's 0-60 time is a more than 2-second improvement over its predecessor, a difference you can feel.
With a big, hollow sheetmetal box behind you, road noise is expectedly high, but it's kind of part and parcel for this vehicle segment, so it would be unfair to knock it too much for that attribute. Part of the advantage of the aforementioned generous headroom is room for an overhead storage shelf for lightweight items. We found the long-wheelbase Transit Connect's 189.7 inch length and 120.6-inch wheelbase perfectly manageable, but if that's too much, there's also a short-wheelbase model that stretches a tidy 173.9 inches bumper to bumper, as well as a seven-passenger Wagon version for active moms and dads.
Some may look at the Transit Connect and say, "No thanks, I'm a truck guy, not a van guy." Fair enough. But you'd be doing yourself a great disservice by dismissing the Transit Connect off-hand just because of superficial appearances. With up to a 1700-pound payload and a 2000-pound towing capacity, this is a tough, capable little workhorse that also happens to be a hoot to drive.
Although the Nissan NV200 is nominally the Transit Connect's competitor, in terms of being fun to drive, there's really no contest between the two. The Nissan is a strict workhorse, and makes no bones about it. But the Transit Connect is equally, if not more, capable, as well as being more enjoyable from behind the wheel. As of this writing, official pricing for the Transit Connect was not yet published. We're predicting at least a $2000-$3000 premium over a comparably equipped NV200. But in our experience, that premium is well worth it. The Transit Connect became the small van to beat when it was introduced to the U.S. market in 2008. It still holds that distinction, and raises the bar several notches higher for the 2014 model.
|2014 Ford Transit Connect|
|BASE PRICE RANGE||$25,315-$31,075 (est)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||N/A|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 2-pass, 4-door van|
|ENGINE||1.6L/178-hp/184-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3606 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||189.7 x 72.2 x 72.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.5 sec @ 83.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.81 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||Not yet rated|