2018 Chicago Auto Show – 2019 Ford Transit Connect Wagon Gets Facelift and Diesel
Optional Turbodiesel I-4 to Get at Least 30 MPG Highway
Ford announced updates to the 2019 Transit Connect Wagon in a conference at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show, and it did so in a most unusual way: by employing Jim Belushi to extol the virtues of the Transit Connect as the perfect transport for baby boomers.
Usually, when companies come out with new cars, they’re eager to label them as youthful, targeting a demographic that’s more likely to attend Coachella than a Beatles tribute band. But Ford is going against the grain for the 2019 TC by convincing boomers that the mini-minivan is perfect for after-work-garage-band rock stars and active empty nesters.
Making the case for them is the Transit Connect’s new powertrains. The new standard engine will be a 2.0L gasoline I-4 with direct injection and automatic stop/start, replacing a 2.5L port-injected four. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, up from a six-speed, so performance and efficiency should be as good or better than the 2.5L I-4. Official power numbers are still TBD, but expect about 170 hp and 150 lb-ft.
The most interesting engine option is a new diesel engine, a 1.5L turbocharged I-4 dubbed EcoBlue. Industry pundits and Ford product specialists seemed to intimate the new engine—which is part of the larger, mostly Europe-only EcoBlue engine lineup—will produce about 140 hp and 200 lb-ft. The EcoBlue diesel also makes use of an eight-speed auto, and Ford says it will get at least 30 mpg on the highway. We’re almost positive the company is being pessimistic; the current Transit’s 2.5L I-4 achieves 27 mpg in EPA testing, so don’t be surprised if the smallest diesel for sale in North America achieves 40 mpg or more.
In addition to the gear under the hood, there’s also new styling for the 2019 Transit Connect. The front clip follows Ford’s current styling trends, with a new front bumper cover that incorporates a Focus-esque grille. It looks as though the rear bumper has been reshaped as well, although exterior styling between the two is the same.
Inside, an available tabletlike infotainment display pairs with simpler sets of buttons—gone is the phone-dial layout that some found confusing. A standard Wi-Fi modem, available Sync 3 connectivity, and optional Ford+Alexa (the Amazon digital assistant) round out some of the interior niceties found on the 2019 Transit Connect.
Ford also promises boomers a few active safety features as standard, including automatic emergency braking and pre-collision monitoring with pedestrian detection. Furthermore, the Transit Connect will be available with dynamic cruise control, blind-spot and cross-traffic monitoring, and a lane-keeping alert and assist system.
As with the current Transit Connect Wagon, the 2019 model will be available in two wheelbases, with space for five passengers in the shorter configuration and up to seven passengers for the longer one. Cargo space, as one might expect, is huge. Ford claims a long-wheelbase model has more space with the seats folded than a fullsize Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and a greater payload capacity than a Ram 1500 pickup. A towing rating of 2,000 pounds improves the Transit Connect’s versatility quotient somewhat; that’s enough for a motorcycle trailer or a personal watercraft, but it won’t embarrass any modern pickup.
One reason Ford is targeting the 50-plus crowd is the baby boomers’ longstanding affinity for vans. In their youths, many boomers turned to the van culture (remember the bygone Econoline?) before jumping in the first few generations of minivans for family transport. Ford now sees an opportunity in the Transit Connect, as one in three boomers plans to purchase a new vehicle in the next three years. If Ford’s marketing move pays off, that could be a lot of new Transit Connects in American driveways.
Regardless, the little van’s nippy new styling, standard automatic emergency braking, and available diesel engine have our interests piqued. Hey, if it’s good for baby boomers, why shouldn’t it be good for everyone else?