Since the Ford Transit Connect debuted on U.S. shores for the 2009 model year, it's been a hit with urban fleets and small businesses for its fuel economy, generous cargo capacity, and maneuverability, with sales growing from a modest 8834 in 2009 to a projection of 35,000 units for 2012. But it was primarily marketed as a fleet or commercial vehicle. For the 2014 model year, Ford is going hard after the consumer market with the new Transit Connect Wagon, adding up to seven passenger capacity, new technologies, updated powertrains with more power and better economy, and two body configurations.
If the name sounds vaguely familiar, there's good reason. Ford made a half-hearted attempt with the Transit Connect Wagon that debuted for 2010, which added a second row of seats, giving the van five-passenger capacity and still-cavernous cargo capacity behind the rear seat. But it still retained its blue-collar sibling's basic, dated, unrefined feel. Keep in mind the current-generation Transit Connect has been on sale worldwide since 2002.
Sold in Europe as the Tourneo Connect, the U.S.-spec 2014 Transit Connect Wagon will give customers the choice of two wheelbases and lengths, two available engines, and three trim levels: XL, XLT, and Titanium. But don't think this gentrification process has impacted the Transit Connect's working-class credentials. The Wagon model still has a payload capacity of 1200 pounds and a maximum towing capacity of up to 2000.
The two available engines, as was previously announced on the commercial-spec 2014 Transit Connect, are Ford's proven 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, and an optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. Exact figures for the EcoBoost engine as installed in the Transit Connect have not yet been released, but output as installed in the new Escape are 178 hp and 184 lb-ft. Equipped with the EcoBoost, the Transit Connect Wagon is expected to deliver more than 30 mpg on the highway.
But the configurability options don't stop there. Bucking Henry Sr.'s philosophy of "any color as long as it's black" is the choice of a top-hinged liftgate or side-hinged double rear doors. In terms of comfort and convenience features, the Wagon will offer an available full-glass panoramic roof, rear view camera, 6.5-inch touch screen display with navigation, and Sync with MyFord Touch. Depending on if you're looking more for comfort or durability, cloth, leather or heavy-duty vinyl upholstery options will be offered. The XLT trim will be offered with standard cloth and optional leather. Long-wheelbase models will have rear-seat temperature and fan controls, and vents in the rear passenger areas. Folding tray-tables on the back of the front seats give a work or snack space for the two outboard second-row passengers.
With the introduction of the Transit Connect Wagon, Ford finally has a true minivan in its lineup once again. Since the departure of the Freestar in 2006, Ford somewhat awkwardly positioned the controversial Flex crossover as its minivan alternative, but its high price, polarizing styling and lack of sliding rear doors sent minivan loyalists down the street to Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler dealers. The Transit Connect Wagon's combination of its tidy, practical size, efficient powertrains, and cargo and hauling capacities make it a unique marketplace proposition, and Ford is not bashful about targeting the Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey, saying the Wagon will cost thousands less than either model and be more fuel-efficient. Ford is expecting the majority of sales of the Transit Connect Wagon will be the long-wheelbase, seven-passenger configuration. Buyers will have a chance to take a close-up look at the 2014 Transit Connect Wagon in dealerships in the third quarter of 2013.
Hat tip to Motor Trend's Frank Markus for first-person product impressions and technical details.
Ford Transit Connect Wagon b-roll
Ford Transit Connect Wagon b-roll.