Imagine a van. If you're like most people, then the image coming to mind might be a bulky, rectangular box with "airport shuttle" or the name of your plumber painted on the side. Rethink it.
Ford aims to paint a new picture, with the all-new 2014 Transit Connect van and Transit Connect wagon, vehicles that boast better fuel efficiency, greater creature comforts and, importantly, a smoother and more car-like ride than those ancient dinosaurs of the cargo- and people-carrier bloodline.
We recently attended a program in Detroit to have a first look at Ford's new, creatively-packaged models that will go on sale later this year. For the record, the first version of the Transit Connect in 2010 came as a compact panel van; it was somewhat utilitarian and was designed to appeal to small business owners.
Let's start with the van, which is a new, second-generation Transit Connect model. This van is sleek and svelte, with a narrow, snub-nosed hood and stout grille defining the front end. Twin sliding doors extend along the passenger sides, with rear door that can be ordered in either a single liftgate or twin hinged doors. Plus, there are two lengths. The Transit Connect van is available in a short (104.8-inch) or long (120.6-inch) wheelbase; standard wheels are 16-inch steel, and 17-inchers are available.
The narrow, glistening wraparound headlamps are available with adaptive cornering foglamps, and heated exterior mirrors and rain-sensing wipers also can be ordered to jazz it up as a truly modern-day vehicle.
Inside, the van looks remarkably cozy, bright and inviting, with blue-lit displays and a car-like center stack for vehicle controls and infotainment. The cabin seats either two or five, depending on whether it is ordered with the optional second row of seats -- making up to 130 cubic feet-plus of cargo room for the long wheelbase model, and 100 cubic feet or more on the short wheelbase.
Ford offers a standard 3.7 V-6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Neither torque nor horsepower ratings are yet available. Payload is rated up to 1,600 pounds and towing capacity is as high as 2,000 pounds with the right towing package.
Independent front suspension, twist beam rear suspension and power-assist rack-and-steering are designed to provide great maneuverability on urban streets, combined with the strength needed to haul heavy loads.
If Ford's new van is a revolution in city hauling, then the 2014 Transit Connect wagon could foment a riot in the minivan segment. It seats up to seven passengers in comfort and style, while boasting, according to Ford, better fuel economy ratings and towing power than its nearest competitors, including the stalwart Toyota Sienna minivan and the granddaddy of the people mover category, Dodge Grand Caravan.
Available in either five- or seven-seat configurations, with either long or short wheelbase and in three trim levels (XL, XLT and Titanium), the wagon shares the same shape, dimensions and overall size as its van stablemate.
The difference, from an exterior point-of-view, is that windows replace the solid side panels that define the van. Like that vehicle, the wagon has twin sliding side doors and either a split rear door or rear liftgate. Also like the van, the Transit Connect wagon gets adaptive cornering fog lamps; power heated exterior mirrors and rain-sensing wipers, depending on the trim level.
Ordered with the short wheelbase, the vehicle has seating for five; the long wheelbase makes room for a third row and ups the carrying capacity to seven. Higher end models get a panoramic roof, which makes the wagon feel light and airy -- a nice feeling when you're on a road trip or hauling a big group to the airport.
The cabin feels open and spacious, with comfortable seats that come in either cloth or vinyl (great for commercial people-moving); leather upholstery is available on higher end versions. Drivers and front passengers get easy access to a center-stack mounted 4.2-inch infotainment screen; technologies including the voice-activated MyFord Touch and navigation system are available.
Copyright © 2013 Motor Matters
|Epa mileage rating||TBD|
|Fuel capacity||26 gal.|
|Motor type||Ti-VCT V-6 w/SMPFI|
|Overall length||219.9 in.|
|Vehicle type||5/7-passenger RWD van and wagon|
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