Remember the days when the average tradesmen would utilize the family van for work purposes. Many would simply just take out the rear seats, do a home conversion, and turn a regular minivan into a cargo van. Well, no need to do that these days – with more and more manufacturers offering a variety of cargo van options, there is a van to fit your needs. I had the opportunity to test the newly redesigned 2014 Ford Transit Connect (TC) XLT and if you’re a tradesman, small company owner, or delivery driver, this urban dweller may be just the vehicle for you.
From a visual perspective, the TC is purely utilitarian and purpose-built. It looks deceivingly small on the outside, as it’s built on the same global C platform as the Focus, C-Max, and Escape. The front end shares a striking similarity to the Focus, so much in fact that you’d have to look twice if they were parked next to each other. My test vehicle came equipped with the XLT package, which adds body-colour bumpers, heated power mirrors, fog lights, and two sliding doors. Overall, the refreshed 2014 model is a pretty good looking van, having a nice mix of European and North American styling and flair.
The interior of the TC is what really surprised me because it has a LOT of cargo room, and according to Ford, it also has best in-class maximum payload capacity of 1,720 lbs. Since my test XLT was a cargo van setup, it only had the two front seats (there is a three-seat option), and no divider between the front and cargo area. With a normal car-like seating position and SUV-like roof line, there is honestly a lot of usable space. No, there isn’t enough space to move all the furniture in your house, but you have to remember, this TC isn’t a full-sized hauler. The cargo area also has a multitude of tie-down locations to ensure your cargo doesn’t bounce around during the drive or delivery.
Seating position is almost perfect and all controls are placed within reach. The seats are actually quite comfortable and provide excellent support, a good thing if you’re spending a lot of time behind the wheel. Forward visibility is spectacular, thanks to the huge windshield, large side windows, and a low cowl. But rear visibility is poor to blinding, depending on how many windows you have behind the B-pillar. On my test TC, I had none, and thus, even backing out of a parking spot was a challenge for this small cargo van. Yes, it was equipped with a back-up camera, but it didn’t help much when I was looking on the sides. Take it from me, make sure your Transit has more windows than did mine.
On the road, you really can’t fault the Transit Connect. The standard 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine puts out a respectable 169 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. There is an optional 1.6 liter Ecoboost available, but the difference in real-life fuel economy is negligible. I had the opportunity to take this van to Seattle during a storm and I have to say, it was pretty stable on the I-5, even when there were heavy gusts of wind. The 6-speed automatic gearbox, with manual shifting mode, was perfect for this vehicle. Whether in the city or the highway, I did notice more road noise, and some clinks and rattles than I would like, with most coming from the cargo area. With a divider in place, this should improve noise levels. Bluetooth clarity was also not as good as in other Ford’s I’ve tested, with many people complaining of noise when on the phone with me. But other than these qualms with the Transit, everything else was positive. And of course, as with most Fords, you can add as many options as you need to make this van suit your personal needs and tastes.
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect is a great urban hauler and perfect for a variety of trades. Probably the best thing about this Ford is the sticker price, which starts at just $26, 599 for the XLT model. With such an attractive sticker price for a well-built van, it’s no wonder many fleets have switched over to the Ford Transit Connect.