Reader Review: 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon XLT

by Ur-Turn
reader review 2014 ford transit connect wagon xlt

(Everybody say “Hi!” to Nick, who is here to share his tale of Transit Connect ownership with the B&B! — JB)

Last year, when my wife and I were first looking at minivans, I went by the Ford dealer to check out the new Transit Connect. The van really appealed to me, with its emphasis on utility, its quirky charm, and the Euro pedigree. My wife, our designated minivan driver, wouldn’t give it the slightest consideration. She deemed it more suitable for a mobile pet cremation business than for Mommy duty. We wound up with a Nissan Quest, which I wrote about here and with which we have been very happy.

Last year I started a surfboard business. This meant that I was borrowing the Quest for long stretches at a time. It also meant that it was finally time for me to consider getting something appropriately capacious for myself, giving me a perfect excuse to add a Transit Connect to our fleet.

I started by looking for a one-year old, certified pre-owned model. My local dealer assured me they were “rarer then hen’s teeth” and then suggested I consider a new F-150, of which he had plenty in stock. As always, the Internet came to the rescue and I found a 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon LWB XLT (referred to henceforth as “FTC”) 1,500 miles away with less than 30,000 miles for the affordable price of $17,500.

It had a been a courtesy van for the dealer, and they were willing to ship it to me. The equipment list was long: leather, SYNC, rearview camera and warning system, three rows of seats, Bluetooth streaming audio, and a warranty. That’s a lot of car for just over seventeen grand. Done deal.

The FTC does nothing to hide its European roots. My window sticker says the van was assembled in Valencia, Spain, and nearly everything I’ve read about the van indicates that such is the case. Strangely enough, however, the VIN starts with an “N” indicating Turkish assembly. Although all of the previous-generation FTCs were assembled in Turkey, U.S.-bound current-gen vans should all be Valencia-born. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe this has something to do with Ford’s chicken-tax avoidance scheme, but maybe they just had a few million leftover stamped VIN plates to recycle. Regardless, the van is a true “One Ford” product, giving it a few unique characteristics that help it stand out on this side of the pond.

For starters, space efficiency is fantastic. Seven passengers can fit, and everyone can wear a stovepipe hat if they want to. The windshield is massive; in fact, visibility all around is much better than most modern vehicles. It is as if you are piloting a fishbowl, one in which you can confidently place the wheels and are assured of all the corners. It’s hard to think of another vehicle that is as practical. Huge passenger space (or lockable storage), inexpensive to buy and operate, good on gas … the Transit Connect has got to be one of the most overall utilitarian vehicles available.

Being it’s so Euro comes with some quirky downsides. The FTC has minimal wind and road noise insulation. There is a ton of space, but few of the storage compartments so typical on U.S.-market vans. Two cupholders up front, a small center console, a standard glove box and door pockets on each side: that sums up the useful storage space. Out back there is basically nothing, just a flat load floor. The lack of under-floor storage or floor contours ensures that any boxes or bags of groceries will flop around with each turn you make.

There is a very large shelf above the driver’s head, which seems great at first. I’ve found that I don’t put much up there, however, because whatever you do put up there has to fit a narrow profile, be lightweight, and also be retrievable without looking, even as you’re shoving your arm all the way in there if said item slides to the front. It’s hard to understand what that shelf really is good for.

Small indents for change and parking passes in the console secure none of these items well. On the plus side, there is a massive recess in the passenger side of the dashboard top (for ladling soup out of?), and strangest of all, a small, shallow (2 inches maybe) bin underneath the passenger seat with a latched cover that should make this the preferred vehicle for trips to and from Ciudad Juarez.

Quirkiest of all (and a veritable nightmare for Mr. Mehta’s aesthetic senses), this is the only vehicle I have ever seen with a reverse inside-looking-out black plastic triangle, and on the bottom rear corner of the front driver and passenger windows, of all places. I guess it’s for wind buffeting? This will easily be punched out by an unintentional meathead elbow any day now.

Finally, on the negative side, it must be said: who thinks a Spanish (or Turkish?)-built, low-volume Ford is going to be a paragon of reliability? There is already some rust-spotting on the roof.

If you can live with the risks and the quirks, however, the FTC has the driving basics down pat, thanks to its Focus origins. The steering is responsive, light in slow speeds, yet gradually building load as the pace increases. The six-speed automatic is one of the better modern self-shifters I have driven, keeping the engine in its power band and not too eager to change up a gear.

Combined with visibility and relatively tight handling, it’s easy to hustle this van. I find myself speeding damn near all the time. Good thing the cops ignore me, obviously thinking I’m just late for an alpaca cremation. Comparatively, piloting the Nissan Quest in our family stable is like driving a bowl of pudding. It makes you want to just tuck into the La-Z-Boy thrones, drone the CVT as low as it can go, pilot with a single finger, and plod your way to your destination.

Do not, however, confuse my wanting to hustle the FTC with it actually accelerating fast. Rather, the 2.5-liter Duratec non-turbo four delivers the power of 169 asthmatic donkeys. I don’t know what the 0-60 is (my arse-meter guesses 10 seconds), but I can tell you that when I punched it one time to pass a car, as the engine bleated loudly and the van’s speed increased incrementally, the conversation went like this:

Wife: “Is this a 4 cylinder?”

Me: “Yes.”

Wife: “… I thought so.”

Of course, there’s an upside: an EPA rating of 20/28. I happily average on the high side of that, seeing 25 mpg around town and 29 mpg on a recent 120-mile highway jaunt at 65-75 mph.

This is an unusual vehicle choice for non-commercial duty. Yes, I use it for business, but 90 percent of the time I use it for commuting and as a regular minivan for the family, duties it performs extremely well in its minimalist manner. Interestingly, I think it may have a bit of a cult following. My son’s friend told him that my van looks like “a storm trooper van,” which immediately made it cool with the pre-school boys. (Presumably, and based on the cover photo, that’s “stormtrooper” as in Star Wars, not as in Sturmabteilung. — JB)

I have had a few compliments. All of them from men, none from the women. When my wife rides in the van, there’s an amusing sense of resignation about her, as if she always thought by now I would (and should) be driving something way more aspirational. But no, this smiling dork is hustling his weird Euro van down the road at above average speeds. So sorry to disappoint!

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4 of 127 comments
  • 70Cougar 70Cougar on Mar 01, 2016

    Nice article. I'm right there with you. I suggested my wife consider a TC to replace her Odyssey some day, and she told me to pound sand. She doesn't like the looks, and I like that it is a bit weird and Euro (I'm a former UK-built Civic Si hatch owner). I don't want or need a van enough to get one for myself, thought.

  • Mistermau Mistermau on Mar 01, 2016

    The review I've been waiting for! Question: Can you tell us more about your highway usage? Is it painful for long trips? Is it able to cruise at 90mphish? Are the heated seats and HVAC adequate? Also, I though leather was only available on the Titanium? My Passat is on it's last legs and I want to be more solid in my decision before I pull the trigger on one of these! Thanks!

    • See 1 previous
    • Mistermau Mistermau on Mar 04, 2016

      @NN Thanks! The HVAC in my Passat makes me sad. This really helps. We need a car for my wife also, and I'll have to see if her car, whatever it ends up being, makes for a good highway cruiser. She is leaning towards a small luxury SUV, so it seems unlikely, which pushes me away from from the TC. Hmph.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.