By on February 8, 2018

When Ford launched the Transit Connect in North America in 2009, it was little more than a budget-friendly hauler for small business owners who needed a small van to help with their blossoming flower-delivery service. By the second generation, it received new engine options and became decidedly more passenger friendly, but remained light on features and refinement. Still, if you put a gun to the heads of a lot of car experts and asked them to pick a do-anything small vehicle, the Transit Connect would probably be on their short list.

Updated for its third generation, Ford is further enhancing the model’s versatility and comfort. However, Ford appears to be marketing the Transit Connect toward a very specific demographic — baby boomers.

While we think the Transit van’s smaller sibling probably has a far broader appeal than just the AARP crowd, things like a hip-high slide-in driver seat (with more comfortable foam), plenty of room for the grandkids, and an ultra-low load height do seem like desirable features for aging shoppers. You’d think Ford would market the Connect a viable alternative to crossovers. 

However, Ford is sticking to its strategy of positioning the model for aging but active adults. It imagines a shopper of retirement age who surfs or bikes on the weekends but may still want to cart up to seven passengers (or several loads of mulch) out to dinner from time to time.

Ford’s recipe for the Transit Connect doesn’t appear to have changed all that much, at least not to the casual observer. But the automaker has equipped the updated model with two new engines, a new transmission, a mild body redesign, and fresh rear suspension. There’s also new connectivity options, upgraded seating, and plenty of new driver-assist features. Separately, none of this is enough to have a transformative effect on the small van. But Ford hopes the sum total of the changes will make it a more appetizing package for those in the market for such a vehicle.

Engine options now include a 2.0-liter direct-injected inline-four with stop/start technology and a 1.5-liter EcoBlue diesel (sourced from the European-market EcoSport and Fiesta) targeted to return an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of at least 30 mpg highway. The 2.5-liter Duratec will also carry over, but only for base fleet applications. Engines are to be paired with an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. Basically, it’s just the nine-speed unit GM and Ford designed together with one of the gears removed.

While the manufacturer isn’t sharing specific output numbers right now, we don’t expect the Connect to become a thrilling platform for driving enthusiasts. The current generation of the van drives in a manner much smaller than it is, handling in a car-like fashion that isn’t unpleasant but could use clearly use some more pep. However, as Ford looks to be optimizing the engines for economy, we don’t expect to see a 0-60 time below 10 seconds. The turning radius will remain phenomenal, though (38.3 feet on the shorter wheelbase model).

That’s all fine. This isn’t exactly the kind of car you’d expect someone to thrash on the backroads, and improved economy really only makes it a more attractive package for budget-minded consumers. But what should really seal the deal is Ford’s promise of added tech and comfort.

The interior doesn’t look all that different from the current model, but Ford is throwing in an optional 6.5-inch screen supporting SYNC3 connectivity with the Ford/Alexa (Amazon’s Echo) personal assistant. There is also a standard 4G LTE modem capable of connecting up to 10 devices to the internet. Rear passengers can have their own temperature and fan controls, along with both 12-volt and 110-volt outlets.

Ford claims to have introduced structural updates on the Connect that should improve crash performance. But the real safety net is the new driver-assist features. A camera-based system with forward collision warning and pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking is now standard on all trim levels. Lane keeping (with assist and vibrating departure alert), blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control are optional, however. These should come in handy for Ford’s aging demographic target once their senses begin to betray them.

For someone with even the most remote interest in small vans or utility vehicles, the overall package looks more than serviceable. Dual-sliding doors are good, flat-folding seats are good, better fuel economy is good, big windows are good, tons of room without handling like a shopping cart is good. But we’re hoping Ford managed to add in an element of refinement that the second generation model improved upon, but ultimately still lacked.

The 2019 Transit Connect wagon should begin appearing at dealerships this fall, available in XL, XLT, and Titanium trim levels with variable lengths. Ford hasn’t talked price, but we’d expect something in the neighborhood of the 2018 model. That leaves you with a base unit starting below $26,000 and a tricked out Titanium for around $32,000.

[Images: Ford Motor Company]

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72 Comments on “2019 Ford Transit Connect: Cure for the Common Crossover?...”

  • avatar

    Too much cash for basic cargo van for the old people. All the standard van options have much nicer interiors (though somewhat less commodious) and larger engines for the same money.

    • 0 avatar

      But this is not a cargo van, so the price is actually reasonable.

    • 0 avatar

      I dont necessarily agree with this Corey. For someone who is looking for a strictly utilitarian vehicle with a little bit of added tech, the Transit Connect package is a good buy. It is much more efficient than a standard van, much more maneuverable, has cavernous storage, and an actual finished interior.

      Cargo vans are generally metal boxes with vinyl front seats and floors, a thirsty V8, and nothing more.

  • avatar

    I always tell Encore intenders to buy this instead.

    • 0 avatar

      The Ford is so, so, SO much harsher. And by the time it has the features of the Encore it’s the LWB version. Not a city car.

      • 0 avatar

        It has worked twice so far.

        No one I’ve known interested in an Encore wants a “city car”. They all live in age-restricted communities and their vehicle will only ever be transport from Shady Acres to Winn-Dixie, church, or the doctor’s office.

        The TC is even slower than the Encore, but these won’t ever exceeding 65MPH anyway. Feature content doesn’t matter much because having air conditioning, power windows, and and automatic transmissions is “fully loaded” for them.

        People seem to prefer the convenience of the sliding doors, the versatility of the cargo area, and the extremely good front visibility.

        Maybe Buick should make a tiny minivan.

  • avatar

    Their target market is retirees who need electronic assist because “their senses are betray[ing] them”, AND who surf and cycle on the weekends?

    If there is anyone in this demographic, they won’t be in it for long…

  • avatar

    A Titanium trim for around $32k seems like a heck of a value.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    They’re bringing the diesel version to the US? Wow.

  • avatar

    I gotta say, I’m not seeing why one would buy one of these for non-commercial use over just buying a minivan. (Take the seats out of the minivan if you want a bunch of empty seats.)

    Is there a reason for this to be marketed to consumers other than the fact that Ford doesn’t sell a minivan?

    • 0 avatar
      Kosher Polack

      It’s $4,000 less, a foot and a half shorter (or 2 and a half feet for the SWB version!), several inches narrower, and 700 pounds lighter than an Odyssey – which is why I’d like one in my garage.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly: modern “minivans” are not mini at all – they’re huge. The newer gasoline engine for the TC has my interest, and I’d especially consider the short van version to modify for car camping and travel for my retired self and faithful dog.

        • 0 avatar

          There’s also the fact that minivans exude the stink of Mommymobile for a significant number of women, hence the SUV/CUV craze even though minivans are more practical for most Mommies. It’s just possible that the Transit Connect has enough quirk to avoid the minivan stigma.

    • 0 avatar

      A track bike fits in the back of the cargo version. With a cooler and camping mattress next to it, sorta. For living the high life at, and on the way to, the track :) while still being able to park in standard height garages and parking spots.

      Helps with flying under the radar of the idiotocrats devoting their lives to harass people wanting to take a nap in ski towns as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Uh, this IS a minivan. Fact is, it is more REAL minivan than the Odyssey, Pacifica, Sienna, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s also the fact that minivans exude the stink of Mommymobile for a significant number of women, hence the SUV/CUV craze. The Transit may be just enough different to avoid that categorization.

    • 0 avatar

      Might as well see if they can get a piece of that segment without having to actually build something specifically for that segment.

      hats off to Ford if they can pull it off and broaden the TC’s appeal.

      Hell they need it.

      • 0 avatar

        I think the biggest issue is refinement. Today’s minivans are downright luxurious in top trims. They ride well and have plenty of smooth power. This is a step down in refinement.

  • avatar

    If Sergio didn’t sign my paychecks this vanlette would be on my short list. As it stands, I’m crossing my fingers that they decide to sell the 7-seat ProMaster City or 6-seat Fiat 500L Wagon here.

  • avatar

    As a 43-year-old Gen Xer, I’m just below the target demographic. Nevertheless, I bought a new 2016 SWB XLT model with the optional 1.6L turbo (no longer available). This a sweet little package with a fair mix of utility, nimbleness and thrift. It also has style in the contrarian sense. So what if other drivers mistake me for a delivery driver or the termite man.

    Great visibility, lots of cargo room even with the SWB, and it drives like the European Focus it’s based on. At a time when “mini” vans have gotten pretty maxi, this little hauler has about the same dimensions as the original Caravan & Voyager.

    Glad to see Ford is refreshing the Transit Connect. I wonder if a little marketing would result in more civilian sales.

  • avatar

    You could fit a scooter and bingo supplies in that baby. Some Tom Jones on the Bluetooth and you’re off into the sunset.

  • avatar

    This is not a bad little package. This is for the people that loved the small Mazda 5 Mini-minivan. I’ve sat in one of these Fords at the local auto show and it was very nice. Diesel? That’s the cherry on top, but that would probably make it 35,000 USD which of course won’t fly in USA.

    • 0 avatar

      As a Mazda5 owner, your comment is spot on. The things getting my attention here are the larger backseats and copious amounts of head room.

      That said, I can get a low-milege 2017 Pacifica Touring for ~$23K locally. It would take some serious Ford financing shenanigans to get me to pony up for the Transit…like a $199/month lease.

      • 0 avatar

        In Canada, the Mazda 5s had a huge following. In the USA…hmm…not as much. I almost bought one in 2006 but at that time, the first generation felt a bit underpowered when paired with the auto transmission. Also, I think that was their first year out and the dealers were not dealing too much off the MSRP. As equipped, they wanted 21,000 for one and I bought a base Honda Pilot with a V6 ( also new) for about 22,000.
        Their biggest competition is the Pacifica yes. If Chrysler will lower the price in those…Ford is in trouble.

  • avatar

    What’s not to love? It’s a commercial grade big box, high roof van that’s all about utility. It also gets great mileage and won’t break the bank.

    Let the after market get to work on it and it may be the hippest family conveyance since the first gen xB.

  • avatar

    So are we going to get the 2.0 turbo in the long wheelbase model?

    That’s been my biggest gripe. 2.5 natural aspirated only for the long wheelbase Transit Connect – not really desirable for 6,500 ft plus altitude.

  • avatar

    The big minivans are getting 27/28hghway mpg, and ford hopes to hit 30 mpg with a diesel on a smaller vehicle? WTF?

    • 0 avatar

      I am sure this will probably hit more than 35mpg on the hwy with the diesel. 1.5l diesel is a bit small in my opinion for this size vehicle. My father in law in Europe has a 1.5CDI in his 2006 Hyundai Accent and that’s a much smaller/lighter car. I would say the Ford would do better with a 1.8 diesel or even a 2.0
      Normally I am excited about new entrants in the diesel market but not too excited when relatively heavy vehicles get tiny diesels ( Chevy with their new Equinox). I am not advocating 3.0 V6 diesels for small SUVs but I think 1.5l is a bit too small.

  • avatar

    Looks like a cool package, especially with minivans creeping toward $40k nowadays. Just off the top of my head, this looks like it’d be great to use as an ersatz camper – just lay down a foam mattress in the back. If I were in the market for a minivan, I’d take a good look at this, too.

  • avatar

    I test drove a 2016 model when I was looking. It is very top heavy, it leans into turns and very underpowered. I have four kids, and it was to replace a Mazda5 that the third row was getting a little small. I ended up with a minivan, despite being eligible for a Ford A-Plan and looking at the Transit Connect and Flex.

  • avatar

    I’ve got a 2014 XLT version of this van that I use for dual family/commercial use. It really is a jack of all trades. Fold down the seats and have amazing cargo space–I can fit nearly 30 surfboards in the back for deliveries (I’m 37, not 65 btw). Fold them up and transport the family. Bluetooth, (p)leather seats, SYNC otherwise pretty basic but I like that. Purchased only one year old back in 2015 with 25k miles on it for $18k and no maintenance issues for 35k miles except a few burnt out light bulbs. SYNC is frustrating. Average 24mpg.

    It really drives great, very European, great handling. Yes, it is slow. My 95 year old grandmother can get in it (unlike any SUV).

    A bit more refinement is nice, better mpg would be nice (it’s a small engine pushing a box–working too hard), and a more intuitive and reliable infotainment system would be nice. Also, I would love to drive this in a stick shift, but that will never happen in the USA. Otherwise I have no complaints.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    We’ve got a 2015 model, it was a pretty decent deal through one of the warehouse club connections. We got it precisely because it’s an easy vehicle for entry/exit, which fit my 80-something parents very well when they moved in with us. Personally, I like the fact that it has a Euro-van flavor (final assembly point was Valencia, Spain)–smaller footprint, a bit slow (but still serviceable so long as you don’t wince at letting the 2.5 liter wind itself up), decent economy, and more entertaining handling than the somewhat bloated US minivans.

    It also has served really well as a moving vehicle for the kids, when they changed jobs/schools in some big East Coast cities like Boston and New York. We could load it to the gills with stuff (credit the high roofline and headroom), yet it’s still small and nimble enough to get around those crowded narrow streets. And Dog knows you don’t see yourself coming and going all the time like the OddySienacas.

    The newer interiors and options seem nice. But hey, it’s a cargo van, so I expect ours will carry on for quite a few years more, judging from the rugged build and relative simplicity of the older models.

  • avatar

    Needs AWD for those in snowy locations.

    Better still: give it a lift and some aggressive off-road tires to make the ultimate battle wagon.

  • avatar

    No, the anti-crossover is the compact/midsize MPV. Something like a Renaul Scenic/Grand Scenic with adequate motor for the inadequate on ramps and low skill high speed hellscapes that are American highways. A 2.0T Honda Jade or Renault Grand Scenic look like delectable alternatives to the “are you kidding me with this back seat” compact crossovers we have now

  • avatar

    This van stands as proof that “but CHICKEN TAX!” is not a suitable excuse when talking about something like the X-Class.

    Since the government put a stop to the loophole Ford was taking advantage of, they’ve continued to import these and pay the chicken tax on them. So, how can Ford afford to pay it for a cheap little van, but it keeps the likes of the X-Class out?

    Back to the refreshed van, I’m liking the new front clip and the diesel option. Now, just offer a pickup version! Transit Courier.

  • avatar

    I was about to buy the last generation until I realized they’d discontinued the high roof version. Ended up with a full-size transit instead (at about the same price point, FWIW).

    I’d buy a LWB high roof if it were on offer. That lets me fit my bikes in the back quite easily.

  • avatar

    Car and Driver notes that the new 2.0 will actually have lower numbers than the outgoing 2.5, so I’d expect an even slower car. The new transmission may help a bit, but a friend of mine has one of these, and I don’t think it needed LESS HP.

  • avatar

    It’s funny how the Transit Connect is not being called a minivan, when it fits the definition of minivan more closely than a lot of others.

  • avatar

    I drove a ProMaster City SLT Wagon for a week or so a while ago and really liked it. It drove and handled nicely, decent power and fuel economy. It was also very easy to park and ergonomic. Similar to the TC wagon shown, but no 3rd row seats.

    The case for it as a personal passenger unit falls apart once one remembers the Grand Caravan, though.

  • avatar

    maybe 2% of cross over shoppers would consider this as an alternative.

    It looks like what it is: a commercial vehicle. It’s for for florists, dog groomers, etc.

  • avatar

    If they want to market it to Boomers it needs to be flat-towable behind an RV without needing to install a transmission pump or other major modifications. You’d be amazed at how many CRVs, Suzuki SUVs, and Jeep Wranglers have been sold over the years for that exact reason. Supposedly some of the newer Explorers and their ilk can be flat towed but that’s an awfully heavy load behind the RV. Heck, if the 7 pass version has flat tow ability I might be in the market to replace my aging Suzuki XL-7.

  • avatar

    I’m thinking of one of these for disabled boomer hauling duties. I cannot stand driving their Outback, and the ingress/egress is not all that easy. These don’t mask their cargo van roots well enough for most people, but I see it as a useful substitute for most of what I’d do with a compact pickup, with the bonus of extra seats. I drove one 2hrs each way moving crap to a storage unit and found it decent and easy to pilot. That said, a slightly used and massively depreciated GC is probably a better deal.

  • avatar

    When the Connect was first introduced it looked like the perfect fit for my needs. I was doing live sound for small to medium events at the time and all my gear would have fit perfectly in the smaller form factor of the Connect. Not doing much of that now, but for some reason, it still looks attractive for utility reasons mostly. Thanks for the article, Matt.

  • avatar

    I actually like this thing. But, they should really offer a V6, or, a more powerful turbo-diesel.The only thing I don’t like, from looking at the pictures, is the painted metal and the black hole covers on the back doors.

    I really like the M-B Metris (mainly because it’s RWD), but it doesn’t have the fold-down utility of the TC.

  • avatar

    > The current generation of the van drives in a manner much smaller than it is, handling in a car-like
    > fashion that isn’t unpleasant but could use clearly use some more pep.

    I don’t want to call this a lie. Let’s just say I disagree with this. If you want a van that drives much smaller than it is, try the Sprinter. This Ford — it drives shockingly bad. It feels HUGE and unwieldy. I could not believe how bad it felt on my test drive. The interior is also not as comfortable as it seems. Overall, a very substandard “car.”

  • avatar

    Have always been intrigued by the Transit Connect, and now even mores. Although i wish Ford had offered this kind of flexibility in the Flex.

  • avatar

    The low floor would be great for loading the dogs when they go to Puppy Camp in the morning, but I will guaran-damn-tee that my wife would NEVER be seen in one of these. She’d rather pick up a 90 Lb labradoodle and hoist his butt into the CRV.

  • avatar

    It would be awfully tempting to grab a drivetrain from a wrecked Focus RS and swap it into one of these. 350 horsepower in a relatively lightweight package is awfully tempting.

    But we can’t even get the 2.0 turbo out of the Escape in this. Meanwhile, the full-size Transit gets a turbo V6 that runs 15s in the quarter mile.

    The diesel is an interesting proposition if it gets anywhere near its claimed 30 mpg.

  • avatar

    This car needs the C-Max Hybrid and Energi powertrains (and the C-Max’s level of refinement). That would make it the ultimate Uber-mobile for commercial drivers, and the ultimate green adventure wagon for people who want to camp in it or lock their bikes safely inside.

  • avatar

    I drive a TC at work and although it’s nice to drive compared to the full size vans I also drive, it’s pretty crude compared to my parent’s Mazda5. Even empty it takes time to get up to highway speed and the motor makes more noise and vibration doing it than I’ve come to expect in anything other than a truck. When I first saw them I immediately thought ‘minimalist DIY camper’ but now my ideas in that direction start with an old Toyota Previa with 4WD and a stick. I also see a lot of RHD micro vans with Daihatsu nameplates around these days, many apparently having 4WD and turbo powerplants. Haven’t driven one yet though…

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