Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Car: 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

Ford is keen for you not to call its next-generation, Transit Connect wagon a van or—goodness, no!—a minivan. That’s because the company believes this people hauler, which will be built in Valencia, Spain, and goes on sale in the U.S. in late 2013, occupies a “white space” where no other vehicular transport exists. And we don’t necessarily disagree, in a sense. This is because with the passenger-focused Transit Connect wagon, Ford has created the American consumer market’s only shuttle van. (Its debut follows the unveil of the European-market model in September.)

And so shuttle vans aren’t just for off-site airport parking lots and people with families large enough to warrant their own reality show anymore. The Transit Connect carries the same sort of commercial-vehicle vibe as did the big, stern-looking Volkswagen Vanagon/Eurovan. Ford believes this nonminivan minivan—it will be offered in five-seat form with a Focus-sized 104.8-inch wheelbase and a seven-seat version that rides on a Chrysler 300–like 120.6-inch wheelbase—is the right fit for those who believe minivans have become too large, expensive, and inefficient. Other carmakers certainly have gone down a similar road (Honda with the Element and Mazda with the 5) without finding lasting success.

The Transit Connect wagon, at least in seven-seat form, rides on a wheelbase longer than those of the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Nissan Quest. But that version is about 10 inches less lengthy overall and about six inches narrower than those others. Ford isn’t talking about its van’s curb weight, at least not so much as to announce a figure.

The Transit Connect will come with front-wheel drive and a choice of two four-cylinder engines: a 2.5-liter and a turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter. Ford is making no specific power claims for either one, but those engines make 168 hp and 178 hp in the Escape crossover. Both will be bolted to a six-speed automatic, as they are in the Escape. Fuel economy might exceed 30 mpg on the highway with the turbo engine, but the EPA hasn’t rated it yet. Also like the Escape, the Transit Connect wagon is built on the so-called C1 platform that underpins the excellent Focus, although for vanning duty, the independent rear suspension is swapped for a twist-beam setup, and the rear disc brakes are replaced by drums.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

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