Ford Motor Co. will be bringing back the four-cylinder "mini" minivan in the form of a 2014 edition of the Transit Connect (TC), the Turkish-built vehicle it introduced as a commercial delivery van just over two years ago. Although most TCs were sold as delivery vans, a significant, visible number of them also were marketed as people movers including for livery/taxi service. For that purpose, the leaf spring/solid rear axle was the source of ride quality complaints, an issue the two new models should solve with a coil spring/torsion beam setup.
The new TC line, displayed at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, will be built at a Ford plant in Spain and arrive in the U.S. market in the latter part of next year. It consists of two models, a short-wheelbase—104.6 in (2657 mm)—version and 173.9 in (4417) overall length and a long-wheelbase—120.6 in (3063 mm)—model with an overall length of just 189.7 in (4818 mm).
The short one is a two-seat-row five-passenger model and in one configuration is projected to carry a 30-mpg EPA highway rating. The long version is a three-row model for up to seven people (the first and third rows are two-seaters). When the new TCs make their debut, U.S. sales of the current model, on a 114.6-in (2911-mm) wheelbase with an overall length of 180.6 in (4587 mm), will be discontinued. This edition actually is a long-wheelbase version of the TCs in the European lineup.
The new TCs are sized very close to the original (1984) Chrysler minivans, which were built on a 112.1-in (2847-mm) wheelbase and were 175.5 in (4458 mm) long overall.
The current Chrysler not-so-mini minivans are 202.8 in (5151 mm) long overall on a 121.2-in (3078-mm) wheelbase. So even the long-wheelbase TC model is over 13 in (330 mm) shorter.
The new TCs will be a lot more potent than those original Chrysler minivans, which were (under) powered by the 2.2-L four also used in the “K” cars. The 2.2-L was rated at a sluggish 96 hp (72 kW) and 119 lb·ft (161 N·m) with the two-barrel Holley carburetor. A 2.6-L Mitsubishi four-cylinder rated at 104 hp (78 kW), 142 lb·ft (193 N·m) was a very slightly more energetic option. Eventually, Chrysler introduced long-wheelbase versions powered by V6 engines and dropped the shorties.
Both new TC models will be powered by the 2.5-L and 1.6-L EcoBoost four-cylinder engines used in the Escape, replacing the original TC powerplant, a 2.0-L four rated at 136 hp (101 kW) and 128 lb·ft (174 N·m).
The 2.5-L, rated at 168 hp (125 kW) and 170 lb·ft (231 N·m), is the base engine. The 1.6-L direct-injection EcoBoost is optional and is rated at up to 178 hp (133 kW), 184 lb·ft (250 N·m), and will be the one to carry the 30-mpg highway rating. This compares with the 27 mpg highway rating of the 2.0-L.
The 2014 model engines will be paired with the corporate 6F35 six-speed automatic, replacing the four-speed of the previous TC. The new TCs maximum payload will be lower than the 1600 lb (726 kg) of the current, leaf-spring/solid rear axle model. At this time Ford only is saying it will be “over 1200 lb (544 kg).” Second- and third-row seats are the fold-flat type.
Although the vertical-split symmetrical rear doors of the original TC will continue to be available, Ford also will offer a conventional liftgate with a single window that provides improved rear visibility. And there’s a car-like interior, unlike the industrial-look cabin of the Turkish commercial van-based passenger wagon. The new TC line will include commercial variants, but the people movers are expected by Ford to be the top sellers.