2014 Transit Connect van offers 30-mpg highway economy

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The 2014 Ford Transit Connect cargo van is restyled, available in two wheelbases and with two new engines.

The Ford Transit Connect (TC) arrived in the U.S. market in 2009 as a MY2010 small cargo van for urban areas. That original aim has not been forgotten with the showing of a broadened line of 2014 models on two wheelbases, coming in the fourth quarter of 2013.

First, at the Los Angeles Auto Show, we saw the new consumer line, a mini-minivan “wagon” and a not-so-mini van (www.sae.org/mags/aei/11621). (SAE Magazines also recently covered the 2014 Ford Transit commercial van, at www.sae.org/mags/aei/11653.) Now Ford is showing the 2014 cargo van, with a number of new features to improve its original market position. The TC cargo van is built on the same short and long wheelbases as the passenger minivans, derived from the Ford global C platform, also used by the Escape and Focus.

After a modest start (about 9000 sales in its first year), the TC cargo vans (and some passenger wagon/livery versions) have been selling at a rate of 35,000 units per year. Now that TC is part of a more complete line that includes the “minivan” wagon variants and in a showroom alongside a full-size van (the Transit), it should do even better.

The TC cargo van is a choice for specialized business use, particularly those who do small package delivery. It has the same 1600-lb (726-kg) payload as the previous model (33% greater than the minivan-wagon), despite the change from a leaf spring/solid rear axle to a coil spring/torsion beam design for better ride quality. Trailer sway control and a tow hitch are available for the cargo van, which has a 2000-lb (907-kg) tow capacity.

Body repair costs lowered

Ford sees real appeal in design characteristics that make the TC especially suitable for the “bump” operation in cities, where small but expensive-to-repair damage is a cost of doing business.

The headlamps are high-mounted and recessed from the fascia vs. the previous model in which they were at the sides of the grille. The hood line also is high, so a minor lower front-end collision might not cause the hood to buckle. The taillamps are two-piece vertical and divide at the upper door hinge, so if the lower section is damaged, only that piece need be replaced. The bumpers are multisection designs, also for reduced repair cost, and the side doors have available large protective trim pieces.

Fuel economy is a commercial priority, and with two new powertrains—a 2.5-L four-cylinder and a 1.6-L EcoBoost direct-injection turbocharged four—the cargo van is likely to deliver it, also thanks to electric power steering and a six-speed automatic (replacing the four-speed).

Performance is better, too. The 2.5-L is rated at 168 hp (125 kW) and 170 lb·ft (230 N·m), much greater than the 136 hp (101 kW) and 126 lb·ft (171 N·m) of the 2.0-L in the previous model. The 1.6-L is rated at 178 hp (133 kW) and 184 lb·ft (250 N·m), and it is the engine that will carry an EPA 30-mpg highway rating. EPA fuel economy numbers for the new line haven’t been announced; the previous model was rated at 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

A brief attempt to produce electric vehicle (EV) versions of the van was made by Azure Dynamics, and a small number was converted until the company went into bankruptcy in spring 2012. Ford has no official plans to restart the EV project, but it will be offering a CNG or LPG prep kit for the 2.5-L engine, for installation by Ford-certified specialists.

Business-oriented features

The cargo van will be available with choices for a variety of businesses. The driver’s side sliding rear door, for example, may be eliminated, so the interior can be fitted with a side row of storage cabinets and bins. The rear may have a tailgate or the side-hinged two doors that latch at the centerpoint. Both the rear side windows and side-hinged rear doors can come with glass or opaque panels, the latter a typical commercial design for those who wish to conceal contents and/or have external commercial art and lettering.

Ford Works Solutions Crew Chief, the telematics system that permits the driver to monitor operation of other vehicles in a fleet in real time, is an option. (Availability of the remainder of the system, including for the other vehicles, is “to come.”)

Such automotive features as an electrically heated windshield with heated washer jets, rearview camera, 6.5-in touch screen, and the SYNC and My Ford Touch infotainment systems, will be offered. Fold-down second-row seating also will be an option.

The TC, introduced in Europe in 2002, was imported from Turkey. The new models are being built in Spain.

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