2015 Ford Transit Connect Wagon Titanium full review and test drive

In the world of frugal 7-passenger people movers, there are few options outside of the standard minivan or midsize to large SUV. Buyers have long had to pay a premium at the expense of fuel economy and urban usability to be able to haul more than 4 others.

But for the family on a budget (of parking space and finance), Ford has a new offering that may be just right.

The 2015 Ford Transit Connect Wagon has seating for 7, two sliding rear doors, a rear lift gate, and a car-based platform. It is, by all definitions of the word, a minivan. But Ford has gone so far in their launch of the Transit Connect to call it the “unminivan,” even affixing a hashtag to the front of the term for all you social-media-savvy parents out there.

It’s a bold move to distance themselves from the vehicle that has long been the staple of the suburban American family, but after a weekend with our “race red” Connect, we’re inclined to agree with them

Built on Ford’s global C platform that underpins their small cars and crossovers like the Focus and Escape, the Transit Connect drives more like a sedan than an SUV, with a refreshingly responsive steering rack and a decent amount of feedback through the familiar Ford wheel.

Powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder routed to the front wheels, don’t expect the Transit Connect to get you up to highway speeds in a hurry, especially with a full payload. With 169-horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque, the aging four-pot has a decent amount of punch in the lower revs, but loses steam as it climbs up the tachometer. We can’t help but wish that a slightly more powerful version of the 1.6-liter EcoBoost four in the five-passenger model made it under the hood of the larger Connect, but in the world of people-hauling, power isn’t everything.

The 2.5-liter also falls behind the fuel economy of its boosted brethren, returning 20-mpg in the city and 28-mpg on the highway. Over a weekend and more than 500 miles with it, the Connect averaged about 24-mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.

The style-heavy dashboard of the Transit Connect is almost identical to the ones you'll find in the chassis-sharing Ford Focus and Escape.
The style-heavy dashboard of the Transit Connect is almost identical to the ones you’ll find in the chassis-sharing Ford Focus and Escape.

While I affectionately dubbed our bright red van the “Ford Bustang,” the Connect’s refreshingly lively driving dynamics is not what makes it truly unique. At a base price of only $26,710 for the long-wheelbase 7-passenger model, the Transit Connect Wagon is a refreshingly honest hauler that is low on frills but high on practicality.

Our Titanium model was fully-loaded, with a sticker price of $32,923, but for that relatively low sum you get 17-inch wheels, leather seats, the MyFordTouch infotainment system with navigation and a backup camera, and a massive panoramic sunroof that makes interior space feel almost endless.

Speaking of interior space, the Transit Connect is ripe with it. With 166 cubic feet of interior cargo space from its squared-off walls and sky-high ceilings, the Bustang has more than enough room to haul almost all of your possessions, as I found out in an attempt to move all of my belongings from Manhattan to Boston in one night. That’s more capacity than any minivan on sale today for a significant discount on base price.

If you plan on hauling a full house in the Transit Connect, it's best to make sure your passengers have fairly narrow shoulders, as seating is not exactly wide when it's 3 abreast in the middle.
If you plan on hauling a full house in the Transit Connect, it’s best to make sure your passengers have fairly narrow shoulders, as seating is not exactly wide when it’s 3 abreast in the middle.

The rear two rows of seats cleverly fold down to create a low, flat floor, and load in is surprisingly easy given the Transit Connect’s low ride height. In all, I was able to comfortably fit two small dressers, a desk, multiple large boxes, and three suitcases, as well as a myriad of other small items. There are even aircraft-style overhead bins above the sun visors in the front, and available overhead storage if you forgo the panoramic sunroof. The Titanium may be wearing a fancy suit, but it can’t hide its roots as an honest commercial van.

If it’s loads of technology and comfort you’re looking for, however, you may want to consider a traditional minivan. While Ford’s often-finicky infotainment system is more than up to a myriad of tasks, there is little else to speak of in terms of creature comforts. The Transit Connect lacks a true rear entertainment system and couch-worthy rear seats, as well as clever family-friendly features like Honda’s in-van vacuum or Toyota’s PA system, so keeping the kids entertained and firmly planted in their seats is better left to traditional methods like road trip games.

The real star of the Transit Connect Wagon is the immense 166 cubic feet of cargo space, which is easily usable thanks to fold-flat seats and a low entry angle.
The real star of the Transit Connect Wagon is the immense 166 cubic feet of cargo space, which is easily usable thanks to fold-flat seats and a low entry angle.
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  • The real star of the Transit Connect Wagon is the immense 166 cubic feet of cargo space, which is easily usable thanks to fold-flat seats and a low entry angle.
  • The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder under the hood of the long-wheelbase Connect leaves a bit to be desired in the power and efficiency departments. Here's hoping they put a more powerful version of the 1.6-liter EcoBoost in there.

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BRIAN LEON

Both front and rear seats are pretty firm, the front seat warmers barely work even at full blast, and there are hard plastics everywhere in the interior, but if you can get past those minor details, the Transit Connect will happily do anything you ask of it for a price well south of minivans and SUVs that can cost close to $50,000 fully-loaded.

The Transit Connect Wagon doesn’t have any true rivals in its segment, as the cargo-van-only Nissan NV200 and 5-passenger-maximum Ram ProMaster Cityboth fall short of the Connect’s capabilities, and traditional minivans are a step above in terms of features and price bracket. It seems Ford may be on to something with their #unminivan campaign after all.

With cargo space and practicality to boot, the Ford Transit Connect Wagon is the perfect option for urban-dwelling large families on a budget.BRIAN LEONWith cargo space and practicality to boot, the Ford Transit Connect Wagon is the perfect option for urban-dwelling large families on a budget.

While our Transit played the part of a workhorse for the weekend, I couldn’t help but feel almost sad to return such an honest and likeable van. On a budget, there are few vehicles that can match the capability and drivability of Ford’s microbus, and it makes a strong case as the ultimate vehicle for the urban-dwelling large family.

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