2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect. Click image to enlarge

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Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

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2012 Ford Transit Connect

Sometimes a vehicle comes to market and you think, “Wow, that just makes sense.” That was my feeling upon receiving the 2012 Ford Transit Connect Wagon. Here it is; the perfect vehicle for a small business owner with a family. It features seating for five and cargo capacity through the roof (literally) in a nice, relatively small, efficient package.

The darling of European delivery services for years, the Transit Connect finally made its way over to our shores in 2011. Now in its second year on the market, this van offers a unique solution to small business owners in Canada. It is smaller than a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Nissan NV, it is less truck-ish than a Chevrolet Express or Ford E-Series, yet it is still a no-compromises, high-roof commercial van unlike the Ram Cargo Van or discontinued Chevrolet HHR Panel.

Based on a modified 2000–2011 Ford Focus platform, the Transit Connect is a front-wheel-drive compact cargo van available in two-seat (Cargo) or five-seat (Wagon) configurations. For easy access to the cargo area, the van features two sliding side doors and double barn doors on the rear. The side doors, rear quarter panels, and rear doors can be had with either windows or metal panels. In the USA, there is a 25 percent tariff on imported light trucks, so to avoid this tax Ford officially imports all of its Transit Connect vans as “passenger vehicles”. This means every North American Transit Connect is sent over from Turkey with rear windows, rear seats and rear seatbelts attached. If the vehicle is to be sold as a Wagon model, it is left alone. If it is to be sold as a Cargo, it is modified in Baltimore where the rear windows are replaced with metal panels and the rear seats are removed. Strangely, the no-modifications-required Wagon version of the Transit Connect actually has a higher MSRP than the reworked Cargo version.

2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect. Click image to enlarge

I received the Wagon XLT edition for review. Since it was a five-seater, my test van had side and rear windows, but lacked the rear quarter-panel windows available on the Wagon XLT Premium trim. The Wagon XLT comes standard with a tilt steering wheel, power front windows, CD player, overhead front storage bins, four-speaker stereo and a 60/40 split bench with three individual contoured seats. Additional options added to my test van included a rear-view camera, all-weather floor mats, block heater, heated windshield defroster, reverse parking aid, and mud flaps, which brought the van to an as-tested price of $29,889.

The Transit Connect looks the part of a European vehicle and I had more than one passerby comment on its sleek Euro looks. At 2,014 mm tall, the Transit Connect is very tall for its narrow track and short wheelbase. So tall, in fact, that I drove into a parking garage ceiling within 30 minutes of picking it up from Ford. Blame a bad metric to imperial conversion on my part that left me roughly 2 inches “short” on ceiling clearance. But when life tosses me lemons, I make lemonade; the Transit Connect passes the slow speed roof crumple test with flying colours – no dents received and only one minor major scraping of the roof-mounted third brake light.

This height does lead to an impressive amount of cargo capacity. With a low 587-mm load-floor height, the Transit Connect is capable of holding 2,220 L of cargo with the rear seats up, 3,361 L with the rear seats folded down, or a massive 3,670 L with the rear seats removed. Inside there is 1,364 mm of cargo height, which feels immense from the driver’s seat. For the first time in my memory I was able to reach my lanky arms upward and not touch the ceiling. If House of Pain came on the radio and I want to throw my arms up in the air like I just don’t care, well, I can.

2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect. Click image to enlarge

In the back, I found the rear seats were too close to the front seats and legroom suffered as a result. This being a work truck, it makes sense to design it this way, as passenger comfort should come second to cargo-carrying capacity in this primarily commercial-use vehicle. The interior features a very simple and utilitarian feel throughout and there is no mistaking that this van is all business. A hard, flat rubber floor runs the length of the vehicle and is washable for easy clean up. The front seats are comfortable and you sit upright in the airy cabin. Considering how hollow the vehicle is, it is not too loud inside, either, which was a pleasant surprise.

All versions of the 2012 Transit Connect come with 205/65R15 tires mounted to steel wheels with plastic covers. In case your travels take you to the seventh level of hell, Ford has you covered. No one will tamper with your fuel tank or engine since the gas cap and hood release can be opened up only with the ignition key. The hood requires a back and forth motion that pops the hood and then unlocks the hood release.

Underneath the locked hood resides a 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 136 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. Although this may sound like old tech (which it is), it helps keep the price down at an entry-level MSRP of $25,799. The engine has decent power and can move the 1,589-kg van with ease. Around town you wouldn’t be left wanting more “oomph” from the engine, especially if the cargo hold contains fragile cargo inclined to slide around under minimal G-forces. On the highway though, physics rears its ugly head. Even on the most moderate of freeway inclines the engine needs to downshift to maintain triple digit speeds, and then holds a steady 4,000 or so rpm until the terrain levels out again.

2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect
2012 Ford Transit Connect. Click image to enlarge

Surely this did nothing for my observed fuel mileage of 10.5 L/100 km, which is pretty good for a gasoline powered commercial vehicle, but nowhere near the fantasy-based Natural Resources Canada estimates of 9.6 L/100 km city and 7.4 L/100 km highway. Part of the reason the engine needs to downshift early and often has to do with the low engine speed when cruising. At 100 km/h the four-banger is lazily humming along at 2,350 rpm and only reaches 2,800 rpm by 120 km/h. When the engine does spring to life, though, it is loud but makes a pleasant, almost sporty noise.

A major concern for potential Transit Connect owners would be how it performs near its weight limit, having a mere 138 hp to play with. I hauled roughly 275 kg of stones in the back of the Transit Connect, which is just over 1/3 of its 727-kg payload limit. The Ford was still as poised with the added weight and not that noticeably slower both around town and on the highway.

The fact that the Transit Connect is based on a compact car shines through in its handling. Overall, it handles surprisingly well and can be pushed far harder into a corner than you would ever want to if it was full of tools or goods (or even people). Although tall and skinny, this van is not that susceptible to high crosswinds. I drove it on two very windy days and although it would shake back and forth at times, it would never try to make unsolicited spontaneous lane changes.

With all of these benefits, could someone use the Transit Connect as a family car in lieu of a normal minivan, mini-minivan, or crossover? Most likely, no. At least not until these units begin to show up as killer used vehicle deals. However, if you have a small business, are a tradesperson or a delivery driver and have a family, this van could be right for you. Without the rear seats, the Transit Connect is a serious work vehicle. Throw in the rear seats on Friday and you have a family hauler ready for a weekend getaway. Plus, if the dog gets sick it is only a power washer away from being clean again.

Pricing: 2012 Ford Transit Connect XLT Wagon
  • Base price: $28,499
  • Options: $1,260 (Rear-view camera ($510), all-weather floor mats ($100), Engine Block Heater ($100), heated windshield defroster ($200), reverse park aid ($250), splash guards ($100))
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,500
  • Price as tested: $31,359

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Ford Transit Connect

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    Crash test results
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  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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