Some of my counterparts believe this microvan was the sleeper of the LA Auto Show. Although the Connect only arrived in the U.S. market in 2009, it is now a 10-year-old vehicle that was designed to be Spartan and utilitarian. Now, Ford is reimagining this new generation to serve dual purposes as a commercial and a passenger vehicle.
On the commercial end, the Transit Connect will continue to offer an appealing choice to small business that don't need a pickup truck or full-sized van. The smaller size has its benefits for some customers, as does the lower operating costs compared to a large V6- or V8-powered truck. The passenger version will be offered in two lengths, accommodating five or seven passengers.
While the Connect has many competitors in Europe and elsewhere, in North America it's in a class of its own. Now sharing the Focus, C-Max, and Escape platform, the Connect has a modern cabin that facilitates all the latest in safety and connectivity. The interior offers an enormous amount of room, quite impressive given the small footprint. The square body maximizes spaciousness and even the third-row seat in the elongated version is habitable by a six-footer. The extremely versatile interior converts from a people mover to a cargo hauler with seats that easily flip and fold flat and a passenger seat that also folds flat for very long items. Upscale versions will feature an oversized sunroof and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The standard engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the optional engine is a 1.6-liter turbo, same as that found in the Escape and Fusion. With the latter engine the Connect may achieve 30 mpg on the highway. Pricing will span the low $20,000s and reach to the high $20,000s, depending on version and equipment level. It goes on sale in the fall of 2013.
All new Connects are built in Spain and will ship to the United States classified as wagons. The panel van commercial version loses its windows at the port in favor of sheetmetal panels. This peculiar arrangement is done to avoid the so-called "chicken tax"—a tax levied on any imported van or truck that dates back to the 1960s.
It remains to be seen if potential family customers will overlook the commercial vehicle (or daresay minivan) trappings of sliding doors and square styling and see it for what it is: a sensible, affordable vehicle that promises the most room for the money.
See our complete 2012 LA Auto Show coverage.