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2012 Ford Transit Connect ReviewThe Good
Manners custom-tailored to crowded city streets, state-of-the-art business and tracking techno-options, a roomy cabin complemented by a generous cargo bay and some pretty fair mileage numbers help keep Ford’s 2012 Transit Connect a popular choice for efficient cargo toting.The Bad
Less than merely tepid acceleration, a paltry payload weight limit, no all-wheel-drive option and a racket-prone powerplant will remind everyone that the little 2012 Transit Connect cargo carrier is meant for the bottom line rather than Best In Show.
The CarGurus View
While those gas-guzzling full-size vans common to America’s highways have their place in the realm of heavy-duty cargo-toting options, Ford’s 2012 Transit Connect uses its maneuverability to go where few of the usual work-oriented behemoths dare to tread. Its cargo area is spacious enough for most medium-duty chores, while fuel consumption is minimized. If you’re not in a hurry and need the techno-gizmos to keep your business in the black, this scamp of a van (or wagon) will surely help boost your bottom line.
At a Glance
It doesn’t get anywhere in a hurry, and it doesn’t have the cargo capacity of most full-size cargo vans, but if it's value, utility, efficiency and maneuverability you’re looking for, the 2012 Ford Transit Connect small cargo van and passenger-oriented wagon trims fill a necessary niche. Inexpensive to own and to drive, this 2- or 5-passenger van/wagon offers a practical downsized alternative to the gas-eating, ponderous and costly full-size titans we’re used to seeing.
The latest Transit Connect edition comes in 4 trim levels, the base Cargo XL, the upper-end Cargo XLT, the passenger-friendly Wagon XLT and the even friendlier Wagon XLT Premium. Two-passenger Cargo versions are decidedly Spartan inside and out, while Wagon trims don’t exactly reach the level of posh, but do offer second-row bench seating for 5 and some added amenities. Cargo versions tote nearly 130 cubic feet of total cargo capacity, while the Wagon iterations boast that same 130 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, or 78.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats upright.
For 2012, this little van/wagon gets a standard anti-skid rollover sensor lineup-wide (what we mortals call stability control), and that concession comes only as a result of a government mandate. Otherwise, the Transit Connect stands pat from 2011.
Its compact dimensions, meantime, offer some sprightly moves through the crowded urban street scene, while a plethora of available work- and business-based electronics make this downsized hauler a business owner’s delight. Such available techno-goodies again include an Internet-ready in-dash computer with wireless keyboard and touchscreen-assisted navigation, Ford’s ballyhooed Crew Chief tracking technology and tool inventory tagging. All keep the cost of doing mobile business at manageable levels.
Niche-wise, Ford’s urban-ready van (or wagon) has its place, but its inadequacies should be noted. First off, the less-than-potent 2.0-liter 4-cylinder “power”-plant has enough to deal with in motivating the 2,600-pound Focus, thus potential buyers are invited to do the math when it’s tasked with powering the 3,470-pound Transit Connect. And tire kickers should also be advised that bulk may not be a problem, but a payload capacity of only 1,600 pounds might be.
In any case, for those who want even less of a footprint in their cargo van or pint-size passenger wagon, Chevy’s tiny HHR Panel has it, but utility suffers, while the Daimler Sprinter offers a whole lot more space, but for a whole lot more money. Dodge’s minivan-based C/V might be a viable alternative to the Transit Connect, and it comes with a bigger engine to boot. Then there are the more traditional alternatives, such as Nissan’s surprisingly competent NV and the practical Chevrolet Express with its available all-wheel-drive winter-beating capability.
Sporting a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder (I4) engine and an underwhelming standard 4-speed automatic transmission, the front-wheel-drive-only (FWD) 2012 Transit Connect finds peppy performance a forlorn hope. This tepid four-banger ekes out 136 hp at 6,300 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque at 4,750 rpm, which simply can’t make easy work of highways, hills and hefty loads. But, and this is a pretty big “but,” mileage is estimated at a comparatively budget-blossoming 21 mpg city/27 highway for Cargo vans, and 22/27 for Wagon editions.
All trims can, meanwhile, be delivered with a compressed natural gas/liquid propane (CNG/LP) engine prep package for cleaner and even more fuel-efficient work days.
Tests have the 2012 Transit Connect plodding from 0-60 in 12.6 seconds, which is about as slow as things get for the class, and this was with an empty cargo bay. Virtually all reviewers complain that acceleration, barely adequate from a stop, is woefully inadequate to passing and merging chores on the highway. When going uphill with a load on, drivers might want to pack a lunch, because it’s going to be a long trip. Around town, on the other hand, where hefty acceleration comes in handy only when in a race for that last open parking space, the Transit Connect, with only a little head start, fares a bit better. Reviewers also note that the 4-speed often hesitates on downshifts when laboring up hills, making an already frustrating situation even worse.
Finally, the noisy four-banger proves distracting for virtually all reviewers, with most unable to tell about road and wind noise since the engine racket obliterates all other noise. The solution, according to a number of reviews, is to turn the stereo up to full volume and sing along loudly.
Ride & Handling
Ford’s handy little 2012 Transit Connect sports a front independent suspension complemented by MacPherson front struts, a solid-axle rear end and stabilizer bars in front and rear. Meantime, all trims roll on 15-inch steel wheels mounting all-season tires.
The ride in this urban-oriented van is noted by most reviewers as surprisingly compliant for its class. Most bumps and cracks will be felt, but few will result in any disturbing harshness.
Handling is also praised by reviewers as almost nimble in comparison to most rivals. A low center of gravity bolsters a generally adequate steering balance that encourages plenty of feedback from the road, according to reviewers, and many compliment Ford’s pint-size cargo wagon on its highway stability, though all caution that gusty winds will be a challenge. Additionally, reviewers admire the Transit Connect’s spare and lofty profile as admirably suited to the urban scene, with a 39-foot turning radius contributing to its graceful ease in maneuvering tight lots and busy downtown streets.
Tests of this funky Ford found it coming to a stop from 60 mph in 135 feet, which reviewers claim to be among the best numbers in its class, thereby indicating no glitches with the brake system.
Cabin & Comfort
Ford’s 2012 Transit Connect lineup is not designed to overwhelm occupants with posh. The base Cargo Van XL, for instance, offers cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and front captain’s chairs. Telescoping tilt-wheel steering and air conditioning are complemented by an AM/FM stereo with 2 speakers and auxiliary iPod integration.
The stepped-up Cargo XLT trim adds a rear-window defroster and rear wipers, remote power door locks, heated power-adjustable outside mirrors and power windows, as well as cruise control and an MP3-capable single-CD player.
The people-toting Passenger Wagon XLT, meantime, throws in a 3-person rear bench seat with a split-folding seatback and a pair of additional speakers, while the top-shelf Passenger Wagon XLT Premium (aka Taxi) adds in swing-out rear quarter windows, unique exterior trim pieces and storage pockets in the rear passenger doors.
Where this Ford hauler stands out from the crowd is in its available work- and business-enhancing techno-tricks. The Crew Chief vehicle system means fleet vans will be monitored as to timely arrivals, while an optional in-dash computer with Internet capability, as well as wireless mouse and keyboard, is bolstered by a Garmin navigation suite and can be further enhanced with Bluetooth hands-free technology. Finally, the available Tool Link tool tracking and inventory system means less downtime trying to find the right tool, as well as fewer tools disappearing during the course of the day.
Additionally, Cargo Van XLT, Passenger Wagon XLT and Passenger Wagon XLT Premium trims each remain eligible for available remote engine start, carpeted floor mats and Ford’s SYNC infotainment interface. Fleet-destined trims, meantime, can be fitted out with optional 225-degree rear-opening cargo doors and parking sensors.
Reviewers note that controls are simple and well-placed, while gauges are large and easy to read. Reviewers also concede that the Transit Connect is a beast of burden and that Spartan is the name of the work-van game. Thus expect lots of low-rent plastics and few telegenic toys aboard this working stiff. Seats, though lightly padded, according to reviewers, nevertheless remain adequately bolstered for a long work day. Finally, most reviewers find the long, low cargo floor well-suited to easy loading and unloading, while cabin stowage is deemed better than adequate in a majority of reviews.
Notable standard safety features aboard the 2012 Transit Connect lineup include 4-wheel (front disc, rear drum) antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution, as well as traction control, and, new this year, stability control. Dual front side-mounted airbags again come standard in all 4 trim levels, as does a passive antitheft system, while both Passenger Wagon iterations carry standard front fog/driving lights. Additionally, all trims can be equipped with optional daytime running lights.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration gives this shifty van its next-to-worst score of 2 stars in overall safety, with 2 stars awarded for side-impact protection and a third-best 3 stars for front crashworthiness and rollover protection.
What Owners Think
By far the biggest complaint owners have with the 2012 Transit Connect is its less-than-lackluster acceleration. A few owners also complain that mileage is not as advertised, though frustration with fuel-economy figures can probably be attributed as much to a lack of refinement in driving habits as to problematic engineering and testing criteria. Finally, a number of owners find Ford’s city-friendly van/wagon roomy enough, but hardly ultra-comfortable for a long day of deliveries or job calls.
On the positive side, owners regard this nifty delivery vehicle as ideal for inner-city maneuvers, while Ford’s touted work-oriented techno-goodies garner a wealth of kudos. Bottom line, owners of the 2012 Transit Connect are looking for the biggest bang for their van or wagon dollar, and this value-laden hustler doesn’t disappoint.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.