The little brother: A reimagined not-quite-minivan
Editor's note: A photo of the Transit commercial van was mistakenly published with an earlier version of this story.
Call it a stealth minivan. Or don't call it a minivan at all.
"We're actually not calling it a minivan," says Minyang Jiang, Ford brand manager of the Transit, Transit Connect and E series. "The Wagon is an alternative to the traditional people mover. There are going to be minivan customers who love their minivan. The Transit Connect Wagon is for customers who don't really need the space of a full-sized minivan."
Whatever you call the Transit Connect Wagon, it sure looks like a minivan. It has sliding rear doors, fold-down seats, a raked front windshield and a minivan-style rear liftgate.
Ford hopes the Transit Connect Wagon will give shoppers a smaller, less expensive alternative to minivans such as the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler's minivan siblings, the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan.
Scott: High hopes for Wagon
Doug Scott, Ford truck marketing manager, says Ford is hoping to increase sales of the passenger version of the Transit Connect. Ford offers the vehicle, which is made in Valencia, Spain, in both people mover and cargo van versions. In the previous generation, the cargo van, which has no side windows, accounted for 80 percent of sales, Scott said.
With the redesigned second-generation 2014 model, Scott expects a big shift in those percentages. He projects the Wagon will account for 60 percent of Transit Connect sales.
"We were able to get the unique needs of the U.S. customer" into the Wagon's design right from the start this time around, making the vehicle more appealing here, said Scott. The previous generation Transit Connect was designed in Europe for European customers and first imported into North America in 2010, about eight years into its product cycle.
The key vehicle is a new high-end, seven seat, long-wheelbase Titanium version that stickers for $34,320 including shipping.
Ford has not offered a minivan since the slow-selling Freestar went away after 2007.
The Transit Connect Wagon will be offered in long- and short-wheelbase versions. The short wheelbase has five seats and the long wheelbase seven. The Transit Connect is front-wheel drive.
The majority of the Wagon sales -- about 60 percent -- will be to commercial fleets such as taxis and airport shuttles, says Scott.
Both the Transit Connect Wagon and Transit Connect Van are offered with a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. For $795, customers can get a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine.
Compared with a mainstream minivan such as the Honda Odyssey, the Transit Connect long-wheelbase Wagon is narrower (72.2 inches, compared with 79.2), lighter (3,979 pounds, compared with 4,581) and smaller on the inside (19.8 cubic feet behind the third row, compared with 38.4), reflecting its European origins.
Prices for the Transit Connect Wagon start at $22,995, including shipping, for a short-wheelbase XL version.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.