Last month we showed you the fully revamped 2019 Ford Transit Connect Wagon, which was unveiled at the consumer-focused Chicago Auto Show. And although Ford hopes this refresh will increase sales of the windows-and-seats version of this vanlet to one in four Transit Connects, up until now the mix has been 85 percent cargo vans—enough to cover 45 percent of the small work van market. Apparently the important fleet buyers shopping for cargo vans don’t congregate in Chicago. Instead they head to Indianapolis, where the Transit Connect van just broke cover at the National Truck Equipment Association’s Work Truck Show.
Most of what’s new is shared with the wagon: two new engines, a 2.0-liter direct-injected flex-fuel four cylinder producing around 160 hp and 146 lb-ft and a new a 1.5-liter turbodiesel dubbed “EcoBlue,” which has yet to be rated but is expected to achieve 30 mpg highway fuel economy. There’s also a new 8F35 eight-speed automatic transmission, plus refreshes of the front and rear ends, the dash, and the rear suspension (geometry and new single-rate springs). Things that carry over from the 2018 Transit Connect van include the option of two wheelbases and two rear-door styles (180-degree-opening barn doors or a liftgate) and a 2,000-pound towing capacity. Fleet buyers can also still get last year’s 2.5-liter Duratec four prepped for propane or compressed natural gas conversions, which still mounts to the six-speed automatic.
We have learned a bit more about that new eight-speed automatic. It is based on the GM/Ford joint-venture nine-speed that’s currently in use in the Chevy Malibu and Equinox and some of their siblings but that has yet to appear in a Ford. The nine-speed version has a special dedicated clutch that only engages during fourth-gear operation. Removing the clutch plates, piston, housing, and related electronic and hydraulic controls for this one gear reduces mass, eliminates the parasitic drag those clutch plates generated in all gears except fourth, and hence improves overall efficiency. Removing an intermediate gear like this means the overall gear ratio spread is the same, and we’re assured the slightly larger jump from third to the new fourth gear will not be noticeable. The new transaxle supports standard auto stop/start on both new engines.
Cargo vans adopt the same unacknowledged-bastard-son-of-Aston-Martin face that’s been proliferating among all Fords, though here the lower half of the front fascia comes in sensible, scuffable black plastic. Behind that new face are some structural reinforcements to help the van better survive small-overlap crashes. Ford fleet marketing manager Tim Stoehr noted that with 77 percent of adults owning a smartphone today, connectivity is more important than ever—especially for fleet managers who can leverage that technology for improved productivity. So a 4G LTE modem capable of connecting 10 devices to the internet is now standard, as are a wireless device charger and two USB ports.
Stoehr claims insurance rates should drop due to a suite of new driver-assist features, which is headlined by standard forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking with dynamic braking support. These features and side-wind mitigation are all standard. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane keep assist are also available. Finally, standard Ford MyKey technologies allow fleet managers to preset warnings, set speed limits, and restrict audio volume.
Front seat foam material is changed to improve comfort, and recycling buffs will be pleased to learn that these days the back seats and rear side glass panels that get installed and later removed from every Valencia, Spain-built Transit Connect van (to beat the “chicken tax”) are now returned for reuse (they were once recycled). Long-wheelbase versions can accommodate an impressive 149 cubic feet of cargo with the front passenger seat folded down, all of which is easily accessed via the low load floor (2 feet above the ground).
The new Transit Connect van should hit dealerships about the same time as the wagons, during the third quarter of 2018 as a 2019 model, with only a modest price increase from 2018 levels ($24,240 to $26,765).