Ford entered a white space when it first brought the Transit Connect – a compact front-wheel-drive cargo van – to North America in 2010.
The little hauler carved out for itself a small but useful niche, which Ford opened up further with the 2014 redesign, adding a choice of two wheelbase lengths, available on both the cargo van and a seven-seat wagon version (though only the long versions were offered in Canada).
Until now, the wagon has largely played second fiddle to the van, but Ford is looking to change that with the 2019 refresh. Perhaps hoping to capitalize on the buzz around VW's long-rumoured revival of the Microbus, Ford is pitching the 2019 Transit Connect Wagon as a versatile and economical alternative to expensive minivans.
"Vans are making a comeback," says Transit Connect assistant brand manager Julie Vangel. The Ford "can power your side business while still being practical for your free time and family."
Further boosting its potential appeal to VW devotees, the Ford will offer an option that VW no longer does – a diesel engine. The 1.5-litre turbo diesel will be an option to a standard 2.0-litre gas engine, both hitched to a new eight-speed automatic transmission (a 2.5-litre gas engine with six-speed transmission is the only powertrain on the current model.)
Also billed as one of the most affordable seven-seaters, the Wagon LWB is close in size to the original early-80s Chrysler minivans – and 25 to 30 centimetres shorter than the typical minivan of today. And yet, Ford claims, it has more cargo room behind the first-row seats than the Chevrolet Tahoe, a full-size SUV.
Another attraction for older drivers: "It has a higher seating position, and it's very easy to get in and out of," says Ford Truck communications manager Dawn McKenzie.
Ford expects the Wagon to attract boomers who want the utility without the bells and whistles, like rear-seat DVD players, offered on minivans and SUVs. But the Ford will be rich in safety technology, with standard automatic emergency braking, plus available adaptive cruise, blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, and lane-keeping assist.
Also standard will be a 4G-LTE modem, with wireless phone charging and a 6.5-inch touch screen both optional.
For now, Ford is officially unwrapping only the 2019 Wagon, but it's safe to assume both new powertrains and other updates will also be offered on the cargo van that will debut next month.