Ford Motor Co. is making major changes to its Transit Connect Wagon to give the 2019 version better fuel efficiency, more active safety technology and a pleasant facelift.
The automaker debuted the refreshed small van at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday. It hopes the new features will resonate with what Ford calls “active Boomers.”
The 2019 Transit Connect Wagon is easier get in and out of and offers flexible seating and cargo space.
The updated van has two new engine choices, including a 2-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. It is the same engine used in the Focus sedan. A fuel-saving stop-start feature comes standard with that engine.
The van will also come with a class-exclusive 1.5-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 159 pound-feet of torque. Ford did not disclose horsepower ratings, but the diesel engine is already in use in the European-market EcoSport small crossover. When converted to U.S. metrics, it is about 94 horsepower.
Ford is targeting a minimum Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy rating of 30 mpg for the diesel. No fuel ratings were provided for the gas engine. Both engines are mated to a wide-ratio 8-speed automatic transmission, which allows the engine to operate in a more efficient speed range.
The 2018 model’s standard 169-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder will continue for use in fleets and compressed natural-gas or propane applications. It will also get the new 8-speed transmission.
Both gas-engine models will have a 1610-pound payload rating, according to the company.
The new Transit Connect Wagon adds an attractive Focus or Fusion-like nose, and a more modern-looking dashboard with a free-standing infotainment 4.25-inch touch screen. A 6.5-inch screen is available.
Ford is offering the van in three trim levels – the XL, XLT and Titanium. There are two wheelbase options to accommodate five or seven passengers, and a flexible interior can easily convert to haul cargo. There are dual sliding doors and available roof rails to secure and carry equipment for extracurricular activities like surfing or biking.
Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices is standard. The automaker’s SYNC voice-command and SYNC 3 with Ford+Alexa technology is available. Wireless charging is available on the XLT and Titanium.
The big news on the safety front is standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Adaptive cruise control, which now works down to a speed of 12 mph, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring and lane-keeping assist systems are also available.
Ford wants the refreshed Transit Connect Wagon to revive sales of the model, which fell 20 percent last year. It is still the leader in the small van segment, which overall, declined 9.5 percent. The Transit Connect Wagon’s 2017 sales of 34,470 units were nearly double the next runner up, the Nissan NV200.
“The small van segment was down last year due to cheap gas and big incentives on larger vans,” said Tim Stoehr, Ford’s commercial fleet marketing manager.
Though a rising economy bodes well for truck sales in general “anticipation of the details of the recently passed tax bill may have been a factor [in lost sales],” said Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst for Navigant Research.
The 2019 Ford Transit Connect Wagon goes on sale later this year.