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Monday, September 15, 2014

Hot Wheels and Matchbox Ford Transit Connect

It wasn't until 2001 when Hot Wheels finally created their own 1:1 vehicle before the 1:64 version was created; that car was the Honda Civic Si.  Since then Hot Wheels has made several versions of modern vehicles customized the Hot Wheels way, and then presented to the SEMA show in Las Vegas.  Recently the newest from last year's show is the 2014 Ford Transit Connect, a vehicle that was also made as a miniature in 1:64, complete with a trailer, even though at first Hot Wheels officials denounce that this miniature was going into production.  Turns out they lied!

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A van for the city

In 2002 Ford replaced the Escort and Fiesta-based Courier with the Transit Connect, a smaller version of the Euro-only Transit van designed for companies who want the room of a larger van, but don't need the size.  The Transit has squared-up styling that eventually made its way into the next-generation Ford Transit and 2006 U.S. Fusion mid-size sedan.  The body is square and bare, showing exposed hinges and magnets, while adopting the new tall-roof look that was starting to catch on other Euro vans like the Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.  The interior was bare-bones, but featured a dash similar to other Ford car-based vehicles.  The powertrain is a 2.0L DOHC I-4 that produces 110 hp. through a 4-speed automatic for US models, while Euro models got the turbodiesel and manual transmission options.  Performance is barely adequate or fun.  The Transit Connect arrived to the U.S. in 2010; however since it was built in Turkey Ford needed to avoid the chicken tax, so all models were shipped as wagon's, then sent to the U.S. where the rear seats are deleted and the rear glass windows replaced with metal panels to create the Panel version.

In 2014 the next-generation Transit Connect appeared with much smoother and stylish bodywork influenced by the current Focus and Fiesta.  Even the tall-roof versions are hard to distinguish from the low-roof version.  Smoother front bumper; larger headlights, and new taillights that look like something out of the Volvo parts bin.  Also interesting to note is the lack of any exposed hinges or magnets compared to the prior generation.  A new liftgate is an option, along with a wagon version that is now more competitive with the minivan segment.  The interior features the same car-like dash, now based on the Focus layout, and content and materials are higher-quality, with a roomier interior layout.  There is now two engines to the Transit Connect, the same 2.0L I-4 and the new 1.6L DOHC EcoBoost turbo I-4 producing about 140 hp and more torque than the 2.0L I-4, both mated to a new 6-speed automatic.  To sum up in words, the new Transit Connect is more stylish than the utilitarian-looking previous-generation.

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Matchbox gets a taxi...

The first version for Mattel was the Matchbox version, though they had to be careful in order to not blend in with the 2006 Transit panel van.  With that in mind, the Transit Connect is a passenger wagon converted into a Taxi trim.  The details on the body are nicely done, the wheelwell trim and front lower bumper have a separate plastic piece, and the decals on the side are easy-to-read.  The interior is nicely done, but the rear seat sits too high and the rear quarter windows are part of the body but blacked-out for the wagon look; in turn, these covered windows hide the rivet post where the third-seat would normally reside.  The looks are not sporty for some, and so far this Taxi has remained a Taxi despite opportunities to turn this van into a commercial canvas.

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...Hot Wheels gets the cool panel.

Meanwhile over at Hot Wheels they get the stylish, new 2014 model outfitted in the panel van look in blue with orange stripe, blacked-out 5-sp. wheels with orange wheel lip, and Hot Wheels logos on the rear panel windows.  The front has the large headlights, now joined by a twin-bulge hood with vents, and a large front grille with the type of bars normally seen on the Ford Truck line.  The wheelwells are flared, the exhaust exit out to the sides, and there's some sharp points at the rear that I have no clue what they do or represent?  The back window is part of the interior piece, yet nicely fits into the stock look, though I would like to see the taillights detailed since they barely stand out in the craziness of this custom van.  The interior is nicely done with the proper and in-depth details of the stock Transit Connect van dashboard and seats; behind that is nothing to see with another hidden middle rivet post.  On the actual van, the rear sliding doors raise up in gullwing fashion, showing off two tablets and a large TV screen in the middle.  More tablets can be found by opening the rear panel doors.  What's in the cargo area I don't know, but I guess either an orange Hot Wheels track layout or cases of Hot Wheels ready to be delivered.

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Out of these two, I'd prefer the cool panel look of the Hot Wheels version over the stock, but ordinary Taxi version from Matchbox.

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