A “We Let the Dog Decide” Comparison Test Thriller Starring Roxy Hamel
While searching for the best cargo van for her other side job as a consultant for the FBI, in which she has become well known for following creepy serial killers down into their dark basements, our very own canine car reviewer Roxy Starling knew exactly what she needed. She was on the market for a modestly sized, fuel efficient, easy to clean and extremely utilitarian mobile investigation unit from which she could do her work. And maybe manage to store some bodies in it should that be necessary.
Normal people as well as canines will find both the 2015 Ford Transit Connect in cargo work form like our tester and the 2015 Nissan NV200 (which only comes that way) handy for hauling things like lumber, tools, instruments and amps for a traveling band with both vehicles offering tons of cargo and dead body room. The Nissan landed at over 122 cubic feet behind the driver and passenger seats with our Ford offering 128 cubic feet. Both of these models had no rear seats and only the Ford is really available in a fully passenger carrying variant with seven full seats and windows all around.
Oh yeah, did we mention the semi-creepy fact that windows are not standard fare on these models? We suppose that makes sense for a cargo van but on more than one occasion in the evening we slid open the cargo doors and used the small flashlight on our keychain to make sure no one like the infamous Buffalo Bill had snuck in back there with gift lotions for us in a basket. You see, Roxy’s name before her current owner James rescued her was indeed “Precious” if you follow our meaning. But she doesn’t like to think about that now.
As Roxy is a dog, she was impressed by the Ford Transit cargo’s soft padded cargo floor with very large hooks bolted into the floor that could easily be used by pet owners to secure their dogs in pet harnesses for rides in the van to the groomers. And the FBI agent in Roxy was quite taken by the rather gratuitously bright interior light mounted on the right rear interior panel of the van that could easily be used for blinding and interrogating suspects. Most customers will probably just like how bright it makes the interior, however.
Given that both the 2015 Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van and 2015 Nissan NV200 seemed pretty equally capable to serve all of her needs for cargo with the exception of the Ford trumping the NV with its handy and car-like optional extras, Ms. Roxy Starling decided to go see an expert to uncover all of the facts she needed to solve this cargo van comparison test. Perhaps the most insane automotive expert on the planet. One Dr. James “Hamel” Lecter.
Thanks to the generosity of both Ford and Nissan, Roxy was able to get both vans out to the Asylum for the Journalistically Insane where many auto reviewers currently reside and continue to write. In fact, automakers built and funded the facility to house the lunatics who choose this profession and are kind enough to bring testers to the grounds which no journalist has ever escaped from. There are no fences, just a billboard off to the side of the only road leading out that reads, “Did you check you Spellcheck your last article?” Everyone just turns around.
Chapter One: The 2015 Nissan NV200
Dr. James “Hamel” Lecter was already standing outside of the asylum waiting for Roxy as she drove up (yes, for the 10th time the dog can drive, it’s not like a lunatic wrote this) with his face as usual totally expressionless, his arms formally planted at sides and his voice which welcomed Ms. Starling barely audible. Then he got into the van and his voice got extremely loud, he began to talk with his hands and his facial expressions were made up of non-stop eye rolling and cocking of the eyebrows. Apparently one of the charges against Dr. “Hamel” Lecter during his trial was (besides eating a few people) that he had too much personality. He later ate the jury that convicted him of that offense but we won’t get into that story now.
At first the 2015 Nissan NV200 overwhelmed Dr. James “Hamel” Lecter’s senses as his allergy to vinyl which in this particular work vehicle has the consistency of your Grandma’s old plastic couch covers. It caused him to break out in hives. Then the smell, as Roxy was a dog with fur and was sopping wet from the rain, the interior of the Nissan smelled much like a ranch or a farm. Maybe even a farm where they raise and slaughter spring lambs.
He remembered he still needed to finish that conversation with Ms. Roxy Starling later but might not want to say she smelled like a ranch. The endless interior darkness was only slightly lessened thanks to the optional $190 rear door glass and the $50 passenger sliding door glass(but only on one side), Those things also are helpful to have when backing up if you are trying to NOT run anyone over. It might be perfect if you are looking to knock someone who wears a size 18 unconscious by backing over them ever so slightly but otherwise it would just annoy most anyone else.
Detective Roxy Starling loved the affordability of the 2015 Nissan NV200 (well equipped with all the basics plus navigation, back-up cam and Bluetooth) for around $24,000) but Dr. Lecter reminded her that clearly the van was built down to a price with very few options available causing Ms. Roxy Starling to notice the Nissan had no vanity mirrors in the near uselessly small sunvisors. The next few hours of their drive they both sat in squinting silence as the sun went down. Things were not looking so good for this little Nissan. Just like that poor girl Roxy/Precious helped to rescue that well under a certain Buffalo William’s humbly creepy home.
Chapter Two: 2015 Ford Transit Connect
First off, even while wearing his straight jacket Dr. “Hamel” Lecter could easily tell that the 2015 Ford Transit Connect van is a much more engagingly surefooted vehicle to drive. The 2.5 liter Duratec 4-cylinder standard on our tester (a more powerful 1.6 liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder is available optionally) felt plenty powerful with its 169 horsepower/171 lb. feet of torque thanks to a slick shifting six-speed automatic. Our tester also featured a $395 tow package which allows this little van to pull a trailer up to 2,000 pounds.
Around corners, the steering in the Transit van was also rather playful and communicative or in other words the exact opposite of the Nissan’s steering calibration which felt as if you were always turning the wheels through three feet of Play-Doh that you somehow were at that moment driving through. And Ms. Roxy Starling highly doubted that ever happened during their test drive and we remind you her investigative skills were honed by the FBI. The same FBI that taught her to follow serial killers into dark, scary basements.
Now let’s just get to the facts here and start by having Ms. Roxy Starling do her job. Well, one thing she noticed while riding in her safety harness on a low speed drive was how much more secure she felt in the back of the Ford van. The Transit Connect had tie down D-Rings that appeared ready to withstand the impact from bullets coming from an automatic weapon. If there is a nuclear holocaust, the D-rings and secure hooks in the Ford will survive along with Cockroaches. And Cher, of course. The Nissan’s securing hooks felt cheap much like the rest of its interior.
One thing the Nissan did do was boast an as tested sticker of about $24,000 but then you make do with a less powerful 2.0 liter 139 horsepower/131 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder that is less fuel efficient than either Ford motor. This is probably due to the fact that the obnoxiously noisy CVT automatic in the NV200 keeps the engine at redline pretty much non-stop thereby negatively impacting efficiency.
Simply put, the 2015 Nissan NV200 felt like a torture chamber to Dr. “Hamel” Lechter even when he was just riding in it as a passenger so it is suspected he may have done something to the representative from the brand who came to retrieve it as all anyone ever found was some spilled beans and a glass of chianti where the van once sat. “Perhaps they both just had a nice picnic together” was Ms. Roxy Starling’s summation in her report. She may be a decent canine car reviewer but we never said anything about her skill as an FBI agent. Or Lamb rescuer.
Our test 2015 Ford Transit Connect stickered closer to $28,000 but had front and rear obstacle sensors, rear glass that made it ten times easier to see out, power heated side mirrors, a quick defrost windshield, the Crew Chief system which allows fleet owners to make sure work is getting done, a huge overhead storage shelf built in, the tow package, a far superior in-dash navigation system, the $70 halogen indoor interrogation lamp as well as an impressive AM/FM/CD/Sync/MyFordTouch infotainment system and a back-up camera.
Final Chapter: So which Cargo Van made the Lambs stop Screaming?
The Transit Connect, while pricier, feels like a grown up car and comes in so many unique and interesting varieties that it could suit your needs and you wouldn’t even know it. For Ms. Roxy Starling, driving the Transit Connect allowed her to resign from the FBI as she decided she really didn’t care for interrogating humans in the back of cargo vans with bright spotlights so she bought herself a long wheel base model with seven leather covered seats so she could manage a rescue for orphaned boxer dogs opened by Boxer Rescue Los Angeles where she was sent to after she stopped being called “Precious.” Seriously, unless you want to get bit don’t ever call Ms. Roxy Starling “Precious.” Or late for dinner. (Winner: 2015 Ford Transit Connect)
Epilogue: The 2015 Mazda5 (The Alternative)
Dr. “Hamel” Lecter and Ms. Roxy Starling actually didn’t know that Mazda was still selling the Mazda5 mini-minivan still as they mistakenly believed 2014 was its final model year on the market. That isn’t to say there is anything wrong with this handy sized van for small families and their pets, it is just that the platform and overall design are based on the previous generation, non-SkyActiv Technology 3 hatchback and sedan. It felt related to those older Mazda3’s in everything from the layout of the dashboard down to the performance from the now just adequate 2.5 liter 157 horsepower/163 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder that is the standard and only engine option.
Their test Mazda5 came equipped with a 5-speed automatic which some may call an antique but it managed to acquit itself nicely never downshifting harshly when you needed extra power and generally demonstrating an overall feeling that it will be able to withstand years of abuse. With it, the comfortable and comfortingly car-like Mazda5 gets 21 miles per gallon city and 28 highway according to the EPA. Dr. “Hamel” Lecter was easily able to get over 25 miles per gallon during a week driving the car around the asylum he calls home.
The 2015 Mazda5 Grand Touring which is the fully loaded variant stickers for $24,770 and comes with leather seating, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, an AM/FM/CD/USB/i-Pod integrated six speaker audio system, heated front seats, 17-inch alloys, rear back-up sensors (this thing really does need a back-up camera, however), a power moonroof and bright xenon headlamps. The Mazda was definitely smartly priced and generously equipped but the interior definitely appeared dated.
Ms. Roxy Starling, who loved riding in the second row captain’s chairs much preferred this Mazda to either cargo van and she always felt more securely buckled in sitting in an actual seat. Remember, never let your pet (or your furry FBI agent friends) sit in the front seats of any automobile as airbags can be deadly for them if you have an accident.