Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Three vans that mix business with pleasure

2013 Ford Transit Connect


Hi Jeremy/Michael: I own a 2008 Honda Element AWD, and I'm a fan of Honda, as I previously owned an Acura Integra coupe. I'm looking to replace the car, but I need the ability to transform the car into a van – as I use it for my business. Fuel efficiency is a plus. What do you think? – Cindy in Vancouver

Vaughan: I'm confused, Cynthia. You want to transform your car into a van for business – but does that mean you want a van with three rows of seats for clients or does that mean you want a van with no seats so you can lug around equipment?

Cato: Nice of you to seek clarification, Vaughan, though I think she wants a passenger van that can double as a cargo van, and with ease. We're seeing more of this sort of thing – the formerly employed becoming the self-employed. And that means a business opportunity for car companies.

Story continues below advertisement

They're responding and have been for a while. Take the Ford Transit Connect. Get it as a pure cargo van or a five-passenger wagon. Get it with that thrifty 136-horsepower four-banger. I love this little rig and you may, too, Cindy. Ford has upgraded the latest version for 2014. This new one is better, but the 2013 is a deal with thousands in discounts in play.

Vaughan: The Transit Connect is more the size of your now-extinct Element and it's a good size for parking. As Cato says, you can get it with seats or shelves. Starts at around $27,600 before you start adding goodies. As long as you don't get a white one, you will drive around looking like a progressive business woman, and not a plumber or an electrician or courier driver. As Cato said, there's big business in little vans and Nissan has an offering, too.

Cato: Ah, ha! Look out on the car lot – it's a little cargo van, a taxicab. It's not Superman – though Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is a comic book hero in Japan – but the entirely new Nissan NV200. Nissan has a deal with New York City to sell 10,000 or more of these as taxis. And for Canadians, the NV200 has just gone on sale for $22,000 as a cargo van.

Under Ghosn, Nissan is all about offering what the competition sells, but for less and with better fuel economy. The 131-hp four-cylinder here sips fuel because it has a continuously variable transmission and the NV200 has more cargo room than the Transit Connect.

2013 Nissan NV200 Nissan Nissan  

Vaughan: It's a little longer than the Transit, too, and you may love or hate its looks. It has a swoopy nose that is supposed to look modern. It has sliding doors on the side and barn doors on the rear. What it doesn't have in the rear is a seat.

Nope, this one has two seats up front and a large empty space behind with attachments for shelves and stuff. However, again as Cato notes, a version of the NV200 is New York City's Taxi of Tomorrow, so expect to see a more passenger-friendly version coming to Nissan dealers soon.

Story continues below advertisement

Cato: Yes, yes, yes. You know, Nissan has been juggling with the launch of this little van. I expected more fanfare because the country, I mean all of North America, is stuffed with Cindys looking to combine business with, well, pleasure.

And they're all looking to save not a nickel, but big bucks. Which brings me to the Dodge Grand Caravan. Cindy can get a nicely done, stretched one – three rows of seating – for less than $20,000. I know, I know, that's not the sticker price, but with all the Chrysler Canada discounts, that's the real price. This is the best deal in a minivan, bar none, and will do everything you need it to do, Cindy.

2013 Dodge Grand Caravan Chrysler Chrysler  

Vaughan: Yes, a good business woman should be all about saving her money while meeting her business's needs. There's a reason Chrysler sold millions of Caravans; they are tremendous value for the money and extremely versatile. The Stow-'N-Go seats disappear into the floor with a simple pull on a strap. They're not that much harder to pull out of the floor.

Yes, it's the dreaded soccer mom's van of choice, but don't let that scare you off. Choose a fancy colour and it's a good-looking vehicle.

One thing I have noticed, having bought a number of them over the years for business – shop around. I discovered a huge difference in what various Dodge dealers were charging for the same vehicle.

Story continues below advertisement

Cato: I got a note from a reader the other day, one who combines being a mom with a renovation business. She drives a minivan because, as she told me, right now it's filled with "old juice boxes, three cartons of tiles, a toilet, a faucet and three bags of dimmer switches. And I am constantly driving kids ..."

Cindy, maybe the Grand Caravan is for you.


2013 Ford Transit Connect XLT Wagon2013 Nissan NV200 compact cargo van2013 Dodge Grand Caravan SE/SXT

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



2.0-litre four-cylinder2.0-litre four-cylinder3.6-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

136/128 lb-ft131/139 lb-ft283/260 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive


Four-speed automaticCVTsix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.6 city/7.4 highwayN/A12.2 city/7.9 highway

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Report an error
About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at