From the F-Series pickups to the E-Series vans, Ford Motor Company has had a stranglehold on the commercial vehicle market for many years. While the bigger trucks and vans definitely come in handy in certain situations, Ford is hoping that its 2010 Transit Connect becomes a big hit with small businesses that don't necessarily require a full-size, gargantuan vehicle. Set to go up against vehicles like the Chevrolet HHR Panel and the Dodge Grand Caravan Cargo Van, the 2010 Ford Transit Connect combines a versatile, spacious interior with a fuel-efficient, yet capable, powertrain.
The design of Transit Connect was penned in Europe which is evident by the extensive use of Ford's Kinetic design language and an overall shape that is very familiar to the Dodge Sprinter. The headlights seem plucked from a first generation Fusion sedan, while the upper and lower grille shape mimic popular European passenger cars such as the Fiesta and Mondeo. Available in two trim levels (XL and XLT) and two body configurations (van and wagon), the model we drove was a fully loaded XLT wagon. The XLT trim level adds a more upscale look with painted body-color front and rear fascias which looked even more dramatic in our test vehicle's Torch Red exterior hue. For optimal cargo access, Ford equipped the Transit Connect with large sliding doors on each side and split rear doors that open up to 255 degrees, and offers it with the choice of no side door or rear windows, rear windows only or windows on the sliding doors and the rear doors.
Climbing inside Ford's littlest cargo vehicle, we were surprised at how much comfort the Transit Connect offers. The manual seats and tilting and telescoping steering column make it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel providing adequate legroom and almost-endless headroom. Our test model was equipped with the optional ($1,395) in-dash computer that includes internet capability, a navigation system, SD card slot and USB port. Other optional features include a vehicle tracking device ($550), Bluetooth connectivity ($220) and a reverse sensing system ($280).
Ford aimed to give its 2010 Transit Connect an interior that is flexible and accommodating for both cargo and passengers. In van layout, the Transit Connect only holds two passengers while dedicating the rest of the interior space to cargo, while the wagon models offer a center row seat that holds either two (XL) or three (XLT). While storage compartments are limited to just the glove box and a small cubbyhole on top of the instrument panel, the Transit Connect's tall roof gives it a unique opportunity to provide a large overhead storage bin.
Riding on the same platform as the Ford Focus, the Transit Connect shares most of the driveline components of the compact economy car including its 2.0-liter Duratec DOHC inline-4 which produces 136 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque in this application. All models are front-wheel drive and use a four-speed automatic transmission, but the impressive aspect of the powertrain is its fuel economy. Even Ford was surprised when the EPA rated the Transit Connect at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Comparatively speaking, the E-Series gets around 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway.
When it comes to working, the car-derived platform that underpins the 2010 Transit Connect is surprisingly up to the task. In addition to a cargo area that can hold up to 135.3 cubic feet of cargo, the Transit Connect has a maximum payload of 1,600 pounds. In normal city traffic, the Transit Connect feels smooth especially when compared to conventional commercial vehicles, but the car chassis and tall roofline do make it feel a little top heavy when making abrupt turns such as dodging pot holes. We did not test the vehicle with any cargo, but we did have a full load of passengers (five) and we felt no difference in the handling or acceleration.
For added safety, our 2010 Ford Transit Connect wagon came standard with Ford's AdvanceTracÂ® with Roll Stability Control, but this safety feature is optional on the cargo-friendly van models. Other standard safety features on both the van and wagon models include a tire pressure monitoring system and four-wheel ABS with disc brakes up front and drum brakes in the rear for added durability.
As if its small, practical size weren't enough, Ford also designed the Transit Connect to be the company's first battery electric vehicle when it makes its debut later next year. Ford is teaming up with Smith Electric Vehicles to introduce the Transit Connect BEV which will have a range of up to 100 miles on a full charge. The details of the BEV system haven't been released yet, but this vehicle is just the first step in Ford's vehicle electrification strategy that also includes a BEV passenger car based on the Focus in 2011 and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012.
For now, though, small businesses can save on initial vehicle costs and fuel costs with pricing for the base 2010 Ford Transit Connect XL van starting at $20,780 and $21,135 for the XL wagon. Stepping up to the XLT trim level, prices increases to $21,840 and $22,350 for the van and wagon, respectively.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. RossÂ