• Jun 19th 2009 at 11:57AM
  • 68
2010 Ford Transit Connect – Click above for high-res image gallery

After relying on full-size E-series vans for commercial cargo carrying since the dawn of time, Ford is finally ready to offer North American businesses a more practical alternative. The Transit Connect is a compact, purpose-built van that's been available overseas since 2002, and Ford has sold more than 600,000 of the squat little haulers to businesses abroad over the past seven years. The company hopes that what's good for Europe is good for the States, so the first batch of U.S.-spec models are on their way to dealerships as you read this.

While the E-series vans are more than capable of carrying out their prescribed duties, for most, it's like using a sledgehammer to push a tack into a cork board. The Big-Es were simply more vehicle than necessary for most small businesses, especially those operating locally, delivering flowers, catering and plumbing. That's where the Transit Connect comes in.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

A panel van version of the Ford Windstar/Freestar was actually produced for commercial customers from the mid-'90s until it was discontinued earlier this decade. The reworked family haulers never sold in large numbers, however, and weren't particularly optimized for the task. As gas prices spiked in 2007 and 2008, Ford saw a market for something smaller than the E-series, but bigger than the Chevrolet HHR panel van. The Transit Connect is just the ticket.

Unlike the Windstar, the Transit Connect was specifically developed as a commercial vehicle. It has a beefier chassis designed to withstand the rigors of daily business use and Ford has a different testing regime for its commercial and consumer vehicles. With a high strength steel front cross-member and extra side cross-members, the Transit Connect endured Ford's rigid durability testing and walked away unscathed. It's a stout runabout and a testament to Ford's engineering abilities.

The Transit Connect was designed to endure the rigors of operation in urban environments. Among the problems that city drivers regularly encounter are minor fender benders, so the TC is equipped with a rear bumper made of rolled steel designed to absorb the energy of rear-end impacts so prevalent in vehicles lacking rear windows.

On the topic of driving, anyone who's spent time behind the wheel of a full-size van understands the joys of body roll, pitch, a bouncy ride and lifeless steering. Thankfully, the Transit Connect is mercilessly devoid of the these unsavory characteristics. Although the TC does not share a platform with any of FoMoCo's cars, its layout is more car-like than truck-like, which pays dividends in the driving department. Our brief time behind the wheel (What, you were expecting a full-on track test?) didn't give us an opportunity to flog the Transit Connect within an inch of its life, but the steering wheel -- adjustable for both reach and angle -- was reasonably well weighted and provided adequate feedback.

The transverse, front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout and uni-body construction means there is no drive-shaft or massive frame rails to suck up valuable space, so the floor is low and flat, allowing parcels to be loaded with ease while keeping the center of gravity closer to the ground. In our relatively unladen tester, there was remarkably little body roll when cornering. Granted, this isn't a sports car, so don't expect to break a G in the bends, but reasonable handling should be universal these days and the Transit Connect doesn't have the potential to scare anyone. However, until we can get behind the wheel of a fully-loaded model (cargo, not options), we'll reserve judgment on it's ability to simultaneously shuffle and haul.

As a commercial cargo vehicle, the Transit Connect is designed to take whatever its users demand, both in mass and volume. On the mass side, the cargo variant has a load capacity of 1,600 lbs. Supporting that much weight requires fairly rigid springs, so the ride is on the stiff side, particularly when rolling freight-free. However, it's not uncomfortably harsh and the damping is set perfectly to keep the body from bouncing around, but a Lexus it is not. Over uneven patches of pavement, occupants will definitely feel the ruts and divots, but it's still remarkably more pleasant than driving your run-of-the-mill full-size pickup.

As the Transit Connect is a work truck first and foremost, it's got to have a comfortable and functional interior. Here, Ford scores high marks. As with other recent offerings from the Blue Oval, the seats are excellent, with firm cushions providing good lateral, back and thigh support. The dashboard is covered with hard plastic that's far from luxurious, but it should be fairly durable and easy to clean when coffee, soda or Thousand Island dressing inevitably finds its way onto the dash. The shift lever for the four-speed automatic is mounted on the center console, as are the window switches, and visibility out the front and sides are excellent thanks to the tall windshield and side glass.

The Transit Connect is available as a five passenger wagon fitted with a second row bench seat, and both the cargo van and wagon variants are available with sliding side and rear doors and windows. Without that glass, rearward visibility is limited to the side mirrors – and that's not nearly enough. Although Ford does offer backup sensors as an option, the Transit Connect isn't available with a rear-view camera. As such, anyone spending considerable amounts of time in the cramped confines of urban environments might want to source a back-up camera from the aftermarket.

Sending power to the automatic transmission, is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 136 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. The engine is smooth, but moving 3,470 pounds with that much power takes some time. The Transit Connect's acceleration is leisurely (at best), but acceptable given the intended purpose. Considering Ford is moving to six-speed transmissions on the rest of its line, one might wonder why this all-new (for North America) vehicle only gets four ratios. According to Ford, since the Transit Connect is designed primarily for urban markets, the lower gear ratios are the ones that will be used most often and Ford wants to keep the price of entry down to appeal to small businesses.

Despite the lackluster though smooth-shifting gearbox, the Transit Connect gets very respectable numbers from the EPA, with 22 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. A year from now, Ford will start offering a fully electric version with a choice of two lithium ion battery sizes: the 21 kWh pack will give a range of about 60 miles, while a 28 kWh pack should push the Transit Connect for about 100 miles.

The Transit Connect fits within FoMoCo's criteria of a commercial vehicle, so it's eligible for Ford's Work Solutions package. That means buyers can get the same in-dash computer available in the F-series and E-series that allows them to communicate with the home office, print out estimates and invoices, and send and receive email. The tool link system includes an RFID reader that can detect the tags applied to tools and other items that need to go out for various jobs, while the crew chief system communicates with the vehicles in a fleet and allows dispatchers to track locations and send the closest unit out for an assignment.

The Transit Connect's starting price comes in at $21,475 (including delivery), or $4,500 less than a base E-150 cargo van (and it will undoubtedly cost less to operate). With a 135 cubic-foot capacity behind the front seats, it more than doubles the 62.7 cubic-feet of the Chevy HHR Panel, and its 39-foot turning circle and compact length of just 180.6 inches makes it easy to maneuver in parking lots and tight urban alleyways. Ford has made arrangements with retailers on both sides of the country so dealers can order and install whatever types of storage, racks or other hardware buyers require.

The unit we drove was equipped with slide-out racks suitable for a caterer, while others were specifically equipped for florists, contractors and general delivery. And that's just the tip of the customizable iceberg. The Transit Connect seems poised to be all things to all businesses, and considering the lack of alternatives, we think it's got a serious chance at wide-spread success.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Just the right size to pick up hookers in Madrid.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Double the space of an HHR and less horsepower? I hope you stay on flat ground.
        • 6 Years Ago
        1) obviously it works in Europe
        2) you don't need 400 hp to putter around town making local deliveries.

        cripes, the compact pickups of the mid-late '80s (Ranger, LUV/S10, D50) had 4-bangers with less power than the Transit, and somehow we all managed to survive. Man, have we become spoiled.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I agree with Sam in reality not many of us need those big Pick up trucks and SUV only small percentage of workers actually use huge pick up and huge SUV.
      I saw many E series in new york city and boy every time i saw them they just carrying few items and only a driver. So Coolio keep cool dude its true America always offered many products that you don't need that is why the domestic companies going bankrupt in the 1st place. We all did make fun of many import brand for selling many small, weak econo cars, small weak SUV and truck wannabes but people actually buy those products because in real world its not how powerful or how fast you driving most prob you just gonna stuck in traffic jam anyway.

      Diesel to my surprise I saw many E series Diesel in the city I can hear the engine different than the gasoline counterpart. So YES they do need offer diesel just to give the buyer more CHOICE. Most of the comm trucks are diesel like the step vans, box trucks if you drop by in any gas station that many comm vehicle refuel their fleet you will see most of them uses diesel.

      Transmission its true most of us who work everyday uses automatic but I found that some workers still drive manual trucks, vans and SUV. Again like I said above give them more CHOICE. That is a way to make your product attractive. I drove F150 manual when I used to work in Texas. And I saw some work van also uses Diesel and manual in New York so please don't think most of us don't know how to drive a manual. That is just a stupid assumptions.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I was shocked at how worn-out the interior was on the one they had on display at the Cleveland autoshow. There were fairly deep grooves in the plastic around the shifter and near the doors. It was a bad impression for a vehicle that is bound to see soom abuse in its life.

      I would love to see this with a column shifter and a bench seat in the front.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't expect the vehicle to have the same impact as the Sprinter, but this was a good vehicle to bring here.

      The range listings for the electric versions are farcical. A Tesla roadster is half the weight of this (when this is empty!) and only goes a bit over 100 miles on 28kWh. They are clearly giving range figures at very low speeds, perhaps 35mph tops.

      I greatly support Ford making electric work vans, but not giving misleading range figures.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Agreed, even if this vehicle (EV version) couldn't go over 45mph, it would still have its uses, and the range as-is might be okay for urban use. I saw electric delivery vans in London, and it seems like a great idea to me.

        But they need to stop misleading with the range figures. If these figures are only valid for certain uses, then they should say so. It won't stop companies that fit that use model from buying the vehicle and it'll keep others from being disappointed when it doesn't fit the usage model the general public would expect.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "A Tesla roadster is half the weight of this (when this is empty!) and only goes a bit over 100 miles on 28kWh. They are clearly giving range figures at very low speeds, perhaps 35mph tops."

        I just rolled my eyes into the next state. The Tesla roadster is little more than a battery pack on wheels. This thing can do actual work. Comparing the two is asinine.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jim, you completely missed the point.

        The point is that according to these figures this vehicle will be as efficient (miles per kWh) as the Tesla Roadster. This is impossible specifically because, as you put it, the Tesla Roadster is just a battery pack on wheels. No way is a vehicle more than twice the size of the Tesla Roadster going to be as energy efficient as the Tesla Roadster.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Jim, you completely missed the point."

        I did indeed. My sincere apologies.
      • 6 Years Ago
      We GM dealers have been screaming for this type of product here as well. Bravo Ford. Shame on us!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Can someone please turn it into a mini 2 person RV?

      That would be awesome!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm sure Fiat will be keeping a close eye on the success of the Transit Connect in the States - its Doblo model is an arch rival.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Bloke: Why are you lying again? Fiat made the crapmobiles very recently. Hardly 1970. Only last year or two they make decent vehicles.
        Please stop lying!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Comparing Fiat and Ford in terms of percieved quality is moot as both are low cost volume sellers and not bought because of the quality but because of the price. It's still just a Ford.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yaroukh: I'm not lying ... unlike you I live in the real, adult world. Fiat's began improving a great deal in the late 1980's with the Tipo and gradually went from strength to strength. The biggest change was the introduction of their superb JTD engines in 1997 with the launch of the Alfa 156, which (apart from a few niggles) was an excellent car and superb to drive. Since the early 2000's, their products have been no more troublesome than any Ford, Opel, PSA or VW product for the average punter.

        I would suggest that you stop your ridiculous prejudices and understand the product - assuming you're old enough to remember. And basing Fiat in 2009 based on a product which began production in 1972 and ceased production by 1985 is sheer stupidity.

        Seriously, is there ANY common sense to be found on Autoblog?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Creigs - oh yes, let's all live in the 1970's. Seriously, think before you post.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I live in an adult world. The quality figures I read were here on autoblog. You can talk all the trash you want, but facts are facts.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Bloke: How could I own a Fiat here when they hav'nt been sold here since the early 80's. As I recall Fiat was a huge sucess here, They sold soooo many cars here they had to return to Europe to regroup. Maybe Fiats are better now, but I know what I read, I know what I've owned, give me the Ford. Anyways, I have to return to work, but I'll think of you when I pass you by at the Fiat/Chrysler repair shop. Caio!
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm sure that I can't trust the quality of a Fiat. I had a X1/9, loved the car but it was junk. I saw a story here last week that Chrysler/Fiat are both at or near the bottom in quality both in Europe and the U.S.. I'd have to go with the Ford all the way.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's funny to read the usual American prejudices. I've owned a faultless Stilo and mk1 Bravo in the past, and a near-perfect Uno. I know many people who have owned various Fiats over the years, and there are those with great experiences, and those with poor experiences. The same goes for owners of Fords, Vauxhalls, Peugeots, VW's, etc etc.

        My only gripe about Fiat is that if you need factory parts (I once bent an alloy rim, for example), the replacement prices are horrendous and they take a while if they're ordered by the dealer. Until recently, the quality of interior plastics wasn't that good either - I remember driving a 2003 Cadillac Deville with very similar interior plastics in fact.

        Indeed, most so-called "surveys" concentrate mainly on dealer complaints and I can see Fiat doing poorly in that regard as a result. So if you rely on them, it says a lot about you real knowledge base.

        If you can only base the credibility of a marque based on a thirty year old product, don't do it at all.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think a manual transmission adds another distraction and problem that most companies would rather not deal with, just for liability sake. I used to work for a delivery company and 95% of them were automatic, since most employees had no clue about manual. Lucky me I drove the manual, but it was my truck and it was ALWAYS clean.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't even see why they still make manual transmissions. They invented them because that was the easiest thing to invent in the late 1800's. It's the 21st century now. Stop making manuals! I understand that some people think they shift faster, but, we're not race car drivers. A really well built automatic is better than a manual, by far.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Why is it a troll? He's mostly right, manual transmissions (especially in a market like the U.S.) are strictly personal preference these days. The fuel economy benefit is long gone. Back in the day they made sense when your choice was a three-speed, non-OD, non-lockup slushbox vs. a 5-speed OD manual. But now, when you have a choice, it's almost always between a 5-sp auto vs. 5 sp. manual or 6 sp. vs. 6 sp.. Hell, look at the Fusion SE- the EPA fuel economy numbers are *lower* with the manual trans!

        And since I'd wager most car buyers do a lot of commuting through heavy traffic, a manual trans is a hassle with little or no benefits (and no, being able to wave your dick around about your "elite skills" is not a benefit.)

        • 6 Years Ago
        And you call yourself a car guy, Mason? Sheeze.

        Manufacturers who offer manual transmissions will always get my consideration when it comes time to purchase, especially if they offer them on something other than the base power plant. There isn't an automatic in existence that's as much fun to use as a well-engineered manual transmission. I don't care about which is quicker to 60 or which model can snap off quicker gear changes. To me, it's all about how much fun the experience produces along the way.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Not all of us enjoy driving a washing machine, just saying...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Must... not... feed... troll...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Actually the Tesla weighs 2500lbs, while this weighs 3470lbs. Also, even if thats the range at around 35mph or a little higher is ok since its designed to be an urban vehicle.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why is it Ford can import this gas guzzling POS but they cannot import the Mondeo or Euro Focus?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Euro Focus will be coming - 2011 or 2012 I believe. The next update of the Fusion/Milan, likely happening around 2012-2014 will most likely use the Mondeo platform.
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