2011 Transit Connect New Car Test Drive
The 2010 Ford Transit Connect is a new small truck designed for small-business owners. It offers low operating costs with a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and is easy to maneuver and can be parked in tight quarters. Yet it delivers as much enclosed cargo space as what's found in a full-size Ford Expedition SUV.
Visitors to Japan sometimes marvel at the huge number of small, narrow, van-like commercial/passenger craft. Tall and thin to navigate crowded roads, they are designed for mileage and efficiency.
Although not so small as what we see in Japan, the Transit Connect is more akin to this kind of vehicle than anything so far available in North America. It's intended to be the ideal transportation tool for florists, caterers, decorators, phone jack installers, plumbers, and other small businesses.
The Transit Connect combines unibody construction with rear leaf springs. Think of it as a low-slung mini-truck with a highly organized, walk-in utility body.
Although evocative of the Japanese transportation model, the Transit Connect is actually produced in Europe, where it was developed specifically as a transportation solution for small-business owners. It has been on sale in 55 countries on three continents since 2003. More than 600,000 units have been sold worldwide.
The Transit Connect offers advantages over pickup trucks, SUVs or vans. It has twice the cargo capacity of a Chevy HHR and delivers the fuel economy of a Toyota Camry. It can carry a lot. With a leaf-spring rear suspension, the TC has a payload better than some full-size pickups: up to 1600 pounds. When configured as a van with second row seating, it can carry up to five people and still offer a capacious rear cargo area.
The cargo area is easily accessible through sliding side doors. The floor is low, to make it easier to load. When configured as a panel van, it's a popular choice as a mobile marketing tool, wrapped with logos and brand images.
Low operating cost and reasonable initial purchase price are part of the appeal. Transit Connect is powered by a fuel-efficient four-cylinder gasoline engine, and has a 7500-mile service interval. Ford plans to introduce a battery electric version of the Transit in 2010 with a range of 100 miles. The battery electric Transit would be for use on predictable, short-range routes. Charge time will be 6-8 hours, with a maximum speed 70 mph, using liquid-cooled Lithium-Ion batteries.
A wide variety of custom interiors is available through Ford dealers, making use of bulkheads, racks, bins, drawers and shelves to customize the cargo area to any specific purpose. This can be manna for carpentry or other small businesses.
Advanced telematic systems are available for fleet owners and full-time delivery operators. Ford Work Solutions is a suite of efficiency tools operated using an in-dash computer, which allows the driver to connect with his desktop computer, download documents, print estimates on site, and more.
The Transit Connect can be configured as a panel van with or without windows, or as a wagon with either two- or three-passenger second-row seating options. It's available in two trim levels, XL and XLT. All come with the 2.0-liter engine and four-speed automatic transmission.
The Transit Connect XL Cargo Van ($20,780) and Wagon ($21,135) are equipped like basic work trucks, but come standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, an AM/FM radio, storage.
The XLT Cargo Van ($21,840) and XLT Wagon ($22,350) upgrade with power windows, mirrors and door locks, a CD player, cruise control, remote keyless entry, a map light, color-keyed bumpers and mirrors.
The Ford Works Solutions in-dash computer ($1,395) includes Garmin navigation, Magneti Marelli computer with Microsoft operating system, touch screen, wireless keyboard and mouse, radio and internet functionality.
Options include Reverse Sensing System ($280); Nokia Bluetooth system ($220); rear cargo doors with 255-degree opening function; engine block heater ($35); remote start ($345).
Ford Works Crew Chief Telematics ($550) includes Microlis onboard device that tracks vehicle location, speed, idle time with optional vehicle diagnostics and maintenance reports. Ford Works Tool Link ($1,220) features 50 radio frequency ID tags for tagging tools.
Safety features that come on all models include frontal and side-impact airbags and anti-lock brakes.