Anyone with a business that uses vans needs to know about Ford’s European-designed little hauler, the Transit Connect. With huge cargo capacity but fuel efficiency too, it’s a great choice for florists, computer fixers, dog washing services and more.
The industry-exclusive Transit Connect is built in Kocaeli, Turkey, and since 2003, more than 600,000 have found employment. Despite its foreign origins, the car is perfectly suited to the U.S., and has received a few styling and equipment tweaks to be so.
A 2.0-liter Duratec inline four-cylinder engine puts out 136 horsepower and 128 lb.-ft of torque from a modern configuration that uses dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and an aluminum block and head.
A four-speed automatic with overdrive is standard. The 3,470-pound truck’s no rocket, but with a minimal load, it keeps up easily with freeway traffic. With a mere 39-foot turning radius it goes where no van has gone before.
Fuel economy is EPA rated at 22 City, 25 Highway. The EPA’s green vehicle guide gives the car a respectable 7 for Air Pollution and 6 for Greenhouse Gas—putting it in the Smartway category, a good place to be.
I slid into my Silver Metallic XLT test car and was amazed at both the brightness of the cabin and the tremendous height of the roof. I was able to sit in the driver’s seat, which is already chair height, and raise my hand straight up and barely touch the ceiling. The tall windshield is panoramic—my wife said it felt like riding in an AMC Pacer—the famous AMC fishbowl from the 1970’s. The vehicle stands as tall as a good NBA power forward at 6-foot-7-1/2 inches.
The cargo area itself is astounding, providing nearly five feet of height with a total of 135 cubic feet of cargo hauling capacity. The split rear doors open up to 180 degrees—or, optionally, to 255 degrees—which means they bend all the way around parallel with the sides of the van. My test car had this feature, so with a push of a button, the doors flipped over and stuck to the sides with magnets. Load length is a half inch over six feet, so many long things slide right in—and load height is just two feet off the ground.
You can order up the Transit Connect as a cargo van with no windows in the twin sliding side doors and privacy glass on the rear side windows, a pure panel van with no side windows at all, or a wagon version with a rear seat and windows. Rear seat passengers don’t get armrests, but they enjoy the auditorium ceiling effect.
The car is pleasant to drive in the way piloting a Toyota Corolla is. Although the Transit Connect is built as a heavy duty commercial vehicle in a plant that builds only trucks, it has a firm but compliant suspension and despite being something of a box on wheels it’s pretty quiet at 65 on the freeway. The interior is nicely styled but uses only hard plastics in a utilitarian dark gray with matching cloth seats.
Oddities and compromises include a car key that looks like it came from a sardine can, a pair of dollar-pancake-sized speakers that make a thin sound, and serious rear visibility issues with the fat vertical bar in the middle of the doors.
Beyond all this, the Transit Connect can be nicely set up as a work station. Choose from a wide variety of bins, racks and shelves. Even better, equip it with a computer system that gives you Internet access, word processing, spreadsheets, email, file management, calendar and more through a touch screen and a cordless keyboard.
Then there’s Tool Link, by DeWalt—the big tool company. Using special Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tabs attached to tools and other items, this system lets you scan the vehicle for appropriate equipment and inventory before leaving the jobsite or route. It keeps everything you need available and secure.
You can order Crew Chief.
This tool is for fleet managers to track vehicles and staff and to monitor Transit Connect diagnostics. The manager can know what’s up with every vehicle he or she is responsible for, including diagnostic vehicle information and vehicle location, speed, fuel usage, and more. The drivers just drive and the boss takes care of the rest (and is watching over them, that’s true).
Prices for this unique vehicle start at just $21,475, including destination charges. My unit, with the extra wide door openers, reverse sensing system (a really good idea), floor mats and the aforementioned in-dash computer system, came to $24,975. That sounds like a great deal to me.