2010 Ford Transit Connect Review

A true working class hero.

By Alex Kalogiannis

07.30.2009

img_5051Today, I am a baker, delivering exotic, towering cakes across the city. I am a carpenter, picking up works of art to be ornately framed at my Beverley Hills gallery. I am a florist, arranging elaborate set pieces and decorations for lavish events big and small.  Why the fluctuating vocations? Because today, I am in the Ford Transit Connect.

The Transit Connect is Ford’s newest addition to the commercial truck world, a place populated by various vans, pick-ups, and box trucks; all very useful, but all quite large and cumbersome. In some aspects, large is good. You need “large” when moving the contents of a house or delivering pianos. But what about when “large” is simply “too much”? That is to say too much wasted space, too big to get around and, regrettably, too much money? You’ll notice at this point ingenuity and compromise struggling to prevail as a family minivan pulls double duty transporting dogs for grooming or a station wagon is used for catering. Vehicles being stretched beyond their initial intended capabilities by hard working people making do.  The Ford Transit Connect answers this need by being a durable, efficient, high-capacity vehicle while remaining compact and affordable.

How does one test drive a work van? With work of course, as several Los Angeles business owners allowed myself and companions the opportunity to swing by in our Transit Connect and discuss how, if at all, the T.C. would be of use to them. Before setting out, we gave the Transit connect a once-over. Under the hood you will find a 2.0L I-4 engine giving you a max output of 136 hp. All this is married to the front wheels with a 4 speed automatic transmission. Seems underwhelming at first, but there’s more. The front sports an independent MacPherson suspension, but you’ll find leaf-springs in the back. As for brakes? The front wheels get discs while you’ll find drums in the rear.

img_5135The rear, incidentally, will be where most of the action happens in the Transit Connect, and you’ll notice plenty of thought has gone into its design. There is 135 cubic feet of cargo volume, for pure storage or for up-fitting, which we’ll get into a bit later. A sliding door will be found on each side of the vehicle, as well as split rear cargo doors in the back that open 180 degrees, but can also open to a further 225 degrees if need be. Once they do, they are magnetically clung to the side.

We set off down La Brea to our first destination, Hansen’s cakes, to discuss with Patrick Hansen the task of shuttling elaborate confectioneries to customers across the city. Hansen currently has a worn out Ford Windstar that divides its time between deliveries and family usage. Up-fitting is a key concern of his and the Transit Connect offers a variety of factory direct combinations of bins, racks, shelves and what-not to accommodate the needs of a small business. Hansen presents us with some cargo, a little Transit Connect of our own, and it we can see how slide-out shelving can be a godsend to a caterer. Rolling up to a celebrity’s compound in one of these instead of a beat-up Windstar also does your business image a huge favor.

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On our way to the next destination, we spend some time picking apart the cabin. It must be said that the ride feel is nothing luxurious, but it hardly feels laborious, and wouldn’t fatigue someone who would likely spend most of their day in one. Above the windshield is a very wide and deep storage shelf for miscellaneous things. The bottom is vented, so the contents can be seen at a glance, just expect a pencil to return to you if you decide to throw it up there. The visibility out of the front is more than substantial; however seeing around the back was a task. Our Transit Connect had windows on our rear cargo doors, but they couldn’t be relied on since there would presumably be tools and cargo between the driver and them most of the time, and that’s even if they are there at all, since there is the option of having the Transit Connect as a panel van. Ease of parking is touted as a feature for the compact vehicle, and while it can indeed fit into narrow spots, the inadequate visibility makes getting to these niches a difficult undertaking. Also take into account the issue of not being able to see the front corners beyond the hood and you may run over a couple cones, as I did, or worse.

On Santa Monica Boulevard, we pull up to the Beverly Hills Picture Framing Gallery and take in the various sizes and ornate work of the frames found all along the shop. The owner, Nita Casar, mentions that the Transit Connect allows her more options than the SUV she currently hauls things in. For one, the T.C.’s shape and openings seem perfect for picture large picture frames, and, again, different up-fits give her better methods of securing works of art than she currently has, which I’m told is yoga mats. Image is important in this town, she says, and driving an SUV for deliveries big or small brings attention to the fuel wasted for such trips. The Transit Connect’s 22/25 MPG and more subdued stature give Nita the more responsible appearance she requires.

While not exclusive to the Transit Connect, we had a chance to see the Ford Works Solutions in action. The FWS is a combination nav console/PC/communication device that allows for an amazing amount of work to be done on the go. There’s the navigation aspect, which works just like any other in-car nav, but there’s also a 2 GB hard drive plus Windows applications like Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer for whatever your needs may be. Access via LogMeIn connects you to your office computer to remotely access info you may have there, but happen to need with you at that exact moment, not when you make it back to the office. Once you retrieve your data, you can print it with an optional wireless printer that stores in the aforementioned overhead shelf.  This is all done with touch-screen commands, or with the wireless keyboard. FWS also has the ability to keep track of your carimg_5154go and equipment with RFID antennas that can the car for items with corresponding tags, and a pre-programmed list will tell you what’s in the vehicle and what’s not. All this rounds out with the “Crew Chief” application that allows the tracking of fleets of vehicles to a computer at the home office, as well as wide array of data about an individual car. You can see who’s taking detours, idling the engine, and even send a text message to the in-dash unit to tell them “put your seatbelt on!”

We end our run at Treefrogs, a special event florist run by Fred Gibbons. Fred’s been in the game for many years and states how a few spacious Transit Connects will save on the bottom line better than the current practice of sending several massive vans out on deliveries with what the far smaller Transit Connect may be capable of carrying instead. Gibbons also gushes that the dual sliding doors are a dream come true, as accessing a variety of delicate floral arrangements is easy, no matter what side of the street you may be parked on. The nimbleness of the Transit Connect is also appealing, as it has a 39 foot turning circle. Front & rear anti-roll bars also keep you and your stuff from moving all over the place. There’s also front and side airbags for the driver and passenger in case of the unfortunate.

img_5102I’ve noticed the Chevrolet HHR as the go-to small business vehicle of late. I personally think it’s a hideous vehicle and makes you look like a milk man from the future. Ford has taken notice of this as well and points out that the HHR has about half the cargo space of the Transit Connect, while the Transit Connect has more surface area for graphics, so your business logo and phone number will definitely be noticed. Ford has also taken efforts to make the Transit Connect as durable as their E-series vans, with high-strength steel front and side cross members and a reinforced body shell.

At the end of the day, this Swiss-army knife of a vehicle seems like a no-brainer for those looking for something useful for almost limitless different kinds of needs. Prices start at $21,475 and it’s available as a wagon, so an extra row of seats is at your disposal. It’s been the way to go in Europe since ’03 and has won countless awards in the ensuing years. With an all-electric version in the works, small business owners across the country will be hard pressed to find anything as capable in such an efficient package.

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7 Comments

  1. Very positive review, but the engine and the transmission seem a bit primitive at the very least. I know the Transit has been lauded in Europe (excuse me, the Transit Connect), but surely some commercial customers will find the Transit Connect a bit underpowered.

  2. The most powerful engine in Europe is a 109hp turbodiesel. An automatic transmission is not available in Europe.

  3. Even the lower-hp engine in Europe is capable of carrying a lot of weight, so I think Americans will be happy with the Connect.

  4. It ain’t real pretty, but it does look mighty functional.

  5. Very informative, thanks. I’m tinkinking about replacing one of my old cargo half-tons with a Transit Connect.

  6. I will buy the diesel version when it gets here (50 mpg)

  7. We had the original Scion box as our store delivery van, and when it came time to retire it, we bought the Transit Connect. What a big step up.

    Wish we could have had this the whole time we had the Scion!

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