OAKBROOK TERRACE, Illinois - Some big SUVs and vans still demonstrate wretched excess, in both dimensions and fuel-guzzling characteristics. Ford's Transit Connect van, in contrast, simply exudes common sense.
Following a successful introduction in Europe, where sensible-sized vehicles are the norm, Ford has brought the Transit Connect van to the U.S. market. Clearly, the emphasis is on commercial applications. When it was promoted at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2009, a batch of colorful versions, each decked out for a different purpose, made the possibilities evident.
Passenger-carrying wagons are part of the Transit Connect picture, too. A Transit Connect could easily substitute for a minivan, said Jodi Slucker, Ford's commercial business manager. Absolutely true, especially considering the Transit Connect's 22/25 mpg (city/highway) fuel-economy estimate, as well as its moderate selling price. The XL base model stickers for $21,475 (including destination charge). Moving up to an XLT raises the fare to $22,535.
Various commercially-helpful options are available. Ford Works Solutions, which includes an in-vehicle computer with Internet access, costs $1,395 extra. The Tool Link system, which can track locations of tools, adds $1,220. Crew Chief, which tracks a fleet of vans, costs $550 (plus $20 a month per vehicle). Rear doors that open to 255 degrees are available. So are various glass options, including no windows at all, and a reverse-sensing system. Five body colors are offered.
Exceptionally easy - and fun - to drive, the Transit Connect is truly a wise size for maneuverability and easy parking. Steering is light enough for ease, but just heavy enough for control. A Transit Connect rides more like a minivan than a truck, but handles better than either. Sending 136 horsepower to a four-speed automatic transmission, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has more pep than might be expected. Pleasantly quiet, these vans yield virtually no trucklike feel or sounds.
Wagons can be set up to hold either four or five occupants. Vans are made for two. Comfortably cushioned seats seem like they'll be good for all-day work.
Anyone considering a minivan but in need of commercial-level hauling capabilities would benefit from looking at Ford's take on such vehicles.
Attention Editors: This complete Ford Transit Connect review is available now for your publication. Please contact us at JF@tirekick.com for details.