2010 Ford Transit Connect Review

The 2010 North American Truck of the Year is in a Class all its Own… Literally

2010 Ford Transit Connect Review

The iconic vagabond vehicle for the 1960s generation was a Volkswagen van, hand-painted in groovy colors with gaudy curtains billowing out the back windows. If the Transit Connect was an option back then, Ford’s small cargo van with oversized body sides might have been an appealing option for surfers, artists, and others who like to customize their mode of transportation.

FAST FACTS

1. Since 2003 more than 600,000 Transit Connect vehicles have sold to buyers on four continents

2. Aftermarket racks, bins, and other cargo management items as well as graphic wraps are available for order through Ford dealers.

3. The Transit Connect has 135.3 cubic feet of cargo volume and a 1,600 lb payload.

4. Pricing for the Transit Connect starts at $21,475.

Ford tapped its global vehicle portfolio to bring the Kocaeli, Turkey-assembled Transit Connect to the U.S. market for small business owners wanting an alternative to larger-sized delivery vehicles. But the reality is non-business owners will discover a connection to this quirky-looking vehicle. It’s flush with cargo space, light on the pocketbook, and the in-dash computer includes all types of applications, such as remotely accessing the office computer.

Even though the 2010 model year marks its U.S.-debut, the Transit Connect has been sold in 58 countries with a 1.8-liter diesel engine and five-speed manual transmission since 2003.

SUPRISINGLY CAR-LIKE THANKS TO A PLATFORM AND ENGINE SHARED WITH THE FOCUS

For its U.S. premiere, the vehicle sports a four-speed automatic transmission and a gasoline-fueled Duratec 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine—also the power source for the Ford Focus compact sedan. In the Transit Connect application, the engine grabs 136-hp at 6300 rpm and 128 ft-lbs of torque at 4750 rpm. While that might not sound like a whopping amount of power, the unloaded vehicle didn’t stutter when the accelerator pedal was heavily pressed during highway driving.

With a base curb weight of 3,470 lbs and height of 79.3-inches, the Transit Connect is surprisingly nimble. It handles inclines and declines effortlessly, and curves seem as uneventful as turning on the headlights. Nothing about the cargo van’s handling is dramatically different from any four-door sedan. The vehicle’s tall-stance doesn’t even elicit a rocking sway, top-heavy tilt, or a slight side-to-side toss during gusty winds. And a torrential downpour proved to be no match for the all-encompassing sweep of the windshield wipers.

Although it’s not an echo chamber on wheels, the vehicle isn’t immune to wind and road noise. Turning up the audio provides a distraction from the drone-like hum, but the two-speaker AM/FM/CD player on our XLT cargo van tester was deficient in comparison to passenger vehicles laden with amplifiers, sub-woofers and a small army of speakers.  

NO RAZZLE-DAZZLE IN THE INTERIOR

For drivers and riders increasingly accustomed to lush cabins, the Transit Connect might disappoint. Its dashboard material is not soft touch, yet the bone-hard instrument panel supports a delivery vehicle’s image of rugged durability and easy upkeep. Heat/air conditioning and other center stack controls are easy-to-reach. A cigarette lighter, a slim-barreled ignition key, and a swivel front grille logo (where the ignition key is used to unlock the hood) subtly point to the van’s European origins.

The center gauge cluster area spotlights a miles-to-empty continual calculation, but don’t expect to see the countdown hit double digits every other hour as the cargo van collects a respectable mpg estimate of 22 city and 25 highway. Front doors are devoid of buttons with power window switches located on the center floor console. For drivers under 6-feet, the inner door panel’s ridge makes for an uncomfortable left-side armrest, but the racket-adjustable, right side armrest fits all sizes.

Although the driver and front passenger seats resemble padded folding-chairs, the seats are quite comfortable. Too bad that comfort-level disappears when looking out the sides or rear of the cargo van. Backing up and parking this vehicle is a major challenge. A rearview camera would be exceedingly useful since our XLT tester came without side or rear windows. The option list includes side and rear windows and a reverse sensing system, but not a rear camera to show the back-of-vehicle view on the navigation screen.  

THE ONLY SMALL CARGO VAN ON THE MARKET

Cargo and hauling comparisons are far from being straight up since the front wheel drive vehicle is technically the only small cargo van in the market. The Transit Connect isn’t a super-sized delivery van, so its 135.3 cubic feet of cargo volume is out-of-sync with the rear wheel drive Sprinter’s maximum cargo volume of 494 cu.-ft. with seats removed.

The much larger Sprinter is sold with a choice of two wheelbases, two body lengths, and two passenger compartment heights, and it’s powered by a 6-cylinder diesel engine. On the payload side of the equation, the front wheel drive Transit Connect can haul up to 1,600 lbs., which is—not surprisingly—several hundred lbs less than the Sprinter.

Split rear doors open a standard 180 degrees (optionally 255 degrees), so loading and unloading cargo is unencumbered on the Transit Connect. Between the wheel arches, the Transit Connect’s load width is 47.8-inches, which falls a bit short of the 50.8-inches that’s between the wheel housings on the GMC Savana (G1500) full-size van. The Savana also wins in available load floor, having 127.6-inches behind the driver versus 72.6-inches—which means the rear doors on the Transit Connect can’t be closed if hauling standard 4×8-foot sheets of drywall.

THE VERDICT

The Transit Connect is appealing and will find an audience beyond small businesses in search of a smaller-sized utilitarian delivery vehicle that doesn’t redline the balance sheet.

Unlike full-size body-on-frame SUVs and pickup trucks that are bounce and sway provoked by pothole-riddled roadways, the unibody van with 15-inch tires holds a steady course. Entering/exiting and loading/unloading the vehicle with dual sliding doors and swing-open rear doors is amazingly easy given the vehicle’s low-slung carriage. And while fun to drive (for a van), abysmal rear visibility does tarnish the overall impression.    

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