Ford Transit Connect:

Ram Promaster City – MicroVan Workhorse

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First, it was the Ford Transit Connect van from Turkey that has been ubiquitous in Europe for years before being seen on American roads.  Small, styled with a brash quirkiness, tinny beyond imagination especially in taxi fleets, the Transit Connect caught on.  Then Ford replaced the original Transit Connect with a lower roof, more stylish van built in Spain that is actually fun to drive.  Nissan responded with the Nissan NV200 that is supposed to be the Taxi of Tomorrow for the New York City taxi fleet.  It is assembled in Mexico.  Not so fun to drive and assembled with more than a dollop of plastic.  Most recently is the launch of the Ram (FCA US LLC, aka FCAGroup, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Dodge Trucks) Promaster City.  How would I compare the three?

Ford Transit Connect Van

Ford Transit Connect Van

2015 Ram Promaster City

2015 Ram Promaster City

2014 Nissan NV200

2014 Nissan NV200

Transit Connect Most Minivan-Like  The Transit Connect ($22,330 – $29,185) is the most minivan-like.  It has a instrument panel that mimics that in the Ford Focus.  The seats are comfortable, but a choppy ride offsets the seat comfort.  Performance is adequate with its standard 2.5L 4-cylinder engine having 169-horsepower coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission.  Optionally, the Transit Connect has a 178-horsepower EcoBoost 4-cylinder.  Transit Connect is available in two wheelbases.

NV200 Spartan  The Nissan NV200 ($20,270-$24,435 in cargo van version) is the most Spartan of the three.  Its interior has been stripped bare of most ornamentation and the execution yields the most basic of transportation modules.  A passenger version of the NV200 is not available unless you get the taxicab version starting at $29,700).  Powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine mated to a CVT (continuously variable transmission), the NV200 is the most anemic of the three.  Like the original Transit Connect, the NV200 can be a rattletrap.  That brings me to the Ram Promaster City.

Promaster City Best Driving Feel  Built in Turkey, the Promaster City ($23,130 for van version and $24,130 for the passenger version – maximum $29,275) probably falls between the Transit Connect and NV200 overall.  It does, however, have the best driving feel of the three.  The Promaster City is powered by the Fiat Tigershark 2.4L 4-cylinder engine mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.  Sounds like the Dodge Dart or Jeep Cherokee.  With much of the North American development work being done in the pothole-filled environs of Auburn Hills, Michigan, the Promaster City suspension has been beefed up and given more travel.  Promaster City also has a fully independent rear suspension.  The result is the ride comfort in the Promaster City is more comfortable in most conditions than the Transit Connect or the NV200.2015 Promaster City R342015 Promaster City Cockpit

The Battle for BIC – Best In Class:  Transit Connect and Promaster City are vying for Best In Class claims.  Promaster City claims best in class horsepower at 178-horsepower.  This is correct for base engines, but if you consider Ford’s EcoBoost at 178-horsepower you have a tie.  Promaster City has a fuel economy rating of 21mpg city/29mpg highway.  Transit Connect is 20/28mpg.  Promaster City claims the largest cargo volume at 132 cubic feet – Ford has 129 cubic feet in its long wheelbase van.  Promaster City claims the highest payload at 1883 pounds – Ford has 1620.  Its 48.4-inches between the rear wheelhouses allows you to put 4-foot wide materials flat on the rear load floor.  The 72-inch load floor length does not allow a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of plywood to be transported enclosed, however.  So, Promaster City wins the brochure war and its base Tigershark engine and 9-speed automatic transmission edges out the Transit Connect, but it is very close.


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Ford Crew Chief Telematics System

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Telematics System for Vehicle Tracking and Management  Ford is offering the Crew Chief telematics system on its fleet vehicles.  Developed by Telogis, Crew Chief is a GPS-based system designed to monitor vehicle activity and improve efficiency.  The Ford Crew Chief system is available on the F-150, F-Series Super Duty, E-Series, Transit and Transit Connect.

Black Box GPSThe Ford Crew Chief system includes a GPS receiver, or black box, mounted out of the way in the instrument panel.  The GPS tracks the vehicle real-time and converts the data received from the vehicle into a visual dashboard that provides an at-a-glance summary of a commercial fleet’s performance.  Knowing how a vehicle is being driven can help fleet management “counsel” drivers on how to improve their driving style and achieve better efficiency.  When driving and vehicle operation improves, insurance rates can drop.

The Ford Crew Chief system measures a wide array of vehicle attributes.  Measuring these attributes can help fleet management anticipate problems and correct them before a serious mechanical failure might occur.

Some of the attributes measured by Crew Chief include:

•  VIN
•  Oil Life (% remaining)
•  Tire Pressure
•  Diagnostic Trouble Codes
•  Engine Coolant Temperatures
•  Water in Fuel of a Diesel-Powered Vehicle
•  Excessive RPM
•  Safety Belt Usage
•  Air Bag Status
•  Battery Charge
•  Excessive Idling
•  Hard Acceleration/Driving

•  Driver Insurance Expiration Date
•  Driver License Expiration Date

Clearly, the fleet can save a lot of money by reducing the time a vehicle is idling or whether or not the driver is abusing the vehicle by revving the engine unnecesarily, accelerating hard and driving hard.

Can Be Very Big Brother  It might sound like Big Brother, but knowing what the driver is doing and where the vehicle is and has been can be a real advantage in managing a fleet.  Here are some of the features Crew Chief can include:

•  Find the Closest Capable Driver
•  Develop Custom Map Overlays
•  Add a Fuel Efficiency Module
•  Satellite Imagery (helps identify landmarks in mapped locations)
•  Provide Real-Time Alerts
•  Provide Turn-by-Turn Directions
•  Fast Mapping
•  Automated Reports
•  Animated Vehicle History Trails
•  Maintenance Reporting
•  Fleet, Driver and Team Management
•  Search (finds any vehicle, driver, location or tagged group, improving asset utilization and making fleet management more efficient)Ford Crew Chief History Map

•  Speeding Alerts (flags when drivers are over the speed limit.  Can help reduce insurance costs)Ford Crew Chief Speeding

Of course, Ford Crew Chief is not free.  There is a monthly fee for each vehicle of $31.99 for the standard package and $39.99 for the professional package.


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Analysis: 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

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What if I told you you could buy a vehicle that had the capability to haul seven people, could hit at least 30 MPG on the highway, and had all of the creature comforts you would want, such as navigation and Bluetooth; would you buy it?  What if there was a catch?  Would sliding doors break the deal for you?  Would riding in a jazzed up cargo van send shivers down your spine?


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Ford Transit Connect: Euro Van Meets Apple Pie

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According to Wikipedia, “white van man” is a usually pejorative stereotype used in the United Kingdom to describe drivers of light commercial vehicles such as the Ford Transit. Such vehicles are commonly painted white in order to facilitate easy sign-writing on the paneled sides. The stereotype represents the drivers of such vehicles as having poor driving skills and / or an aggressive and inconsiderate manner. The stereotypical “white van man” is often self-employed or the owner of a small business such as builder, carpenter, or plumber. For one week I was able to play the part in a 2010 Ford Transit Connect.
IMG_0253.jpg


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Ford Transit Connect – Niche Busting Van

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Ford Transit Connect F34.jpg

One of the most significant launches at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show was the 2010 Ford Transit Connect. This relatively small van is made by Ford of Europe in Turkey and will be shipped into the USA from the Middle East. The Transit Connect re-opens a niche that Ford and General Motors abandoned when they shut down their Aerostar/Astro/Safari vans. Remember, those were mid-size “minivans” that had rear wheel drive and were powered by V6 engines. Selling briskly at first, these vans eventually faded away.
Ford Transit Connect SV.jpg

Ford positions the Transit Connect as a commercial van designed for plumbers, florists, audio visual companies, etc. While the dual sliding doors come standard “blind” with no glass, they can be had with glass. It does not appear that Ford is going to offer a version with windows in the rear quarter panels which would open the Transit Connect up to being a “passenger van/minivan” rather than a commercial van.
Ford Transit Connect SV Open.jpg

Powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, the Transit Connect promises 19mpg in town and 24 on the highway. Certainly not earth shattering, but pretty good.
Having wondered for years why Ford did not import the Transit Connect to the USA, it took Ford Chairman Alan Mulally to break the roadblock created by Ford’s financial system to develop a strategy allowing Transit Connect to be positioned competitively in the USA. Transit Connect is a very good looking product that should do quite well once it hits the ground.
FORD TRANSIT CONNECT R34 OPEN.jpg

Now, Ford should introduce a passenger version with windows all around and two rows of seats (5-passenger only please).


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