Ford Transit Connect – Does Ford Realize How Cool This Thing Really Is?
- February 6, 2008
- Ford, New Model Introductions
- Posted by Ed Kim
- Comments Off on Ford Transit Connect – Does Ford Realize How Cool This Thing Really Is?
Aimed at Small Businesses Feeling the Strain from High Fuel Prices
Now here’s an idea whose time has come. Today at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford unveiled its new Ford Transit Connect, a small European cargo van that has the potential to fill what could be perceived as a pretty big gap in the marketplace. If you’re a business owner that needs to haul stuff around, you have two main choices: a full-size van or a pickup truck. Both of these vehicle types represent capability and toughness, no doubt. However, they also use plenty of fuel, and are in many cases too much vehicle relative to their usage. For instance, does a flower delivery service really need 10,000-pound towing capability? Does an IT specialist really need 4,000 pounds of payload capacity? As fuel prices keep creeping up, many businesses are finding that their cost of doing business is going up significantly, and having too much vehicle for the job at hand is increasingly like throwing money away.
Enter the Transit Connect. This compact car-based van is reminiscent of the Dodge Sprinter, but shrunk down to about the footprint of a Ford Focus. Thus, it’s tall, boxy, and utilitarian. But it’s also kind of funky and cool, with an honesty about its styling that makes it unexpectedly desirable. This type of vehicle has been tremendously popular overseas for decades – these small work vans are economical, easy to maneuver, and have tremendous volume inside their small exteriors.
Funky Style, Great Interior Space, Fun to Drive…What’s Not to Like?
Built in Turkey, Ford will equip all Transit Connects (even panel vans) with rear seats so that it can be certified as a passenger vehicle, thus avoiding the 25% tariff levied on imported trucks. We climbed in and around the vehicle and found that it works exceedingly well as a passenger vehicle. The big sliding doors making getting in and out a snap, and the rear seat is actually nicely shaped and quite roomy. In addition, the very high roof makes the interior feel extremely spacious.
We also expect it to drive well. Using some Focus componentry, this little van has been praised by the European press for being very fun to drive, with great steering and entertaining handling. For the US market, the powertrain will be a 2.0L 4-cylinder with 136HP (like the Focus), promising decent acceleration and good fuel economy. Unfortunately, there are no plans to bring the 1.8L diesel that’s available in the European version.
Likely to Have Broad Appeal – Perhaps More Than Ford Realizes
Initially, Ford plans to bring only 20,000 units per year. We think Ford might be underestimating its potential. In fact, we think Transit Connect could end up being popular outside of the business world. Its cavernous interior, great access, and available rubber flooring makes it ideal for outdoors activities, while its very comfortable seating makes it very viable as a passenger car. It’s functional in the way a Honda Element is – and quite possibly cooler than the Element because it lacks pretense. It’s one of those vehicles that, in this writer’s opinion, is cool without trying to be cool.
Transit Connect goes on sale next summer, with pricing yet to be determined.