Transit Connect arrives

Ford’s compact-class Transit Connect represents the reinvention of the van for business and personal use and could revolutionize the transportation choices for both categories.

That’s a bold statement to be sure, but this proven hauler really delivers the goods in more ways than the obvious. Since 2003, Ford has sold more than 600,000 of these Turkish-built beasts of burden in 58 countries spread over four continents. And these days, a strong business case can certainly be made for the Transit Connect to connect with a potentially vast group of prospective purchasers on North American soil.

Here, at last, is an attractively styled van that provides a compelling alternative for small-business owners, including tradespeople, service-industry workers and delivery personnel. Previously, these groups had to choose between full-size cargo vans, pickup trucks or modified minivans.

With the cost of gasoline sneaking its way upward and adding to already spiraling business costs, the TC makes perfect sense. It is in fact a super-efficient platform that’s ready to be decked out for a multitude of tasks. Its 180.6-inch length is more than 31 inches shorter than the smallest of Ford’s full-size E-series vans. And at 70.7 inches wide, there’s a 10.5-inch difference in width between the two.

Obviously, there’s no contest when comparing cargo capacity, but then there are plenty of business operators who could comfortably live with the TC’s 1,600-pound payload rating. Another big plus is the more than 6 feet of unobstructed floor space behind the front seats and a 5-foot-tall cargo hold that can be accessed through dual sliding side doors or twin rear cargo openings that swing open up to 255 degrees.

Keeping operating costs in check is assisted by the Transit Connect’s 136-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sends its power to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The fuel economy rings in at an estimated 22 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Those numbers, combined with an estimated 375-mile cruising range make the TC an even more remarkable hauler.

The van can be ordered in two versions: cargo van with or without side and/or rear windows; or configured as a wagon (with side and rear glass included) with a second-row, two-person folding bench seat, or optional split-folding rear seat that can fit three passengers. Ford is apparently also planning a full-blown minivan-style version of the Transit Connect with an upgraded interior that could arrive later in the model year.

As you might imagine, basic XL van models are pretty much blank canvasses, but air conditioning, AM/FM radio and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel are included. XLT versions add color-keyed bumpers, remote keyless entry, a CD player and power windows, locks and mirrors. The TC wagon trims are closely similar, however stability control that reduces the likelihood of a skid or spin comes standard.

Ford has developed a tempting array of options for the TC under the Tool Link and Crew Chief labels. The former can electronically track the whereabouts of various tools and equipment so that none are forgotten after leaving the job site. Crew Chief’s functions include tracking vehicle location, perform engine diagnostics and other duties (idle running time, fuel economy, etc.) necessary for proper fleet management.

Finally, an in-dash computer with GPS navigation can be ordered that provides full Internet access, texting and hands-free cell phone capability.

Ford also offers nearly unlimited choices for dressing up the TC through its aftermarket network of companies that can create specialized storage bins, drawers, cabinets and other custom-designed storage solutions.

In most ways, the Transit Connect is the perfect purpose-built work companion, from its thrifty operation to makes-sense utility. Pinching pennies while being more efficient? Ford’s secret weapon won’t stay a secret for long.

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