Like most people my age, I absolutely love not paying for stuff, especially when that stuff comes from my parents. So when the folks said they were visiting Illinois to check on the house they have for sale (a nearly new, five-bedroom, brick-front home in Arlington Heights that’s recently been reduced – you’re welcome, Dad) I saw an opportunity to literally clean house.
The Transit Connect was surprisingly competent on the four-hour highway ride from Ann Arbor. You would assume a vehicle shaped like a billboard to be susceptible to crosswinds — and you’d be right — but its quick, communicative steering means you can easily apply corrections without sawing the wheel. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder was a bit buzzy at cruising speeds but never had trouble maintaining 70-75 mph, which is quite impressive when you remember the vehicle’s top speed is something like 90 mph.
Once in Illinois, I discovered my parents had rented a Chevrolet HHR for the weekend, which allowed for some quick back-to-back testing. No question about it, the Transit Connect is much more enjoyable behind the wheel, though the Chevy still has a somewhat nicer interior.
What did I manage to haul back from the soon-to-be empty house? For starters, I cleaned out the entire pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Thinking I’d need a way to cook some of that food quickly, I took a microwave. Then I went to my room and carried out, more or less, my entire childhood: posters, sports banners, clothing, about a dozen books, a Flexible Flyer sled, and a Nok Hockey table. There was still plenty of room, so I relieved the front porch of its furniture and took the TV from my parents’ bedroom. I really could have fit much more, but by that point, my parents’ humor and generosity had run thin, so it was suggested that I be pleased with what I had. If we get a Transit Connect in again, I’ll probably return for their living room couch.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I used my evening with the Transit Connect as an opportunity to take some bulky objects to our nearby storage unit, but a couple Christmas-tree boxes and the like barely made a dent in the Ford’s cavernous cargo area.
Despite the vehicle’s size, it feels much, much smaller from behind the wheel, a feeling aided by responsive steering and a low, comfortable, carlike seating position. I’m sure that the little four-cylinder can be taxed by large loads, but when the Transit Connect is empty, it seems decently peppy (although I suspect much of that impression is created because of the four-cylinder’s noise at high revs and not necessarily its urge). Either way, the Ford can keep up with traffic, as long as you’re not afraid to exercise your right foot.
Overall, Ford’s little cargo van should be a great package for many small businesses. I see lots of Dodge/Freightliner Sprinters on the road these days, but I bet that the Transit Connect will be a better fit for people with slightly smaller needs, particularly when pricing (the Ford is more than $15,000 cheaper!) and fuel economy are considered. Personally, though, I’d like to try the “Wagon” version, which has a three-passenger back seat; I have little need for a two-seater that’s not a sports car.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Outside of driving and writing about cars, I’m also an occasional triathlete. Having once crammed five bikes into the back of a Mazda Protege5 while mounting six more to the roof, I love the endless possibilities for filling a Transit Connect. I’ve put on a few events as a race director in the past couple years, and dream about how useful a Transit Connect would be for hauling cones, barricades, water coolers, tables, and a dozen volunteers. Of course, when I took the Transit Connect home for a night, I couldn’t come up with anything bulky to stick inside it, but I did have a box of books that I set in the cavernous cargo hold. Despite my best efforts to shake it loose, the rubberized floor did a fantastic job keeping the box in one spot for the entire trip home.
The Transit Connect may revolutionize the U.S. commercial vehicle market with better fuel economy, a great price, and excellent utility, but it does little to advance the driving experience. The price for fuel economy is an engine that really needs to be flogged for any serious acceleration. Merging onto the highway often requires a full boot to the throttle, a kickdown to second gear, and a not-so-sexy roar from the engine. The powerplant is adequate, but I can’t imagine a Transit Connect loaded with 1500 pounds. At the very least, it seems a five-speed transmission would be a nice mid-life update. On the gusty winter night I drove the Transit Connect, the tall profile was a sail in the wind. Rather than the typically staccato crosswind shove that you might experience in other cars, the Transit Connect catches prolonged puffs that really require you to fight back with the steering wheel. In all, though, the Transit Connect is quite comfortable compared to some full-size vehicles that only ride well when fully loaded.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Unlike Eric Tingwall, I did find some bulky items to haul in the Transit Connect: about 30 used car tires from Automobile Magazine’s tire-storage room. I was simply amazed by how many of them the Transit Connect could swallow, and these were not small tires: they were all 17s, 18s, and 19-inchers.
Aside from the obvious utility of a big-box vehicle with doors on each side and big rear dutch doors that swing open wide to reveal a broad, flat cargo floor lined with a thick rubber pad, the other thing I really liked about the Transit Connect was its front visibility. With a low, broad windshield, it was easy to place the front end of the vehicle on the road, which was especially nice since you have no rearward visibility at all. Despite that, it’s easy to get a sense of the size and mass of the Transit so that you can back into a parking space using only the side mirrors. That said, here’s a place where a rearview camera would REALLY be useful.
Have a look at the spec sheet for our Transit, which priced out at $26,215, and you’ll see that $2615 is for dubious options like the in-dash computer and Tool Link. Skip those and you’ll have a great utility vehicle for your small business for only $23,600.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
2010 Ford Transit Connect XLT Van
Base price (with destination): $22,535
Price as tested: $26,215
6-way adjustable manual driver seat
4-way adjustable manual passenger seat
Overhead stowage shelf
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Front and side airbags
Options on this vehicle:
255-degree opening rear doors – $190
Roll stability control – $545
Rear parking sensors – $280
Front carpeted floor mats – $50
In-dash computer – $1395
Tool link work solutions – $1220
– Track tools in van via RFID tags
Key options not on vehicle:
Bluetooth connectivity – $220
Remote start – $345
Crew chief telematics – $550
– track vehicle location, speed, and idle time
22 / 25 / 23 mpg
Size: 2.0L DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 136 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 128 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
Weight: 3470 lb
15 in. steel wheels
205/65 all-season tires