2010 Ford Transit Connect Wagon Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
February 8, 2010

The 2010 Ford Transit Connect is unique in the market. Small-business owners will find it far more fuel efficient and maneuverable than a full-size van. The range of optional custom fittings lets users tailor it to their tasks.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the 2010 Ford Transit Connect to bring you this hands-on review that covers styling, performance, safety, utility, and features from on-the-road observations. TheCarConnection.com's editors also researched reviews from other sources to give you a comprehensive range of opinions from around the Web-and to help you decide which ones to trust. High Gear Media drove a manufacturer-provided Ford Transit Connect to produce this hands-on road test.

It's new to the United States for 2010, but more than 600,000 Ford Transit Connect small delivery vans have been sold in Europe and elsewhere since 2003. Ford brought the 2010 Transit Connect Stateside in the hopes of cultivating a small but loyal audience for the oddly endearing van; it plans to build the next generation in an American factory. Designed from scratch as a cargo vehicle, the Transit Connect comes in passenger and cargo versions, with seating for up to five, and carries a base price of $21,475. It's unique, but may compete most closely with the 2010 Honda Element, another cargo-hauling specialty utility vehicle, and the 2010 Chevrolet HHR Panel Van.

There's not a lot to say about the styling of the Transit Connect. The front end is a variation on Ford's large headlights and horizontal-bar grille, but it looks like a small van, and it is. We suspect many will be painted white and quickly become an invisible part of numerous urban landscapes. Inside, the 2010 Ford Transit Connect betrays its European origins only occasionally. One example: The electric window switches are mounted on the center tunnel rather than on the doors.

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The 2010 Ford Transit Connect is powered by a 136-horsepower, 2.0-liter Duratec engine. It's mated to a four-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels; the same powertrain is used in the Ford Focus. Acceleration off the line is hardly lightning fast, but it suffices for urban use. We didn't get a chance to drive a fully loaded version. Midrange acceleration is good, as are the brakes (discs in front, drums in the rear), which include anti-lock protection.

While almost every European Transit Connect uses a diesel engine, Ford says altering a small diesel to meet stringent U.S. emissions standards would make that option prohibitively expensive for cash-conscious fleet owners. Sometime during 2010, Ford will launch an all-electric version of the Transit Connect. Its liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack will be offered in two sizes, producing a range of 70 to 100 miles on a single charge. Recharge time will be 6 to 8 hours. The payload of the electric version will be 1,400 pounds, a mere 200-pound reduction against the gasoline version.

With fuel economy rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, the Transit Connect does far better than Ford's E-150 full-size van. The best-rated E-150 gets just 14 mpg city, 18 mpg highway from a 225-horsepower 4.6-liter V8.

The 2010 Ford Transit Connect is hardly a hot-handling hatchback, but it's not meant to be. Delivery drivers used to wrestling full-size vans or larger box vans through city traffic will find it a joy. It takes a bit of training to avoid clipping curbs when making sharp turns, because the rear wheels are so far to the rear at the van's corners. For easy urban maneuverability, the curb-to-curb turning circle is just 39 feet, and the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering makes it easy to park. The door mirrors are usefully large too, which is good, because even with windows in the rear "church doors," the center posts are a major blind spot in the inside rearview mirror.

The 2010 Transit Connect feels smaller and more maneuverable on the road than it is. In other words, it drives small. That's a good thing, because it's remarkably wide inside-even holding two large construction workers comfortably. It's tall, too. Only the long wipers remind drivers just how high the windshield and truck actually are. That height, in fact, provides enough space for a full-width storage shelf above the windshield that holds books, clipboards, or even a small portable computer printer.

Payload is 1,600 pounds, and there's 135 cubic feet of cargo space. The load bay is 6 feet long, 5 feet high, and 4 feet wide between the rear wheel arches, with a lift-over height of just 2 feet above the ground. Gross vehicle weight is 5,000 pounds.

Befitting a vehicle likely to run with only two front passengers, the first-row seats of the 2010 Transit Connect are fitted with dual-stage front airbags and side-curtain airbags. Roll Stability Control is optional on cargo vehicles, though standard in the wagon that's fitted with a second-row seat. The body is double-skinned to lessen the damage from minor dings, and each wheel opening has a durable rubber trim molding. The hood can be locked along with the front doors and the cargo doors-which are keyed separately.

Because the 2010 Ford Transit Connect is a commercial vehicle-albeit a small one-many near-standard features found on cars and crossovers aren't available. One regrettable omission is Ford's popular SYNC interface for audio and communications systems. The sole such offering is Bluetooth connectivity from Nokia. Neither is a 110-volt power outlet available. A Garmin navigation system is offered in place of the in-dash unit found on Fords meant for passengers.

To accommodate the myriad special needs of small-business owners, Ford allows aftermarket companies to fit special-purpose "upfits" (cargo bulkheads, racks, drawers, bins, shelves, and other interior options) to Transit Connects as they come off the boat. That's also when Ford installs the in-vehicle computer and telematics tracking system offered as Ford Work Solutions. Options include an in-dash computer and the in-vehicle Tool Link system that keeps track of tools and other items fitted with RFID tags. These can be ordered with Crew Chief software that tracks the vehicle's location in real time, the length of time it spends idling, seatbelt usage, average speed, and how often hard braking occurs. An HP OfficeJet portable printer can even be added in order to print job specs and invoices on site.

The rest of the options list is short, including rear doors that open at an extra-wide 255-degree angle, an engine-block heater for cold climates, and Roll Stability Control. The base XL cargo version starts at $21,475, including destination charges. A fully loaded XLT wagon with all the Ford Works Solutions gadgets runs as high as $26,975.

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