Ford Transit Connect Gets Fleet Action
The 2010 Ford Transit Connect light-duty utility van is ready to deliver the goods.
Ford's Transit Connect small van has hit North American shores. You'll be seeing a lot of the Transit Connect. But get your orders in now because this hot European-conceived-and-built van is flying off dealer lots.
The Transit Connect is designed for business uses that don't call for the capacity and power of the E-Series lineup, yet need an economical, small work vehicle that maximizes space and fuel economy. The segment is a virtual white space in terms of model offerings in North America.
The Bobit fleet team recently got a chance to test drive the Transit Connect and visit potential small fleet users in Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Look at Me
The Transit Connect has the "look at me" value of the Dodge Sprinter, without the price tag, and twice as much cargo capacity as the Chevy HHR panel van. The closest model type would be the erstwhile cargo versions of minivan models such as the Ford Windstar Cargo or Chevy Astro Cargo. However, the Transit Connect is light years ahead of those vehicles in every respect.
The white, tall sides are ideal for a vehicle wrap, making it a "business card on wheels."
In some neighborhoods, especially our driving route around Beverly Hills and Hollywood, an E-Series van would be a bull in a china shop. The Transit Connect is more like a trusty butler, delivering the goods unobtrusively in boutique shop and residential suburban settings.
Handles Like a Car
The van drives and handles more like a passenger vehicle than any work vehicle out there. This is an important selling point for Ford, which expects some business owners to use the van as a personal vehicle during off hours.
Unladen, the 2.0-liter, I-4 136 hp engine is powerful enough, though with a maxed out 1,600-lb payload, it may be underpowered. The trade-off is excellent fuel economy. At least your drivers won't be able to gun it in a residential neighborhood.
The turning radius of 39 feet curb to curb makes it as nimble as a compact car. We put the van through a twisty cone course and it was remarkably agile. Negotiating the stop-and-go Hollywood traffic was a breeze. Front and side visibility is great. Our driving team appreciated the rear view mirror visibility through the back windows (an option).
Form Becomes Function
Factory upfit packages are offered through Adrian Steel, Leggett & Platt and Sortimo, a UK company. Ford execs use the phrase "uber organization," and it fits. This is the first small van to have so many storage options offered through the factory.
The van maximizes every inch of its 135.3 cubic feet of cargo volume, highlighted by dual sliding rear side doors. The tall back opens up to a maximum of 59.1 inches of floor- to-ceiling height, while load width is 48.1 inches between the wheel arches. The split rear cargo doors open at a standard 180 degrees, or an optional 255 degrees.
Furthering the organizational capabilities is Ford Work Solutions, an optional in-dash computer system. Not only do users in the field have a full computer in the car, the system can link to the business's main office computer network via cellular connection and print out invoices, etc., on the fly with a Bluetooth-enabled, battery-powered printer. Other features of Ford Work Solutions include a full GPS tracking and navigation system and a tool tracker using RFID tags.
Perhaps a bit undersized for the HVAC, contractor and utility applications, the Transit Connect seems perfect for light-duty delivery situations such as bakeries, florists and picture framers. We visited a business in each of these categories.
While none of the three companies we visited actually had a Transit Connect in operation yet, the owners all had definite ideas on uses for their businesses. BF