The TC is nimble and quick on city streets and can more than keep up with freeway traffic, though I had to put my foot into it to properly merge from on-ramps. This was during a show-and-tell event for news reporters at the Royal Oak (Mich.) Farmers Market near Detroit, one of a series of events Ford was hosting across the country.
Behind the wheel
My assigned TC was set up for a tradesman, with shelves and cabinets along the walls of its roomy rear compartment. Ford has partnered with three upfitters so buyers can specify a wide array of shelving, drawers and boxes. Or buy it bare and arrange your stuff to suit yourself.
The TC's powertrain - a 2-liter Duratec inline-4 and 4-speed automatic transmission - delivers 22 to 25 mpg of gasoline, Ford says. That's maybe 5 to 10 mpg better than the hefty V-8s that propel most full-size vans. Most TCs sold in Europe have a small diesel and a 5-speed manual tranny, but Americans wouldn't want them, Ford believes.
Our press contingent convoyed over streets and expressways, scooting easily through traffic and turning tightly where we had to. This TC was quick, but carried only one other guy and no cargo. However, our hosts had loaded another TC with 1,200 pounds of bagged sand, and my driving buddy and I piled in with a Ford rep - maybe 600 pounds worth of people - and we took turns driving it around the block. Now about 200 pounds over its payload rating, the TC's ride was well settled and its acceleration adequate. On a freeway it would've been sluggish but workable.
Just the facts
A basic TC comes as a panel van with windowless sliding side doors and rear "barn" doors with darkened glass. A buyer can keep or delete the rear glass, and can spec windows in the side doors and rear-quarter panels. The customer can also choose a windowed wagon version with a rear seat that accommodates three people and folds up to expand cargo space.
Up front is a pair of bucket seats flanking a small console that houses the shift selector and rises to form an arm rest. A businesslike instrument panel includes a speedometer, tachometer and the usual engine-temperature and fuel gauges. A handy package shelf above the big windshield holds the wireless keyboard for an on-board PC, one of the Ford Work Solutions options - a whole 'nother subject.
The small van has a sporty feel and drives that way. It reminded me of Chevy's HHR Panel - a direct competitor - and Chrysler's PT Cruiser. But the Transit Connect is larger and, Ford reps insisted, built from the bottom up as a commercial truck. It feels very stout and our near-new examples were rattle-free. Ford says the Transit Connect has been rigorously tested, successfully operated overseas, and will last many years here.
With its 15.4-gallon gasoline tank, a Transit Connect should go about 500 miles between fill-ups, Ford says. For operations that keep trucks closer to home, sometime next year Ford will have a battery-electric version that'll go 100 miles between plug-ins. Meanwhile, if you need a bigger, heavier truck of this sort, then an E-van still makes sense. But if not, and with the Transit Connect's starting price of $21,475, can you afford not to check one out? If it helps, its AM-FM radio will play tunes from Motown and any other label you'd want.
From the September 2009 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.