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by Tony Whitney

2010 Ford Transit Connect

It’s the very latest product to emerge from the resurgent Ford Motor Company and it’ll be something of a surprise to most people when they see one for the first time.

The fact is, it’s not a car, it’s not an SUV, it’s not a crossover and it’s not even a pickup truck. It’s the 2010 Transit Connect and although this may not be apparent at first, it’s likely to be one of the biggest boosts for small businesspeople in years.

The Transit Connect is basically a small panel van-type commercial vehicle - something between a micro-sized delivery van and a typical contractor’s Econoline (E-Series) van. There really isn’t a name for this class, but they’re common enough in Europe and other countries. And perhaps more importantly for Ford, it doesn’t really have a single market competitor.

It’s one of a wave of European-sourced products we’re going to be seeing from Ford over the next few years as the company adapts to market changes and demands. The Transit name has a long history over there, though the "real" Transit is a much larger vehicle closer in size to the aforementioned  E-Series van range.

The Transit Connect is built, of all places, in Turkey, but as we’ll see later, they build some pretty good vehicles over there. Most Automakers, whether North American or European, have manufacturing operations scattered all over these days and in addition to Ford’s Turkish plant, it has a new one opening up in Romania too.

Very cleverly designed, the Connect has a low nose and very high roofline, which makes for truly impressive cargo or equipment capacity. There are sliding doors on both sides as well as a pair of doors at the back, so access under any conditions couldn’t be easier. Load width is over four feet and the floor of the cargo area is over six feet long. From the cargo floor to the roof inside, it’s  54-3-inches. The rear doors swing open 180-deg, so wherever this vehicle has to be parked for loading or unloading chores, the job is made as simple as possible.

Despite its clearly utilitarian role and workaday capability, the Connect is much like a mid-priced automobile when you get behind the wheel or into the passenger seat. What’s more, it drives like a car too and despite the load carried, it holds the road, rides and handles like a decent sedan. Because of its small footprint, it’s the perfect commercial vehicle for city streets and urban areas - regardless of the trade followed by the operator.

It’s economical to run too with its 2.0-litre Ford Duratec 4-cylinder engine mated to a 4-speed electronic automatic transmission. It develops a fairly modest 138-horsepower, but  this is not a vehicle you’ll be crossing mountain passes with or hauling heavy trailers (though some owners will likely do just that).

Far from a "stripper" the Transit Connect is very well equipped even in basic form. Air conditioning is standard and the seats are a nifty patterned cloth. There’s a full-width overhead storage rack above the deep windshield and it’s very useful for all kinds of "stuff." It’s also out of sight to anyone peering into the vehicle, so there’s a security benefit here too. Four-wheel ABS brakes are on the spec. sheet along with side air bags, speed control and a tilt/telescope steering wheel. There are two basic models - XLT 110A and XLT 210A with the 210A having the most standard "goodies."

There’s no doubt that this vehicle will sell in huge numbers to tradespeople who have been using pickup trucks with expensive caps and security arrangements and to full-size van operators looking to reduce their "footprint" and save on operating costs. For a sub-contractor involved with plumbing, electrical work, painting, drywalling, carpentry, millwork and other activities, it must be the best little rig to appear in decades. As a simple delivery vehicle, it should have no rival, so expect to see them all over town before too long.