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You may have seen the tall, boxy Ford Transit Connect in taxicab guise, or gussied up to ferry your plumber or pet sitter on their daily rounds. Chances are the Turkish-built cargo van isn't that common a sight as a carry-all for families on the go--though Ford does sell a version for that purpose.
The Transit Connect Wagon returns for the 2013 model year unchanged, and as it's been since it was introduced in the 2010 model year, the minivan/utility vehicle is aimed primarily at light-duty commercial users that can make the best use of its high roof, flexible interior space, and bare-bones interior.
The TC's been on sale in Europe for nearly a decade, and it's utilitarian in every sense of the word, down to its appearance. Styling's a bit too extravagant a word to describe how its function is lightly wrapped in sheetmetal: start with a cargo container and fold the corners carefully, and run some strakes down the side, and you've got it, fronted by a recognizable Ford grille and headlights. The interior's clad in an industrial grade of plastic, laid out very simply--except for the minor, confusing controls for add-on audio. This is no Town & Country, no Sienna Limited--it's a Rubbermaid bin made to do double duty on occasion, sort of the workhorse obverse of the late, lamented Honda Element.
Like the Element, the Transit Connect pulls itself through urban driving chores with a four-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. Here it's Ford's 2.0-liter four, with 136 horsepower and an outdated four-speed automatic that works fine, since the TC's speed needs are so low. The combination's adequate for its intended use, though it can feel inordinately slow to get up to highway speed. Passing feels more confident and secure, though.
The TC's fuel economy is 21/27 mpg, a vast improvement over the numbers you'd earn in a full-size van. A battery-powered Transit Connect electric van is being prepared for the 2012 model year, but we haven't had a chance to drive it yet.
The tall TC scores points with us for its maneuverability on city streets. The turning circle is tight, and the wheels are pushed out to the corners, giving it the squeeze-through ability that's absolutely necessary for its Euro duties. In anything more challenging, the Transit Connect's mass and height makes themselves known, as it rolls and leans into corners and runs out of suspension travel.
It's really all about the humongous interior space, accessible from sliding side doors or the rear tailgate. It's a spacious carrier for all sorts of gear and goods, with 135 cubic feet of space behind the front seats. Ford helps drivers make the most of the space with a range of add-ons and accessories that can configure the Transit Connect with removable racks, rails and cargo bins. It's the perfect conveyance for owner-operators like locksmiths and pet sitters who need rugged, configurable, washable space.
Safety is improved over the initial versions, as Ford's added standard stability control with anti-roll programming to all models. Every version comes with anti-lock brakes and six airbags. Passenger versions have glass windows in the rear, but they're church-style doors with a center pillar that blocks visibility--but it's still far better than the commercial version, which replaces all the back glass with metal panels.
Features are skimpy for this mostly commercial-minded maxi-van. Bluetooth is available, but Ford's SYNC phone and audio controller isn't. Parking sensors and a rearview camera are options--along with a business-oriented tracking package that keeps tabs on the location and time spent there by drivers.
We can't recommend this van for anyone looking to replace a conventional minivan or crossover, but if your family has a small family business on the side, the Transit Connect could be the only vehicle on the market today that can tackle all your daily needs.
For an in-depth look at this van, read our most recent full review of the Ford Transit Connect.