A vehicle invasion is coming from Turkey that may take the U.S. business community by storm. Starting next month, Ford Motor Co. will be importing and selling its Transit Connect small van in the U.S. and Canada. The Turkish van’s flexible design allows it to be configured for a variety of businesses, and it is aimed at those in urban areas that need maneuverability in tight spaces. On May 28, ENR took one for a test drive in New York City and found that it does deliver the goods promised.

Photo: William G. Krizan / ENR
Small van now being imported to the U.S. offers fuel economy, payload and cargo space that will appeal to contractors.

Transit Connect is not a new vehicle, but it stands alone in a category that other manufacturers have not exploited in the U.S. With over 600,000 units already sold in 55 countries since 2003, Ford says the vehicle is unique in terms of payload, space and fuel economy. ENR found the space inside to be cavernous considering the overall size of the vehicle.

Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, the vehicle is surprisingly peppy considering its rated 136 hp. But the savings for construction and other businesses will come from the 22 mpg fuel economy in city and 25mpg highway, as well as the 1,600 lb of payload carried on beefy leaf springs that provided a surprisingly smooth ride.

The vehicle comes in various window configurations, and Ford is working with three aftermarket manufacturers to provide an array of racks and bins. The vehicle tested did not have windows in the rear, and ENR found rear visibility to be somewhat poor because the rearview mirrors are half the size of those found on full-size pickup trucks. Still, the rack-and-pinnion steering was precise.

All Transit Connect vans will be shipped with two rear seats (three optional) in order to circumvent the so-called “chicken tax,” which is a 25% protectionist U.S. duty first imposed in 1963. If customers do not want the seats, Ford will remove them, and another company will recycle the steel and shred the cushions and seat covers and use them as landfill cover. The front seats were comfortable, but the rear ones were designed to be shredded. Base price is $21,475. An all-electric version is planned for 2010.