Ford Transit: Love it or Load it

by The Car Family

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By first reaction was one of dread. The huge front window made me fell like I was in a fish bowl. The interior was cheap, the radio impossible to master, the bare metal sidepanels got very hot, and the cupholders were awful. The seats were thinnly padded, the side mirrors way too small, the center console way too small, and there were no tie-downs in the large rear cargo area. So why do I love it? Well, it is an absolute joy to drive. It corners like a sports car, the engine loves to be pushed to its limit, the four speed automatic transmission has too few gears to matter, and you can find it in a parking lot.

I loved this vehicle so much I called Ford and wanted to buy it if it had a diesel version. The answer was no, they are going to keep that engine in Europe. What a shame. On the other hand, if Ford does bring out a smallish mini-van making the Transit too family friendly might cut into potential sales. That being said, I think that this is a great second family vehicle for those that don’t mind the interior noise and enjoy not having to stay in the fast lane.

Mom’s view: Not in my lifetime. It is very user friendly and the cargo bay is fun to fill, but there is something called image and the Transit isn’t it. Of course, it doesn’t matter because Ford is selling it to the handyman crowd, thankfully. There might be a few men out there who to would try and sneak this bad-boy into the garage under the guise of a dog hauler, or family recreational vehicle, or grocery getting. Don’t be fooled. The interior is stark and the radio so complicated it belongs in a German sedan. The seats have barely enough padding for long trips and it has a general unfinished feel, which it is as the owner is supposed to see it as a blank canvas. Safety wise there are antilock brakes and airbags.

Dad’s view: Great in black, some good interior quirks to share with the guys such as storage area above the front window, and the interior plastics aren’t bad. The rear storage area needs tie-downs as everything rolls around the barish floor. I found the seats comfortable enough with the side mirrors being too small as my only concern. The optional laptop Work Solutions system keeps track of your tools and other items, but the best part of the Connect is how remarkably fun this rig is. The 2.0L Duratec I-4 and four speed automatic transmission are out-dated, but they are willing to give their all when you need it, within reason. This is a small engine in a very unaerodynamic vehicle so passing at high speeds need some planning ahead. The 138 horsepower engine pushes the Transit to 60 mph in under 13 seconds, but it sure feels faster.

The Transit has a sturdy body-on-frame and unibody construction. The result is a low center of gravity and a low towing rate. We tested the family version with a second row of seats that makes it easy to haul four adults somewhat comfortably. The base Transit is quite basic. You get 15-inch steel wheels, gray air-conditioning, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, loth upholstery and a simple stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The Wagon XL adds a two-person bench seat and the XLT bumps up the Transit with heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, a 12-volt power point and a CD player. The Wagon XLT was the one we tested and it had a split-folding 60/40 three-passenger second-row bench seat. We recommend you avoid the base model because the keyless entry alone is worth the extra cost because of the strange key the Transit uses.. Major options include an in-dash computer, rear parking sensors, widerer opening rear doors, Bluetooth and remote ignition.

I loved it and only wish Ford would bring it to the US with a diesel, but I assume that passing smog regulations for such a limited production vehicle won’t make it a good money call. Too bad.

Young woman’s view: At first I was panicked. What would the neighbors say. Yes, it would be perfect for my three rescue dogs, and the optional rear doors opened widely and stayed in place. The

135 cubic feet of cargo space isn’t as large as it seems because you would have to pile items very high to use all the footage. You can even walk into the Transit should that be a selling point. The Transit Connect is available with a variety of models, but basically you get a van or a wagon, with the wagon having side glass, the does not roll down, a second row of seats, and dual sliding side doors.

Young working male’s view: If my company, http://www.eracks.com, that makes open sources servers and computers, ever buys a delivery vehicle this is the one I would want. The radio isn’t all that much, and the hood opener is strange, but the key is even stranger. Don’t lose this key because it is like no other and probably costly. The Transit is nimble and gets nearly 24 mpg if you stay within highway speed limits. The radio is also an in-dash computer that uses a Microsoft operating system, as well as a wireless mouse and keyboard, a navigation system and even available Internet access. Our model had the Work Solutions which tracks the vehicle’s location, and Tool Link, which tracks your tool inventory via radio frequency. It is very high tech for such a low tech truck/van/station wagon.

The ride over roughed up roads is a bit rough as the rear suspension is set up more to haul loads and not so much people. It actually rides better when full. The turning radius is about 39 feet and that makes parking very easy, but visibility is rather limited. The interior is noisy so it is worth considering some soundproofing. The huge windshield is cleared nicely by what has to be the world’s largest wipers. However, good luck finding replacement blades at your local auto store. I liked it, but only if there is enough left in the kitty to make it your own with some personal upgrades like a better stereo system, sound deadening materials, and a little more cushion for my tush.

Family conference: The Transit Connect has no competition. Its size makes it handy and fairly frugal. It also can be made family friendly, but we doubt many women would fall for that idea. It needs larger rear view mirrors for sure. A better interior lighting system is a must, and more tie downs, softer seats, and a more normal hood opening operation would be appreciated. In fact, Ford should abandon the Transit key as it snags on your pocket, purse, or anything else it can reach. If the Transit Connect had a diesel engine it would be a terrific second car. As it is this Ford is a terrific utility vehicle and we highly recommend you don’t judge it by appearances.

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