by Kirk Bell
Source: MSN Autos Editorial
February 27, 2009

Ford announced its intention to bring a small commercial van called the Transit Connect to the United States at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. This year, the automaker unveiled the production version.
Taken from Ford’s European product portfolio, the 2010 Transit Connect will use a dedicated front-wheel-drive commercial vehicle platform and be powered by the company’s Duratec 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. The engine will produce 136 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. Ford says it will deliver at least 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
The Transit Connect will come with two front doors, a pair of sliding side doors, and rear cargo doors that open 180 degrees barn-door-style. It will come in several body styles, including a cargo van with no windows in the side doors and rear privacy glass in the rear cargo doors, a panel van with no windows in the side doors or cargo doors, a version with privacy glass in the side doors and rear cargo doors, and a wagon version with a 2- or 3-passenger folding second-row bench seat.
Inside, the Transit Connect will have 135 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than most full-size SUVs and almost as much as a minivan. The payload capacity of 1,600 pounds is as much as or more than some full-size pickups.
Transit Connect customers will be able to outfit their vehicles with Ford Work Solutions, which comes with an in-dash computer that can provide Internet access, remotely access an office computer, send and receive text messages, show navigation information and even keep an inventory of tools. Word processing, spreadsheet, calculator and calendar applications are also included. Customers will also be able to opt for the Crew Chief option, which is a telematics service to monitor and track vehicle fleets. Crew Chief provides access to vehicle location, speed, idle time, fuel usage and more than 30 diagnostic measures. It also has a "geo-fencing" function, which allows a fleet manager to set geographic or time-of-use boundaries.
Standard safety features will include front and side air bags, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and a tire-pressure monitor. Other standard features will consist of air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with two speakers, a tilt steering wheel, a 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat and a 4-way adjustable passenger seat. An audio unit with a CD player and an audio input jack will be optional.
As part of its press conference, Ford unveiled five specially prepared Transit Connects built specifically for the winners of its Connect with the Connect contest. Each van was adorned with the business name and graphics of each winner’s business and was outfitted with features and accessories that will help them help their customers.
The 2010 Transit Connect goes on sale this summer with a starting price of $21,475, including destination charges.
Also in Chicago, Ford announced it will release a battery-powered version of the Transit Connect sometime in 2010. The electric version will always run on electricity. It will use an electric motor, a lithium-ion battery and a small gasoline engine. On a full charge, it will have a range of up to 100 miles. Ford is working with the European battery electric upfitter Smith Electric Vehicles to develop the Transit Connect. According to Ford, Smith already offers battery electric versions of the Ford Transit medium commercial vehicle to fleet customers in Europe.
The Transit Connect will be the first battery electric vehicle from Ford, which has also announced plans for a battery electric small car in 2011, the next generation of hybrid vehicles in 2012 and a line of plug-in hybrids in 2012.
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