Review: 2010 Ford Transit Connect Cargo XL

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
review 2010 ford transit connect cargo xl

Down on the showroom floor, the guys talk about the “Needs-Payoff:” trying to turn a customer’s perceived need into a coveted sale. This marketing concept finds its Ford translation in the highly anticipated solution, the Transit Connect. The Blue Oval Boyz see gold in them there panel vans—assuming gas prices go north of the three dollar mark as their number crunchers and street-walking doom preachers predict. Gas prices be damned; the Transit Connect screams success for many self-made citizens, provided they don’t carry more than 1600 lb or tow anything to bring home the bacon.

Aside from the droopy-lip front bumper, Ford’s cargo van (in XL trim) succeeds where the first Dodge Caravan “CV” failed: it’s elegantly utilitarian, not frumpy and cheap. The wicked fast A-pillar climbs above the door frames for a quirky dash of style, much to the wannabe-SUV Scion xB’s disappointment. In fact, I reckon the Transit does the vanning thing like the VW Microbus. Plus, I felt so cheeky and European just standing next to it.

But automotive Mennonites rejoice, because there’s no mistaking a Transit Connect for a CUV. Hard but rich-grained plastics surround your fingers, there’s painted sheetmetal elsewhere. Ford threw in some retro masonite paneling on the rear doors for that unfinished art studio feel. Combined with the cargo’s rubber floor, RV-worthy overhead storage, perky seat fabrics and surprisingly high quality buttons and vent registers, the Transit Connect appeals to more than the ordinary work truck buyer.

Not all is perfect: the center console with floor shifter is a waste of space, especially since it lacks an armrest for the passenger seat. But (optional) features like Ford’s laptop Work Solutions system makes sitting on the Transit Connect’s modest yet accommodating bucket seats better than a day spent in your average cubicle. And it’s reasonably fun to drive, much like today’s taller, fatter Ford Focus. No surprise then, the Transit Connect handles like a hot hatchback that’s taken an Octomom-like fancy for in-vitro fertilization.

Unlike any other van, the Transit Connect corners flat in most situations, with stunning lateral grip and less push than expected from a nose heavy beast: I clipped a freeway underpass at twice the speed of our Ford Econoline tester, realizing the Transit Connect had plenty more.

And just like the Focus, there’s a 2.0L Duratec I-4 and a four-speed slushbox under the hood. The gutsy and thrash-free four cylinder made for effortless merging on a Texas highway filled with larger hauling machines. An unladen Transit Connect moves at a decent clip, but the intimidation level rises considerably when reaching the van’s cargo limit: a small-bore motor takes time to build steam when a wide ratio gearbox keeps the revs down and out for the count. Europeans will find it immediately familiar, Americans will find it slightly annoying.

So keep a loaded Transit Connect in the city and enjoy the ergonomics: the (optional) rear doors swing out 255° with the push of a button, and the mid section’s sliding doors open effortlessly, sans motorized assists. All 135 cubic feet of cargo space is easy to reach, and users shorter than six feet tall can walk inside without folding in half. If there’s enough space for a service tech and his storage shelving system back there, every other work vehicle is screwed. Sell your camper shell futures now!

But nobody’s perfect: like every other portal on the Transit Connect, opening the hood requires the ignition key. Which means you have to turn off the van to get under the bonnet. And the hood’s latch/lock combo resides under the grille’s Ford Oval. Missed that in the owner’s manual? Fear not: the instructions are under the grille’s logo, where your less-than-attentive employees cannot find it. Unless the logo is misaligned like our tester, refusing to latch shut. Hey, Europe, what’s so bad about an in-cabin hood release?

And the ignition key that opens everything is still in trouble. Lose it back beyond the radiator after opening the hood and Ford charges $200 for a replacement key, which you cannot buy anywhere but a FoMoCo dealer since it isn’t shared with another US-bound Ford product. Uh-oh.

While the Transit Connect is influenced from the USA Ford parts bin, the lessons learned from the Dodge Sprinter are obvious: component cost, availability and downtime from poor dealer training/servicing can kill Dearborn’s latest, brightest idea. Eventually.

If so, a comparable Econoline is only two grand more, and it’ll keep food on your plate if Ford turns this (showroom) hero into a (service department) zero. But let’s hope this gas-sipping global sensation gets the C-level Executive love it truly deserves, and, unlike the Ford Contour/Mondeo, meets its potential in the USA. If not, chalk up this idea with the rest of Ford’s famous American nameplates that bit the dust from corporate greed and product neglect. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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3 of 103 comments
  • Archangel Archangel on Dec 01, 2011

    We have had it a year and what I like so far is 1: HEAD ROOM, LOTS OF IT! 2: The mileage is acceptable for a delivery van. 3: It's wide enough to fit a full sized pallet. 4: Sliding doors on both sides. 5: The rear doors fold back all the way. 6: Short enough (height) to clear a standard garage door. 7: Short enough (length) to fit in a standard garage. What I don't like is 1: No Diesel option. 2: Weak rear sway bar so inner front wheel lifts up around fast corners losing traction and all acceleration. 3: No extended cargo version. This one can only carry 1 pallet and 2 pallets would be a nice option. 4: Wipers skip badly (LOUD) and throw water up the windshield, then it dribbles right back down between wiper swipes. 5: Doors have rounded edges where you might rest your arm if it did not slide right off the rounded edge. 6: Only 1 fold down arm rest on the right side of the drivers seat, not both sides, and none on the passenger seat. 7: Floor under cargo mat is horribly uneven with deep groves. I plan on installing a sheet of plywood soon! 8: Ford tells us no towing or it will void the warranty, but the body has the mounting points, they sell the hitch, and over the pond (Europe) they tow everything everywhere with it!

    • Archangel Archangel on Dec 01, 2011

      OH, and it will not fit a full sheet of sheet rock or dry wall!

  • on Jan 15, 2013

    [...] [...]

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.