For a lot of us, 2010 meant cutting back, and at the top of my list of cuts was my bike hauler: an ’04 Ford F150 pickup, purchased when business was booming and gas was cheap enough that getting 14 miles per gallon didn’t matter. By the time unleaded surged past $3 per gallon, I had moved into a smaller house with an even smaller garage. The pickup and an enclosed trailer no longer fit my minimized lifestyle, so I sold them both and started shopping for a more fuel-efficient replacement.
Custom aluminum motorcycle platform utilizes a Condor front wheel chock ($175) to secure t
Enter the Ford Transit Connect. I headed to my local dealer with tape measure in hand. A few quick measurements revealed that, with a cargo floor extension, the tiny Transit could swallow up to 83 inches of overall length. The Transit Connect Wagon has standard front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, a payload capacity of 1600 lbs., can be configured to seat five and is rated at 26 mpg highway. And at a base price of $21,200 for the basic XL Van, it would fit in my budget as well as my garage.
So I stepped up to the XLT Wagon—$23,050 for a new 2011 model—and added a custom aluminum motorcycle platform from West Milton Fabricators in Greenville, Ohio ($1400 plus freight; www.westmiltonfab.com). This bolts directly into the existing rear seat-mount points and extends over the center console.
Day-to-day life is enjoyable as long as you remember the Transit was designed in Europe and marketed as an economical, do-it-all hauler. Falling in love with something like that means living with a tinny sound system and putting aside creature comforts like a luxurious interior, sound-deadening insulation and rapid acceleration. But instead of focusing on shortcomings, let’s look at the highlights.
The Transit’s audio system has a standard auxiliary input for your iPod and an optional voice-recognition Bluetooth link for hands-free phone calls. The seats provide all-day comfort for two 6-foot-tall adults, even while hauling a bike. Visibility through that huge front windshield is great, but the lack of rear visibility takes some getting used to. Fortunately, Ford offers the choice of an optional Reverse Sensing System or a rear-view camera, using a display built into the inside mirror. The 12-second wait between zero and 60 mph can be painful, but 0-40 is considerably less so. As a result, around town drivability is excellent, even fully loaded. Brakes are strong and handling is nimble, allowing a tidy, 39-foot turning circle. The little guy corners with minimal body roll; impressive for a vehicle that’s just over 6.5 feet tall.
That height has its advantages, especially on the way to the track. Visualize those broad sides as billboards for your sponsors. With everything safely locked inside, there’s no more dashing out to the pickup halfway through breakfast to check precious cargo. Should it start to rain, you can set up camp inside. Or actually camp inside, should you want to save the cost of a motel room.
All things considered, the biggest advantage is affordable versatility. Load your bike and gear, plug in the iPod and cruise along at 70 mph while getting 26 mpg in a vehicle that costs less than $25,000. The bottom line? With a few additions, the Ford Transit Connect is the best small hauler available for the track-day enthusiast or amateur racer on a budget.
||4-speed automatic w/overdrive
||136 bhp @ 6300 rpm
||128 lb.-ft. @ 4750 rpm
||Dual discs w/ABS