Just because it's small doesn't mean it's not a truck. The Ford Transit Connect might look dinky in a land where some folks drive F-450 duallys just-well-because they can, but it is a real truck. Although originally aimed primarily at the European market, where small businesses need a compact and nimble yet tough and roomy van to handle crowded roads and eye-watering gas prices, the Transit Connect actually began life at Ford's truck development center in Detroit and was later subjected to all Ford's usual truck-durability testing. This thing was designed from the wheels up to work. Hard.
High durability and low running costs were key elements of the Transit Connect's development brief. It uses high-strength driveshafts and the differential from its big-brother Transit (which may come to the U.S. as the next-generation E-Series). The beam rear axle ensures better load-carrying capacity and reduced tire wear. But in addition to owners and operators, Ford engineers also talked to people who spend their working day behind the wheel. The Transit Connect therefore features underseat storage for a laptop computer, as well as cupholders and a glovebox big enough for a clipboard.
Yet the Transit Connect doesn't drive like a truck. Although our wheel time has been limited to European-spec models with diesel engines and manual transmissions, our overriding impression is of the rig's almost carlike steering and ride. It's agile in traffic, almost fun to drive, yet very comfortable behind the wheel. Next to a regular Econoline, this thing's almost a working man's Miata, and it has the same blend of funk and function that made the original VW Transporter a hit with recreational users.