Mercedes-Benz transformed the look of large, commercial/passenger vans when it introduced the Sprinter European workhorse in North America, first as a 2003 Freightliner, then as a Dodge. Suddenly, the big box Ford E-Series van looked outdated. For 2010, Ford is fighting back with its Transit Connect city van, long popular with small businesses delivering goods or services on tight European streets.

The Transit Connect is a front-drive, four-cylinder model that riffs off Ford's own Transit, a larger, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter competitor. Ford believes the Transit Connect will resonate with catering services, flower delivery, home maid services, fishmongers, and even kayak, bike, and surf shops.

We're not getting an all-new model, but a lightly updated version of a small truck built in Turkey. Like the lame-duck Saturn Astra and Pontiac G8, it comes with unfamiliar European switchgear and key, though nothing is hard to figure out. This marks the official launch of "One Ford," the melding of European and North American operations to sell models globally with only minor regional variations. The Transit Connect beats the next One Ford model to our market, the Fiesta, by roughly six months. While this may not be the best time to launch a new van, its success or failure could become a leading economic indicator. If you see these in your neighborhood delivering and fixing things, it means the economy may be rebounding.

Its "just-right" size and 22/25-mpg fuel economy are the major selling points. Cargo capacity is more than twice the Chevrolet HHR panel van's, and it can make a delivery entrance back-alley U-turn where a Sprinter, E-van, or cube truck can't. Base price is $21,475 for the XL model. The $22,535 XLT adds power windows/mirrors and remote locking. Rear-door glass adds $340 to either XL or XLT, and side glass is another $70 on top of that. But the important options are the $1395 in-dash computer (plus Sprint monthly fee) with Bluetooth keyboard, DeWalt's $1220 Tool Link, using Radio Frequency Identification tags to keep track of tools, and $550 Crew Chief, which tracks the truck's location and diagnostics. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control is a $545 option and 255-degree rear cargo-door opening is $190.