Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.
You know how some vehicles just speak to you? Well, this is one line you won’t hear the Ford Transit Connect Taxi saying to you. Ever.
From now on, I’m going to refer to it as the Taxi, because I can’t type Ford Transit Connect Taxi another 20 times and retain my sanity. Well, what’s left of it.
When I was offered an opportunity to check this thing out for three days, I immediately said yes. I’m a vehicle freak, first and foremost. I don’t mind driving weird things, or cheap things, or anything for that matter. I just love driving, and I’ll take the time to drive and experience anything new that rolls my way.
In this case, I took interest in this factory-prepped taxi because I have seen numerous Transit Connects driving the streets, and being a wagon/van nerd, I’ve always wondered what’s going on in there. They looked like smart vehicles, if nothing else.
The Transit Connect series is built entirely in Turkey. Which is appropriate because I reviewed this right before the Canadian thanksgiving weekend. Get it? Turkey? OK, moving right along. The series starts at CDN $28,699, and this example, with $3,700 worth of options (most of which was comprised by the taxi prep package), rang in at CDN $33,854.
It sits somewhere between micro-van and mini-van – the small footprint affords a lot of space and utility inside.
Under the hood, you’ll find a relatively low-tech 2.0 Litre inline-4, that puts out an anemic 136 HP @ 6300 RPM and an even less inspiring 128 ft.lbs of torque at 4750 RPM. Yech. That’s lugging around a vehicle that isn’t super heavy (over 3400 lbs) but still, it isn’t eager to get where you’re pointing it. Pairing this engine with a 4-speed automatic (when’s the last time you heard that?!) probably doesn’t help. Even one extra gear ratio would likely make this vehicle feel a little more sprightly.
The Taxi is rated at 10.0 L/100 km (24 mpg) in the city, 7.5 L/100 km (31 mpg) on the highway and a very decent 8.9 L/100 km (26 mpg) for the combined cycle – I’m guessing that matters a lot when you make your money driving your vehicle around all day. I only drove the Taxi for 3 days and didn’t track my own mileage. The fuel tank is a middling 55.8 Litres.
The styling is just…. wow. Ford definitely leaned toward function instead of fashion here. That’s OK, I suppose. It is a wedge-shaped van with a stubby hood and a very high roof. And it’s ugly. That’s subjective, but I’m guessing I won’t find a lot of people who would say it’s a nice looking vehicle. There’s nothing that really stands out. Two front doors, two sliding second-row doors, two rear swinging cargo doors. This example was obviously prepped in Taxi trim, but this vehicle is available as a panel van and a windowed wagon as well. The Taxi trim doesn’t make its mission a stealth one – there’s no hiding it, but it is available in other colors for those progressive non-yellow cab companies in the world. The Taxi light on top was caulked with white and black tarry caulking, and in my one sprint (I use the word sprint very loosely, much like you’d say Rita McNeil is sprinting) down the freeway, it came loose and was hanging by it’s back edge. Not cool. I’m guessing this was an example of what can be done for top-mounted signage and a final product would have a properly affixed sign.
Interestingly, that short hood can’t be opened remotely from inside. It has to be unlocked with a physical key. It was explained to me that this is for the world market, and is to prevent folks with bad intentions from getting under the hood and doing things there. Read: bombs. Nice. Pop that hood, though, and you’ll find the aforementioned mill which appears to have the necessary fluid top-up ports conveniently accessible and serviceable.
The Taxi had dark grey plastic trim around the bumpers and the wheel wells. The 15″ wheels look woefully tiny on this tall fella, and they are shod with 205/65 sized tires. And clad with very, very ugly hubcaps.
Considering what you can achieve inside this vehicle in terms of seating and cargo capacity, it’s quite short. 180″ overall length. It makes up for it in height, which will give it trouble in parkades, especially if it’s fitted with top-mounted signage.
I can definitely say this vehicle got lots of looks everywhere I went. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s so ugly, or if it’s so different. On that note, it got looks from EVERY single cab driver I passed. I’m wondering if there were trying to figure out what that crazy white guy is doing with that cab. I’m kidding – calm down!
The nice thing about this vehicle is that Ford was absolutely consistent, because once you get into the vehicle – which is very easy and comfortable to get into, front or back – you see that the inside isn’t beautiful either. Materials you’ll see are hard, textured plastics, soft vinyl upholstery, and lots of exposed paint. And some mouse fur on the ceiling. Speaking of the ceiling, you’ll have to get off your butt to see that mouse fur, because it’s so far away. This vehicle has as much headroom as a motorhome.
The exposed paint, bright school bus yellow in this case, is visible all over. Especially on the door panels on the sliding and back doors and within the back compartment. They are clad with minuscule upholstered panels, but you see a lot of paint. That might be endearing to some, but felt cheap and overly utilitarian to me.
The dash isn’t pretty, but it is functional. The gauge cluster is as basic as it gets – big speedo, big tach, small temperature, small fuel. That’s it. There is an LED panel in between, which I couldn’t figure out how to control. On top it gives you the fuel range, and there is an odometer on there.
The switchgear, what little there is, is also basic. The climate control has three rotary switches – one for temperature, one for directional control of the airflow, and one for fan speed. There are separate buttons for the A/C and the air recirculation system. Obviously nothing is automatic. Pretty old school. There are 5 dash-mounted vents.
The seats, the front ones being manually adjustable and all of which are reasonably comfortable, are all covered in a nice, easy to clean vinyl. Because I see so many cab drivers sleeping in parking lots with their seats back, I decided to try that out. It’s not a comfortable way to nap, but maybe there are industry secrets I’m not aware of. That vinyl goes for the floor too – it’s covered in a soft, rubbery, grippy vinyl which I think you could just mop down – that’s probably important to a cab driver. Mind you, considering what my kids can do to molest the clean interior of a car within minutes of getting settled – that floor covering might just be the thing for young families too!
The center console has a basic automatic shift lever, with an overdrive override button on the side, and an emergency brake lever.
This section will be short, believe me. There is little to no tech in this vehicle. I’m not sure if that matters to taxi drivers, but it sure felt spartan to me.
You’ll find a very basic stereo, piping tunes from AM/FM/auxiliary in or a single CD slot into the cabin from a number of speakers. It sounds….. basic. You can control certain functions with a menu button, but everything on the unit looks and feels as though it’s about 5-10 years old.
There is a 12V plug in the center stack, right beside a cigarette lighter. A real cigarette lighter. I’m not sure what that’s saying, but if I was from Turkey, or if I was a cab driver, I’d be hurt, because I think it implies they smoke a lot. Or perhaps, because cabs are notorious for their, shall we say, body odor, perhaps the cigarette lighter is meant to light incense burners. Yeah, that’s probably it.
Mirrors are powered and heated. Windows are powered, and the switches are in the center console. They seem brutally slow, but that’s mainly because they are so tall.
The steering wheel has absolutely nothing happening on it, but it IS manually adjustable for height and telescopes for your convenience. The wheel itself is actually comfortable to hold and drive with.
There are power locks, but I didn’t have the remote door locking FOB, so I had to use the key. Also, I couldn’t find a power door lock switch inside this vehicle. Which means, if you have the auto locking system on, your fare is stuck in the Taxi until you turn off the vehicle, or open your own door. Stupid.
In a nod to comfort, the rear windows pop out to vent the vehicle – sadly, this is a manual function, and they are too far back to reach from the second row, which means you have to get out, open the rear doors, lean in and open the windows. Brutal.
Oh, and I wouldn’t want to forget this critical part of the convenience package – there are dome lights.
Let’s head to the back, shall we? Come along for an adventure of epic proportions. What can I tell you about the back? It’s a 40/60 split bench, with three seats that will adequately fit adults. There is a lot of leg and foot room – owing in
part to the fact that Ford moves the second row back several inches for the Taxi configuration. Makes sense. The seats, as mentioned, are comfy. The seatbacks fold forward, but the seats don’t tumble forward to create a flat load floor. I believe you could remove those seats too. I’m not an expert, but that might be counter-productive when it comes to picking up fares as a cab driver. You do have 3 headrests and 3 seat belts back there.
At the back of the center console, there is an ugly hump sticking up. This Quasimodo-inspired styling cue contains the rear seat’s entire comfort, tech and convenience package. There is a fixed (no pivoting, no swiveling, no nothing) air vent and a rotary dial to control the fan speed of that vent. Beside it is a 12V plug. Enjoy your ride. The sliding doors open with a light action and are easy to open and close, but are not powered.
The Taxi provides a weird dichotomy in storage. In terms of the cabin itself, you’ll find adequate storage. A reasonable glove compartment, decently-sized door bins, two cupholders in the console (but no others anywhere!), and a deep bin in the bottom of the center stack. There is a strange cubbyhole/slot-type void on the dash, but the literature shows taxi electronics sprouting from there, so that’s probably what that’s meant for. One thing I really liked was the full-width overhead lipped bin, with a retention mesh to keep stuff up there. You could probably get quite a bit of stuff up there. There is one seatback map pocket for the second row.
Now, when you make your way to the back, you’ll find the other end of the spectrum. A LOT of space. The dual doors swing open easily and open to 90 degrees. A simple push of a big yellow button on either side allows them to swing open to a barn-door 180 degrees, getting completely out of your way. The massive cargo area is easily accessible, with a reasonably low load floor, very high headroom, and 2 industrial-strength tie-down hooks. One of the rear doors has a mesh pocket in it for small items. As noted, the second row seatbacks will fold forward to make room for more stuff if you need it. You could smuggle a LOT of illegal aliens into the country with this thing. Just black out the windows, I guess. If you’re considering this, the Taxi has a 1421 pound payload capacity.
OK, OK, settle down – I’m getting to the part you’re all waiting for. How was the Taxi to drive in? Well…. not good. The drivetrain feels old. It doesn’t feel current, and it’s definitely not a fun vehicle to drive. Power comes on slowly, and of course that’s not aided by a modern transmission. The Taxi felt gutless at almost every moment. It does not like being bossed around, and if you point it in a certain direction, and step on the gas, it will let you know exactly how it feels about that. The transmission is sluggish and slushy. And even when it finally does shift down to accommodate your request to please pass the old man in his powered scooter hugging the curb in the right lane, it doesn’t do it with any sort of alacrity whatsoever. Leisurely acceleration is what I’d call it. Oh it gets there, but I’m not sure you’ll ever feel confident passing cars on a freeway, or squirting into traffic from a merge lane. Maybe that’s not such a big deal to people who drive these kinds of vehicles, but considering how often I’ve been cut off by taxi cabs, I’d say they do care about getting into traffic.
Because the Taxi is so high and top-heavy, there is a ton of body lean around corners – no big surprise there. That said, the handling is actually decent, and competent. The vehicle is easy to maneuver around town, and the 39′ turning circle felt fantastic.
Outward visibility is stunning, mostly due to the higher driving position, and the massive greenhouse of glass surrounding you. The windshield is humongous. The one issue with visibility is out the back – because there are two doors, the middle of your rear view is split by a mass of metal, and seeing what’s directly behind you is not easy. Backing up could definitely benefit from a camera, or the optional parking distance sensors. Also, if you have all three headrests in place in the second row, they’re not going to do you any favors when you’re checking your mirror.
At freeway speeds (I only took it up to 110 km/h, but I’m sure you can eke out more), the wind noise is very noticeable. Considering the shape of this vehicle, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Honestly, I had a lot of them. I guess to cut a wide swath across my complaints, I could just say that I expected more and better at this price. Or conversely, I expected a lower price for this type of quality and lack of technology and comfort.
Some specifics, you say? Sure. Try to stop me!
This vehicle has no cruise control. I suppose a taxi might not be intended for highway travel, but considering the added cost of a cruise control system, why not throw it in?
I received this vehicle with 1400 kilometers on it. There were significant, and highly irritating, squeaks and rattles throughout the cabin. Especially above and below the windshield. Every expansion joint I rolled over reminded me of how much better a vehicle can be assembled. Sorry, but no vehicle, regardless of it’s mission or price, should be exhibiting that kind of build quality, considering what Ford is capable of.
Weird things too, like the rear defrost wiring being completely exposed on the back doors. Should some of your cargo load ever shift, you could easily find a suitcase or illegal alien body flying against that wiring and breaking the clips.
I was miffed that this was, in fact, the higher level of available trim – the XLT. It includes the CD player, power windows, body colored bumpers (which is a lie, because this had grey plastic bumpers) and gives you the option of buying a parking distance sensor for backing up – which this example conveniently didn’t have.
This is a section you won’t see on many of my reviews, but I felt it was only fair to tell you that this vehicle can be further upgraded (I don’t know the costs associated with any of these options) with the following: electronics, driver protection and luggage protection. Ford included a wheelchair in the back, to show the incredible carrying capacity. The Transit Connect is also available with rear wheelchair mobility accessibility options, although, ironically, not with the Taxi prep option. The wheelchair fit in behind the rear bench, with the seat backs up. It’s spacious back there.
I guess I was disappointed. I’ve driven a number of Ford products this year, and have been impressed by each one of them. The engineering, build quality and technology that I’ve seen from Ford has been impressive, and frankly, has changed my mind about the company. This vehicle doesn’t do that. The Taxi felt as though I was driving a vehicle from somewhere that cared significantly less about the driving and ownership experience. I’m not going to sit here and guess whether those rattles and squeaks owe themselves to poor engineering or just poor assembly – it doesn’t really matter. They were there. If this were built by a privately-owned factory in Turkey, and that’s all they did, and the Ford name wasn’t attached to it, I don’t think I’d be as disappointed. But I expect more from the blue oval now.
I’ve seen so much more from Ford, and at lower price levels. Consider the Focus. Yes, I get that it can’t carry as much cargo, or whatever, and that the vehicles’ missions are completely different. But realistically, the amount of metal they use, and the amount of goodies contained within aren’t that epically far apart that the vehicles should feel similar. Does that make sense? The Taxi is a very low-tech vehicle in every sense of the word, and from every facet you examine. The Focus, which is roughly the same price, in absolutely loaded trim, comes with almost any bell and whistle you can imagine. And more.
I’m not a cab driver, and maybe I’m missing the bigger picture, but for CDN $33, 854, I think there are other, more attractive choices out there for this segment. I rate the Ford Transit Connect Taxi a 5 out of 10, and I feel a bit generous at that. Price it lower by a few thousand dollars, and you’d net a 6 out of 10 easily. WAF (wife acceptance factor) is hovering right around the zero mark, and she asked me not to park it on our driveway. Ha! Oh, and my daughter, who is seven, and is overjoyed to be dropped off at school by her old dad ANY time, asked me not to drop her off in the school’s drop-off lane. She advised me that she would prefer to be dropped off down the block, as she enjoys “walking a long way now”. Right. Noted.
Speaking of turkeys, and Turkey, the Taxi is one, and I suppose I wouldn’t be considering one for my family needs, and so my evaluation is skewed. Perhaps I’m not being fair, and it would be of more value to have a professional cab driver look at one, but from my perspective, this is a turd that can’t be polished. Truth be told, I can’t wait to drive my next Ford to erase the memory of this one.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Ford.
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