Ford Transit Connect Taxi - an affordable fare
The Transit family has grown considerably in recent times, so let's start with putting things in order. Of course, the classic large van is still there (dubbed simply Transit), but now it has a herd of smaller siblings to fill all the light utility vehicle market niches – the one-tonne Custom, the Connect (which has grown compared to its namesake predecessor and now competes with the likes of Peugeot Expert rather than Partner) and the small Courier (a Renault Kangoo contender by Ford). And even though the Transit is and always has been a truly European (and, for a long time, European-only) model, the LPG/CNG-ready taxi fleet version of the Connect will be first offered in North America, perhaps never to reach the Old Continent.
As for the conversion process, it goes like this: the Connect leaves the factory prepared to serve as an LPG/CNG-powered taxi (as long as it's ordered to be LPG or CNG powered), with hardened valves and valve seats of its 2,5-litre four-pot engine and additional holes/brackets ready for LPG/CNG system components fitting. Then it's transferred to a specialist conversion facility (from the Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier list) where they actually fit the system of choice to the car. Once it's done, the Connect is ready to take fares.
Admittedly, the Blue Oval's new van seems perfectly cut out for the role of taxi. Even though CNG bottles are fitted inside the cargo area (no word on where the LPG tank is located), there are still 60,5 cubic feet (or 1713 litres) of luggage space left to accommodate passengers' baggage, including everything except for a grand piano perhaps. Ford also seems to be proud of the Transit Connect Taxi's "modern, durable twist-beam rear suspension”, as opposed to "a competitor's van-based taxi's” (the Nissan NV200's, that is to say) rear suspension with leaf springs and solid axle. Call the Ford's way modern if you will, but we'd say it's just a tad less obsolete, although probably durable indeed. And cheap to manufacture and repair, which is definitely a factor when it comes to taxi fleet vehicles.
The new, 2014 Ford Transit Connect Taxi is set to enter production and go on sale in early 2014, as the model year suggests. When it will be introduced in Europe, if ever at all, remains to be confirmed. It could prove too big to be a taxi on the Old Continent, but surely it could be put to other applications. And if not the Connect, then maybe the smaller Courier? We're in no position to plan Ford's model strategy or suggest anything, but maybe it's an option? Let's hope so, otherwise we can only cast looks of envy across the Atlantic...
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