The press release title gave the telltale signs of an old-fashioned van throwdown in the making:
NEW FORD TRANSIT CONNECT TAXI READY FOR SERVICE FROM NEW YORK CITY TO LOS ANGELES TO HONG KONG
Here is where we mention Nissan’s preferred status with New York City’s government as the “Taxi of Tomorrow” is anything but a sure thing. The courts have stepped in. In New York’s Supreme Court at Manhattan, Justice Shlomo Hagler (no really, that’s his name) wrote, “Simply stated, the power to contract and compel medallion owners to purchase the Nissan NV200 from Nissan for ten years does not exist in the City Charter.”
And without hesitation, Ford sounded the charge:
In the United States, Ford owns nearly 60 percent of the taxi market. On sale since 2010, Ford Transit Connect Taxi serves passengers in some of the most demanding taxi markets, including Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Boston.
Taxi of the future today
The 2014 Ford Transit Connect Taxi comes with a new powertrain – a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a new, fuel-efficient six-speed automatic transmission – providing drivers with quick response as well as durability, low-rpm cruising and an expected best-in-class highway fuel economy rating.
In addition, Transit Connect will be the only taxi in America offered with a compressed natural gas and LPG engine prep package. Conversion to CNG and LPG is supported by Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers, enabling significant fuel cost savings.
Ford’s second-generation Transit Connect Taxi features a lower vehicle height, providing improved roof clearance for taxicab companies to place advertising on the cabin roof. A new interior hood release gives drivers easy access to check fluid levels prior to starting a shift.
The new Transit Connect Taxi also is longer, offering seating for five and increased cargo capacity. It has an expected best-in-class 60.5 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row. The vehicle can accommodate a compressed gas tank, while still leaving ample room forluggage.
The Transit Connect Taxi floor has been lowered for improved access to the cabin, and it can be modified for wheelchair accessibility through Ford’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier program.
Did you catch that “Taxi of the Future Today” sub-head? So did we. If you don’t think that’s an intentional barb at Nissan’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” verbiage, you think too kindly of Ford.
The Ford press release makes some valid points. Overall, the newly redesigned Transit Connect is a more technologically advanced vehicle with more modern, attractive styling than the frumpy-but-lovable NV200. Where the NV200 is building a taxi off of a cargo-biased vehicle, Ford has reworked the Transit Connect so that it’s no longer just a small cargo van that can also be equipped with rear seats for spartan people-hauling duty. Principally, the Transit Connect is now available in a stretched version that will haul more people and/or baggage. Time will tell whether that will be a popular option among taxi drivers in NYC or elsewhere.
One option we’d bet will be popular with taxi fleet owners is the hybrid Transit Connect. Given the number of hybrids already in service in taxi fleets, it’s only logical that medallion holders should want to check out the hybridized Ford vanette, which the press release said will have a class-leading 522-mile range and a combined EPA fuel economy rating of 43 MPG.