Your next cab ride may get a lot roomier — and look a bit more funky.
Ford’s Transit Connect, a high-top, streamlined cargo van from the automaker’s European division, was approved yesterday for taxi use by the Boston Police Department. Boston is the first city in the country to do so.
The van was first offered in the US in August. Ford sold 4,335 of the vehicles in the first three months of this year, largely to delivery companies and other small business owners looking for more maneuverable, fuel-efficient work vans. The automaker said it will build enough taxi models for “whatever the market demands,” though the popular vans sell almost as soon as they arrive on dealer lots.
While the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV has become popular for taxi use in cities like New York, the number pales in comparison to the ubiquitous Crown Victoria, a decades-old sedan that will be discontinued next year. Chevrolet offers the Impala sedan for police use, but they are rarely seen as taxis, a market General Motors essentially left to Ford when it stopped production of the Caprice sedan in 1996.
Boston has 1,825 licensed taxis in Boston, according to Mark Cohen, director of the Boston Hackney Carriage Unit of the Boston police, and most are ex-patrol cars with extremely high mileage. In January 2009, Boston's police department issued a ban on the purchase of used vehicles for taxi use. Although cab companies are now required to buy new models, a city mandate to replace all taxis with hybrids was overturned last year, after taxi owners cited excessive costs.
But while the number of late-model cabs on Boston's streets remains low, the Transit Connect’s large headroom, rear air-conditioning vents, and four-cylinder engine may prove popular with taxi companies looking to stand out — and save fuel.
“It’s as close as it gets to a purpose-built vehicle,” said Cohen.
Ford estimates the Transit Connect will improve fuel economy by 30 percent over cabs with V-8 engines, like its own Crown Victoria. When equipped to run on compressed natural gas, Ford says the Transit Connect can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.
An electric version promising a range of 80 miles will debut this summer.
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee