People movers will never suffer a slow death like the sedan is facing today. Whatever you call it whether it be a Van or MPV or Bus, they will remain a segment that is needed, particularly as we focus more and more attention on smarter and more economical mobility. They’re also undoubtedly the most practical vehicles on the road created with space and versatility and mind.
The Ford Tourneo Custom in this Limited and Auto guise is in effect the flagship of the strong Tourneo Custom range. It’s arrival earlier this year was, according to Ford, a result of customer demand and we can certainly see why. A bus that isn’t an Auto is just torture really.
Its timing within the window of other MPV launches from other competitors was opportune and clever as Ford was able to draw eyes to its significantly appointed bus that they’ve been able to offer at a strong price point, certainly when compared to its competitors.
It looks – like a bus. This Limited model sits on 17-inch alloys and dons the full colour-coding treatment. With its DRL’s and privacy glass it looks inoffensive, perhaps the least exciting as far as front end design goes, which is really the only place that these cars can adopt some design character at all.
There’s a lot going on here. It’s a bus after all and practicality is the order of the day. Ingress into the rear cabin is through 2 side doors that don’t offer electric movement as offered on some other premium MPV’s but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From its pricing, the Ford Tourneo is positioned as something built to be more of a long-standing and harder working vehicle and to be frank, the slow pace of a motorised door can be a little time-consuming. Careful though, particularly when parking on an incline – you really need to ensure the doors are held in their latch as they’re heavy and can cause a nasty hit if you’re in the way of gravity. Ask me, I know.
There are 6 seats in the rear cabin and you can pretty much arrange them in any configuration you choose. You can drop them, fold them, recline them and if you have a very particular space need, you can remove them too, one by one. It’s a fairly easy job but it does require some muscle. 2 is better than 1 here. You can also configure them what is known as a ‘lounge’ setting in which the two rows face each other. This is equally fine and frees up space for more ‘stuff’ in the centre of the cabin but it does tangle up your legs into what can be a slightly awkward arrangement especially if the passengers are all adults.
That said, the rear is also kitted with a number of cupholders and USB ports. Fold the centre seats down and you’ll have a flat table in between the side seats with 2 cupholders as well as a cupholder on each side. USB ports alike will be found in pairs on either side of the rear cabin with another 2 right behind the driver’s seat and then two right up front for the front passengers. Nice work Ford. These came in really handy for multi-device charging.
The rear also comes with manual air-conditioning and I have to give credit to a simple yet effective set up right above the first row.
The rear seats are comfy and they look like they’ll stand the test of time and trial. They’re well padded, each with its own seatbelt and 3 ISOFIX catches in the rear.
To say the rear is spacious is an expected statement but what I liked best was its uncomplicated nature. Some competitors, whilst you can still achieve the same results, are more complex in their operation and especially when it comes to practicality of use, loading and unloading, opening and closing, getting in and out etc, simplicity is the key and the Ford Tourneo Custom has user friendliness sorted here.
Up front, the high-riding front seats are equally comfy and with arm rests, they make sense particularly in this automatic guise. Fitted with a number of functional features including Ford’s excellent SYNC3 infotainment system, the Tourneo Custom is a well appointed MPV. Some options include niceties such as Blind Spot monitoring, lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control but in truth, for a large car BLIS is something that really should be standard.
Beyond that, there are litres and more of storage space available for all the little bits and bobs that will inevitably find a home in here. From cupholders and bottle bins to little cubbyholes for keys and phones and wallets and such, the Tourneo won’t disappoint here either
Thankfully, Ford has combined an Auto transmission with the option of a 136kW turbo diesel engine. These cars are large and heavy and an obvious downside to smaller and less powerful motors is of course going to play out in the driving experience. This motor unlocks 415Nm of torque from a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine. Power is adequate here, and with a smooth 6-speed auto I have no gripes with its drivetrain.
The hydraulic steering is very light, a necessary and welcome thing when parking or trying to manoeuvre the big Tourneo but it’s not as quick as I would have liked so it requires a lot of ‘turn’ to get it pointing where you need it.
Apart from that the Tourneo feels light on its feet in comparison to some MPV’s where you’re made aware of the car’s size at every turn and every throttle and braking application. The Ford just feels lighter, which it is, and less cumbersome to drive and I like that.
We spent considerable time in the Tourneo as it posed as a camera vehicle, family hauler and even a shuttle between rally points at the most recent SACCS finale in Parys. Despite its comfy ride, the only area of criticism is a harsh cabin noise over rougher gravel or badly damaged roads. There’s no worries of structural integrity or a hard ride so much as it is too little padding and materials for sound deadening from the lower sections of the car.
This flagship is priced competitively as far as the Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen players are concerned. Invariably the Ford plays to its strengths and is not in some respects as appointed or as modern as others but it does offer a strong bang-for-buck package here with a small options list to lift its credentials further.
The other little observation is that these diesel autos are here with an AdBlue system for reduced emissions. There is a little 21-litre tank next to the fuel filler bay in which the AdBlue solution sits. This stuff basically combines with the exhaust gases to break down harmful Nitrous Oxide into less harmful nitrogen and water parts. The thing with this system as clever as it is, is that you need to ensure the AdBlue is topped up, as you would your diesel. This is something you can't afford to forget. No AdBlue means no go.
Now is a good time to be considering a larger car. As a number of families looking at only having one car the idea of that car being a people mover is a good one. One car that pretty much suits every need.
And then of course, there’s the more commercial use of a van, for hauling things and people around from point to point. At around R750k, there are a few large SUV options out there that will easily cater to some of these needs…but not all of them. You just can’t replace the volume of a vehicle like the Ford Tourneo Custom and in this Limited spec, it’s a very worthy proposition especially if you’re on a budget.