Ford's Tourneo Custom offers acres of space in a cost effective package. If you need something bigger than a Galaxy, this could be just the ticket. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
The Ford Tourneo Custom is a smart-looking, well-equipped and economical vehicle that can seat eight or nine. If you've progressed beyond the normal seven-seater MPV, this could be the perfect left-field choice.
Ford has a reputation for making some of the best people movers in the business. B-MAX, C-MAX, S-MAX and Galaxy all have their firm adherents but sometimes there's just no substitute for size. Size beyond what even a Galaxy full-size MPV can deliver. If you're doing some heavy hauling and need a vehicle to fit that particular bill, the latest Tourneo Custom could be the answer. This offers generous space and reasonable comfort for up to nine people beneath an exterior that while not doing too much to disguise its commercial vehicle roots, at least looks as if it's been designed rather than arrived at. The Tourneo Custom is designed to be cost-effective for business use or as a safe, luxurious way of carrying family, friends and all their stuff and you can even opt for an L2 long wheelbase version if you've never really got round that 'people or luggage' predicament.
Whichever Tourneo Custom you choose, if you pop the bonnet you'll be greeted by a 2.2 litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine, mated to a six speed manual transmission and driving the front wheels. So far, so simple. After this it gets a little more involved but nothing that'll require homework. There are three power levels to choose from: a 100 PS power output with 310 Nm, or you can step up to 125 PS/350 Nm with the 155 PS/385 Nm guise really suited to heavy duty hauling. Whichever you decide upon, both torque and torque delivery are excellent. Engine refinement at idle isn't class leading but you'll never be kidding your passengers that they're in a Lexus anyway. The chassis has been meticulously tuned for British conditions with beefy front and rear axles, bringing excellent levels of stability and control. The ultra-stiff body structure allows the suspension to do its work effectively without the usual van-like intrusions. There's even Torque Vectoring Control which reacts to the road surface 100 times per second. Using this information, it balances the amount of power delivered to each of the two front wheels, maximising grip and sharpening handling. And you thought all that was just for sports models.
Design and Build
The Tourneo Custom is the first in a series of Ford commercial vehicles that uses design cues from the 'Kinetic Design' school that has informed the look and feel of so many of Ford's passenger cars. The ethos of these clean lines was to create a strong sense of movement, even when the vehicle is stationary. The sharply rising window line of the Tourneo Custom is far from the class norm and helps distinguish it from the usual crop of fenestrated vans. Likewise, the bold trapezoidal grille and sharp wheel arches also give it a distinctive style. The interior is a long way from the sort of brittle elephant-grey plastics and building site utility that these vehicles tend to exhibit. While the dash looks hard wearing, it's nevertheless attractively styled. You can have your Tourneo Custom configured as an eight or nine-seater. Either way, you can also choose an L1 (short wheelbase) or an L2 (long wheelbase) version. The L1 version is 4.97m in length, while the L2 is 5.34m. The L2's extra 370mm translates into extra luggage space behind the third row of seats. As a result, with all the rear seats removed, it offers up to 6.8 cubic metres of luggage space, compared to the L1's already generous 6.0 cubic metres. Because it's less than two metres in height, the Tourneo Custom fits within most car park limits. There are also two or three trim levels in each body style, plus a bunch of equipment options.
Market and Model
The Tourneo Custom range opens with the Tourneo Custom. Yes, it got me too. This includes gear like Auto-Start-Stop, hill start assist, ESP stability control, a stereo with AUX-in and wheel-mounted controls, a 10-way adjustable heated driver's seat, ISOFIX child seat fixing points and a trip computer. The next model up is the Tourneo Custom Trend which adds features such as wheel trims, remote central locking, power folding and heated door mirrors, cruise control, a carpeted passenger area and load bay, a heated windscreen, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and Ford's SYNC system with emergency assist. Those looking for some really car-like refinements will be drawn to the range-topping Tourneo Custom Limited which get alloy wheels, body coloured door handles, mirrors, and bumpers, a DAB digital radio, air conditioning front and rear, USB-in and a perimetric alarm system.
Cost of Ownership
The Tourneo Custom utilises a number of technologies to improve efficiency. There's a shift light system, which uses a simple light on the instrument panel which informs you when to change gear for maximum fuel efficiency. There's also Smart Regenerative Charging which only charges the battery when it needs it and, whenever possible, avoids doing so when you're pressing the accelerator. This can help save even more fuel and reduce emissions further still. You're probably a bit more familiar with Auto-Start-Stop. When your vehicle is stationary, such as at traffic lights or idling in a queue, this automatically switches off the engine while still supplying power to essentials like the aircon and radio, then restarts it the moment you're ready to move. The system is extremely effective if you do most of your driving in town, where it can cut fuel consumption by up to 10%. The result is that theTourneo Custom achieves excellent fuel economy - 43.5 mpg on the combined cycle - and CO2 emissions are as low as 172 g/km.
Vehicle manufacturers often seem so intent on finding minuscule pieces of white space between niches that they sometimes take their eye off what can be a neglected but potentially lucrative existing sector. Perhaps Ford has been guilty of that in the past, but with the Tourneo Custom, it's more than making up for that. If you've needed something that's bigger than a Galaxy but don't want to spend the big money, you'd need to land a well-finished Volkswagen or Mercedes Traveliner-type vehicle, there's really not been much above humble crew bus fare. The Tourneo Custom changes that, offering a vehicle with a bit of style and, should you want it, some decent interior appointments. There's no shortage of space and with low ongoing running costs and the reassurance of typical Ford build quality, it's hard to see the Tourneo Custom disappointing. Perhaps Ford's biggest challenge will be in letting private buyers know the thing exists. For businesses it's a no-brainer. For big families it could be the answer they never knew existed.