REVIEW | The new Tourneo Custom minivan is what road trips are all about in a pandemic

The new Ford Tourneo Custom out in Paternoster during a road trip. Image: Wheels24 /Janine Van der Post
The new Ford Tourneo Custom out in Paternoster during a road trip. Image: Wheels24 /Janine Van der Post
Janine Van der Post

• Ford has added two derivatives to the Tourneo Custom range.

• There is a new six-speed auto transmission as well as a new 2.0-litre single turbo engine.

• AdBlue technology has also been introduced to the Tourneo range for the first time.

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Road trips have been warmly embraced by South Africans since local travel was allowed again.

Day trips have become what we live for - even under Level 3 restrictions. However for some of us, who have comorbidities, it hasn't been that simple. My toddler and I both have asthma and other health issues, so we're somewhat cautious about going anywhere.

For motoring journalists, it has also meant there haven't been any car launches to explore the beautiful roads of South Africa while testing the latest vehicles to arrive in the local market.

Automakers have relied on virtual car launches and sending vehicles to test instead. However, Ford SA has come up with a great plan. Instead of doing the usual two-day launches, and flying journos to a great destination to test their cars, they've selected a few people, given us their new vehicles and said, go on a road trip and do your own car launch.

I was still apprehensive about having to come in contact with others at a hotel, but this worked out just fine as we would be staying in the private La Baleine cottages in Paternoster. 

The Tourneo Custom first made an appearance in the Wheels24 garage about seven years ago during a tragic time in my family. We had just lost a dear relative, and it meant doing lots of driving for admin and arranging her funeral. The van could not have come at a better time, and it was the perfect people-mover, and distraction.

The second and third row seats, at the time, were forward-facing, but there was still plenty of room for everyone to move in and out easily. With the seats in a lounge configuration, it also means plenty of space for passengers to stretch their legs on the long road. Safe to say when my said relatives saw the updated version when we stopped for a visit on the way home, they were hooked. I battled to get them out of the van, but they're now convinced it's exactly what they need for their household and all their annual road trips.

The boot might look small at first glance, but it's massive with its vast rear door which opens fully with a pull handle to bring it down. One only needs to take a look at all the luggage we had packed to get an idea, and then there was still plenty of room left too. 

What is your ultimate roadtrip vehicle and why? Or have you been on a roadtrip recently in your car, please email us here and share your story and pics.

Now, the new Tourneo has a lounge seating configuration which means the second row of seats faces the third row - or you can turn the second row around to face forward. The two middle seats in each row can fold completely flat and has a flat surface with two cup holders in each. This was so perfect for my family to catch a snack break on the long road as we're still not completely comfortable sitting in crowded areas for meals. This meant we could easily park off and have a relaxed meal in the vehicle without making a mess. Something which is particularly needed when you're having one of the best fish and chips parcels you've had in a while. The seats are also removable if you need all of the space for a massive cargo haul. 

The large rear windows are another plus for rear passengers, especially to see the colourful flowers of spring still in bloom all along the West Coast. Another item on my toddler's checklist when we're testing cars: windows need to be large so she can see everything outside.

So what's new?

Big news on the new model is that the Tourneo Custom is now available with a six-speed automatic gearbox. Ford has added two new derivatives to the range which are powered by the latest-generation 2.0-litre single turbo engines.  

The Trend model delivers 96kW with 285Nm while the range-topper Limited model kicks out a lovely 136kW and 415Nm. Both models use Ford's AdBlue technology - a first for SA - which is the use of a non-toxic urea/water-based solution to convert nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in the exhaust gas into eco-friendly nitrogen and water. Ford says a particulate filter then reduces more than 99% of emitted solid particulates from the vehicle's exhaust, thereby contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment.

The AdBlue is stored in a 21-litre tank below the diesel fuel-filler neck on the Tourneo on the left side of the vehicle between the two doors. You can easily access the AdBlue gauge via scrolling through the steering wheel menu buttons to check its levels - you'll also get a friendly reminder on the display when a top-up is required. 

While the vehicle still looks the same on the outside, it's the inside that matters most. There's a new dashboard and instrument panel based on the new Fiesta and EcoSport. There's also a new three-spoke steering wheel with an improved control layout for audio, telephony and cruise control functions.

The Limited model also sees Ford's SYNC3 communications and entertainment system introduced to the range; this allows audio functions and connected smartphones using simple voice commands - another plus when you're driving on a road trip and don't want to take your eyes off the road. 

Seats have been upgraded with revised foam padding and optimised support, while the air conditioner for rear passengers has also been improved to faster heating or cooling. My sprog is by no means a long-distance traveller, but another plus in the minivan is that the rear seats can be reclined which means her seating position in her car seat could be tilted back, and she could catch up on some sleep before we reached our destination.

There are also several USB and charging ports so we could charge mobile phones, tablets and power banks all at the same time. All the seats can fold down or be stowed away, this also allowed for extra comfy movie-watching on any device without having to hold it.

What's it like to drive?

The 2.0-litre single turbo engine sure makes a difference compared to the previous manual model I had driven. While 136kW might not seem a lot for a large vehicle, it is more than suffice, especially when you have 415Nm at hand to do any needed overtaking. Gear changes are smooth in the six-speed auto, and there's hardly any turbo lag. The only issue could be fuel consumption.

While Ford claims a rated 6.7-litres/100km, our real-world figures were more in the region of 9.2-litres/100km. However, with the aircon on during some stints, or having the windows down on others, and having a bit of a heavy foot would naturally result in higher fuel consumption. We did, at one stage, manage to bring it down to 8.1-litres/100km. If you're going to drive at 60 or 80km/h, and not use the aircon, you are more likely to get a closer reading to Ford's claims.

The Tourneo Custom also comes in a host of colours, namely Frozen White, Race Red, and Blazer Blue. At the same time, the metallic options are Moondust Silver, Diffused Silver, Magnetic Grey, Orange Glow and Blue Metallic. 

Ford says all models come standard with the Ford Protect, compromising a four-tear or 120 000km comprehensive warranty, a three-year or unlimited distance roadside assistance and a five-year or unlimited kilometre corrosion warranty. A six-year or 90 000km service plan is also included with service intervals of 15 000km.

Pricing for the 2.2 TDCi Ambiente six-speed manual model starts from R621 500 up to R740 900 for the 2.0-litre SiT Limited model we had driven on our trip. 

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