Ford Tourneo proves its mettle as the UK’s best MPV
It would take a huge amount of ‘chutzpah’, admits Iain Robertson, to contemplate running a van-derived-car as a business vehicle but, for some people, this niche fits demands to perfection, if only more would realise it.
Judging by the number of VW Transporter vans doing the rounds at the moment, the concept of living with a commercial vehicle and personalising it with bigger alloy wheels, blackout glazing and some nifty graphics is very much ‘on the cards’. Of course, it could be that surfer fashion is partly responsible and the connection between those two brands is something that goes back to the earliest days of The Beach Boys and the ‘flower-power’ era.
However, another useful sliver of illumination has revealed that light vans are significantly easier to insure than small cars and for the terminal points-gatherer (from a never-ending round of speed camera detections), a slower, more ponderous option might become a useful transportation mainstay, for a certain period of time anyway.
Yet, there is another aspect that the more antipathetic individuals would never uncover. They would be unlikely to ever drive a van. Therefore, they would not discover how much fun can be derived from doing so. Apart from levying the incorrect gender for the noun, I gave a ‘Le Shed’ soubriquet to a Peugeot Partner Tepee Outdoor that I ran as a long-term test vehicle about four years ago. Therefore, I do have first-hand experience of living with a van-derived-car for the best part of a year.
Initially, I railed against the vehicle but the truth was that I came to appreciate and even admire its various qualities, not the least of which was the enormous load bay behind the rear seats. Its useful ceiling-located storage bins, removable back seats, commanding driving position, great drivability and its excellent overall efficiency taught me a lesson in humility. I enjoyed its practicality on holidays, as well as its thorough dependability during the working week and I even missed it after it was returned to Peugeot GB.
To live with the Ford Tourneo, which is based extensively on the latest version of the Ford Transit Connect light van, is consummately easy. For a start, it is a more modern vehicle than the Pug, which is still in production by the way, although not for much longer. However, make no mistake, this vehicle is a Transit and it is, thus, a commercial vehicle, built as such and with heavy duty intentions in mind. Its suitability as a workaday people-mover (or MPV) is what is in question. Does the Ford make the transition (if you can pardon the pun) from van to car?
Well, I can tell you assuredly that it does. However, upon first acquaintance, you might believe otherwise. Okay, the non-commercial colour of the test vehicle (a high-gloss coppery bronze) kind of gives it away. However, colour is not everything. The interior trim is certainly grey and businesslike, consisting of hard, easy-to-wipe plastic surfaces, although all five seats are pleasingly trimmed and exceptionally comfortable.
The multi-adjustable driving position (height, rake and reach of both seat and steering column) is very car-like, although the deep windscreen, the base of which looks to be so far out of reach, you would need a very small child to clamber across the dashboard and work bony fingers into its darkest recesses to clean it, is initially off-putting. There is so much headroom that you feel as though you are driving a double-decker and height-restricted drivers are lost in its confines.
However, within minutes of setting off, the van seems to shrink around the driver and deliver the most car-like driving experience imaginable. I would venture to suggest that the Tourneo is as engagingly fun to drive as a Ford Focus, which happens to be one of the best driving cars of the moment. Although it might seem like a spurious claim, after all the Tourneo IS a van, I promise you that its ride quality is definitely not van-like and even without a half-tonne load in the back, it remains compliant and comfortable, only reacting suddenly, with solid rear axle expectations, over speed humps and the worst transverse ridges in the road surface.
Powered by what I can only term as the venerable 112bhp version of the Ford-PSA 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine, while accepting that it needs a bloody good shove to get it to hike up its skirts and go, it despatches the 0-60mph blast in a most acceptable 13.5 seconds to an all-out top speed of an indicated 110mph. Pottering around town is delightful, because the amount of bottom-end grunt means that the Tourneo is never left behind, although the best bit of all is the vehicle’s fuel-sipping ability.
The government figure is given as 58.9mpg, which means that my overall return of 52.2mpg in a testing few days of punting around Lincoln, taking a trip down to Luton and carrying out an endless run of delivering people and goods over a ten days period is actually not bad performance at all. While all vans will soon be forced into displaying their MPG and CO2 figures, just like the car industry does, the Tourneo Connect is rated at 130g/km CO2, which means that it falls into Band D, or £110 per annum, for VED charges.
As mentioned earlier, the near panoramic windscreen is matched on the test vehicle by a full-length glass roof panel. It neither moves, nor flips, but fortunately it possesses an electric shade to stop the cabin turning into a greenhouse. It is also made of privacy glass, which stops truckers and bus passengers from ogling at your occupants.
The dashboard is packed with the now customary Ford telematics, which means a DAB stereo system, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth facility and optional sat-nav. The full-colour reversing camera (£240 complete with active line guides) is built ingeniously into the rear-view mirror and, while it can take a couple of views to get used to it, it works rather well and is supported by rear parking sensors, just in case you get too intimate, while manoeuvring.
The design team for the Tourneo clearly worked their oracle to the endth degree, with innumerable useful touches applied all around the vehicle. Take the extra cutaway into the flanks to allow for a greater height of side-sliding doors, which makes access much easier for everyone. Yet, I wish that they had applied some extra logic to the folding picnic trays in the rear. How any manufacturer can think it sensible to make the tables fold-upwards for use is beyond me. They are too small for a laptop, or even an electronic tablet, and children can despatch them and whatever drinks, or food, they are carrying onto the rear compartment carpet in a trice. Some additional inspiration is needed here.
Tourneo is a handsome looking vehicle that manages to disguise a lot of its bulky van-like aspects with judicious applications of matt black appliqué. The alloy wheels are stylish and the privacy glass applied to the side windows affords a limousine-like quality to the cabin.
Featuring the rear-view camera and the paint finish (£360 extra-cost), brings the price of the Tourneo to a still excellent value £18,595. Considering its other standard fixtures, in Titanium specification, like cornering lamps, on-board computer, integral roof rails, heated windscreen, enormous door mirrors and so on, no driver will feel short-changed and the acres of space and the sheer practicality of the vehicle that makes it a consummate holiday ‘van’, as well as a supremely useful business vehicle, means that it should be placed on a lot more company vehicle lists.
Conclusion: If you have not contemplated a Ford Tourneo Connect before, then I urge you to do so, as it will prove to be an extraordinarily beneficial acquisition, whether you like dogs or not.