► A van? On CAR?!
► Ford's massive minibus driven
► Tested in tough Active spec
Yes, I know. It's a van. But, it's also (kind of) not a van. Do you see the word Transit anywhere? Didn't think so. No, this is the Tourneo Custom. Definitely, mostly, sort of, slightly... not van related.
Okay, it is a van. But this might be one of the handiest cars (using that word loosely, here) you can buy right now. CAR's tried it out in chunky Active spec.
Where can my family put themselves and all their stuff?
There are three size specifications: L1 and L2, as well as Shuttle Bus. Both L1 and L2 offer seating for eight, with the L2 spec's longer wheelbase allowing for more luggage space if you're loaded up. The Shuttle Bus version is the longer wheelbase by default, with a different seating configuration.
There are tonnes of cubbies and storage areas, as you'd expect. There are cupholders in the centre console as well as on either edge, as well as bottle holders. A lockable glovebox is standard, and there are two tiers of storage in the front doors. Go further back and there are cupholder slots down the sides and the central seat has intents for more drinks, individual reading lights and air-con vents. There are tonnes of options, too: three-pin plug sockets, rear climate control and a whole load of safety tech, to name a few.
What if I actually want to use it as a van?
You'd better be ready for a workout because those seats are as heavy as a full adult human to lift out. There's no folding-the-seats-into-the-floor setup here like the smaller Tourneo Connect, you have to use a series of pulleys and levers to fold them upright, and pull them out of their housing. I'm serious – each one is heavy. Really heavy. They can be even more fiddly trying to slot them back in when you're done.
Still, you can build up your own configuration of seats and luggage space for the ultimate road trip vehicle. And, of course, your massive family bus, with all its storage bins and handy practicality details turns into a proper van. One that's good enough to deplete the global reserves of Ikea furniture down to World War 3-provoking levels or clear out a garage worth's of tat to the tip. You'll probably not use it for this often, but it's a proper bragging right to say you could.
Do I have to have it in Active spec?
Of course not. There are proper minibus taxi-spec trims, but there's a Titanium and Titanium X trim, with the latter adding luxuries like Xenon headlights, leather seats, a powered driver's seat and reversing camera. There's also a Sport model, complete with stripe decals, fully painted bumper and side panels, sports suspension and powered front seats.
Active spec, if you're interested, has a raised ride height compared to the other trim levels, chunky body cladding, standard side steps, bespoke wheels and part-leather seats. If you go for a manual version, you can even add a mechanical limited-slip differential for the front wheels from Quaife. You know... the same thing the old Focus RS had.
What engines can you get?
In an effort to electrify its whole range, Ford has introduced a plug-in hybrid variant with a teeny 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and a 13.6kWh battery. Ford claims 27 miles of e-range.
But, of course, all your other engine options are diesels; a limp 104bhp one for the basic trim levels, a 128bhp one and a pokey 183bhp range topper. We drove the most powerful diesel with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
If we were choosing, get the manual. It's not that the auto is inherently bad, but there are odd niggles you don't really see anywhere else. At low speeds, it slurs the gears to the point of feeling like a CVT, but stamp on it and it doesn't really know what to do with the information, juggling gears like a clown who's been on the sauce after a kid's party. I also wish the park, reverse, neutral and drive slots were a little more clearly defined when you move the lever – too many times did I select neutral when I wanted reverse, or 'L' when I just wanted drive.
Obviously, a 183bhp diesel hauling 2.4 tonnes of van (and that's before you load it with anything else) isn't exactly sprightly – so much so we cringe at just how hard those lesser-powered engines are working – but it's perfectly fine when you learn to adjust your driving style. Leeeeean nice and heavily on that mid-range torque through the gears, as revving the guts out of it will feel like less of a success in the long run. You'll hear less of the diesel engine's gruff gargle if you treat it that way, too.
If it looks like a van, quacks like a van...
Then, yes, it must drive like a van. But this drives like a damn good one. All of those classic Ford traits are there, you just have to dig a little deeper than you would in a Fiesta or Focus.
Wind noise is impressive. You'd expect the Tourneo Custom to be as aerodynamic as a brick, but the only really noticeable areas were around the massive door mirrors. Eleswhere, though, our test car had a few trim rattles.
The steering is a class act: light but impressively direct for such large car (yes, I'm sticking with 'car'), and with a great turning circle – the wheel can do almost two full turns before it locks.
And, for something that's designed to be fully loaded, the suspension strikes a good balance. It's firm at low speeds, but not quite as bouncy as our colleagues over at Parkers say the Transit Custom is. It's remarkably adept at handling fast direction changes, too – it doesn't pitch and roll like a yacht lost at sea. Good.
Ford Tourneo Custom: verdict
Not our usual CAR review, no. But Ford offers these for a reason: because large families want something that does everything. And, with MPV numbers dwindling, those in the market have fewer places to turn to. But, even if the Tourneo Custom might be a big fish in a small pond, Ford hasn't phoned it in.
It drives well, feels supremely capable and offers you plenty of flexibility to make sure you find the right one for you. Don't write it off just because it's a Transit with seats in.
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