David MottonSee other tow car reviews written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
This is the latest generation of Ford's Transit-based people carrier. But how well does it tow a caravan?
As you'd expect of a big, van-based MPV, there's lots of space inside and seating for up to nine. It also promises better economy, lower emissions and more tech. We're testing the long-wheelbase version (2.0 TDCi 310 LWB Titanium) but, given the Tourneo Custom's heft, is an engine with power output of just 128bhp up to the job of towing? Will size and weight guarantee stability at speed? And how's the fuel economy?
All Tourneo Custom models are powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine in one of three states of tune. Here we're testing the mid-spec engine, with 128bhp and 284 lb ft of torque.
With a kerb weight of 2429kg, the engine has a lot to pull, even before loading up people and luggage - and a caravan. We matched the big Ford to a Swift Expression 635 (MiRO 1485kg).
From standing, the Tourneo tows away briskly, but a total weight of nearly four tonnes starts to catch up with the Ford as speed builds. Acceleration is increasingly sedate past 40mph.
Sixth gear is too high to be much use in towing; the engine is far more comfortable in fifth at 60mph. On hilly roads, you need to work the gearbox hard and make full use of the 284 lb ft of pulling power to hold speed.
However, there's enough poke for straightforward hill starts, so long as you're not shy dialling up the revs, and the conventional handbrake holds firm with no need for undue force.
Stability is what counts when towing, not speed, and the Ford is very stable. With such a high kerb weight, that's no surprise. There's some pitching on bumps, but no side-to-side movement to speak of, even when the wind picks up a bit.
On arrival at your destination, despite its size, the Tourneo is easy to manoeuvre. The huge door mirrors and the vehicle's width help, giving an excellent view down the sides of the van. We reversed up a shallow slope with the caravan hitched up and, other than some vibration through the clutch pedal, the Ford made no complaint.
Adding the detachable Brink towball with 13-pin electrics and Trailer Sway Control costs £480. There's plenty of clearance for the towball and the electrics are easy to access. It's a shame the reversing camera is a cost option.
Forget any idea that because the Ford is based on a commercial vehicle, it's going to be rough around the edges. In most respects, it's pleasant to drive.
The steering is well weighted and precise and, so long as you're not too ambitious, the Ford handles well.
The ride could be more firmly controlled - the Tourneo tends to rise and fall over dips and crests, and takes a while to settle - but otherwise it's comfortable.
Even without a caravan behind, it is far from quick, but performance is acceptable. The engine is quiet enough at a cruise, and wind noise isn't too intrusive. But road noise tends to echo around the cabin.
A surprisingly tight turning circle helps make the Tourneo Custom manageable in town or when parking, but even so, this is an intimidatingly large vehicle. It's more than a foot longer than a Land Rover Discovery, and immensely wide.
Good visibility will help the driver judge where the vehicle's extremities are, but parking sensors that detect the towball and bleep manically even before you start reversing don't help (so remember to remove the ball when it's not needed).
Often, if all of an MPV's seats are occupied, there's little room for luggage. Well, that doesn't apply here - the boot is vast, even with all nine seats in place. What's more, the boot floor is low to the ground, which helps take the strain out of loading.
In the unlikely event that more luggage space is needed, the second and third rows can be folded over, tipped up or removed. But taking them out is very much a last resort - they weigh up to 60kg, according to the handbook, which warns that this is a job for at least two.
Sliding doors on either side give access to the cabin. Our test car had the two rear rows facing each other, a sociable layout for long trips. The second row can be reversed to face forwards, although again, this is a fairly major operation. You sit very high in front, with a good view of the road, and we found this comfortable for long drives.
Priced at £39,748, this Tourneo Custom just avoids the £310 Vehicle Excise Duty surcharge for cars costing more than £40,000. The price is competitive with other van-based MPVs, such as the Citroën SpaceTourer.
Running costs aren't cheap, though. The official combined figure of 44.8mpg is worse than any version of the big Citroën, and we only achieved 21.4mpg towing the Swift Expression.
|Engine size||1995 cc|
|Towball limit||112 kg|
|Maximum towing limit||2050 kg|
|Torque||284.0 lb ft|
|Official MPG||44.8 mpg|
|Towing MPG||21.4 mpg|
Hugely practical and stable for the caravanner who needs more than seven seats, but slow.
- Very practical
- No side-to-side movement
- Easy to manoeuvre
- Need to work the gearbox hard
- High running costs