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It was always going to be a tough act to follow for Ford. Australia’s love affair over the years with our own locally designed and built Ford Territory translated to a boon in sales of the mid- to large-size SUV. From 2004 to 2018, Ford Australia shifted nearly 180,000 locally built Territories, the last four examples as recently as 2018, long after production ceased in October, 2016.
Which brings us neatly to this SUV on test, the Ford Endura. While not explicitly billed as a replacement for the once-popular Ford Territory, the Endura is, in (almost) every way, a replacement for the Ford Territory.
There are six Enduras in the range, in three trim levels with either AWD or front-wheel-drive underpinnings. The range kicks off with the FWD Trend at $44,990 plus on-road costs and maxes out with the Titanium AWD at $67,990.
Tested here is the entry-level 2019 Ford Endura Trend FWD ($44,990), which places it smack-bang in the middle of an all-in brawl in the segment. With a price spread of just $5K ($42,490–$47,490), potential buyers have a choice of 24 SUVs from 14 manufacturers. That number jumps to 31 if we add in those coming in below my arbitrary $42,490 cut-off. There’s a plethora of variety, too, within that spread, with AWD, FWD, diesel, petrol and even a hybrid option on the table.
What that all means is the Endura needs to mount a compelling case in Blue Oval dealerships or risk having potential buyers wander down the street to their local Toyota dealer. Or Mazda. Maybe Kia. Or Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Holden, Nissan, Peugeot et cetera, et cetera.
So, how does the Endura stack up in a market flooded with options? That depends entirely on your needs. More on that later.
The Endura is powered by 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel pumping out 140kW of power (at 3500rpm) and a healthy 400Nm of torque at a very user-friendly (2000–3000rpm). Those outputs are sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed auto transmission. If you prefer all-wheel-drive motivation, you’ll need to stump up an extra $4000.
And if you want petrol power, you can’t have it. Despite not wanting to make comparisons to the Territory, Ford’s local arm has admitted the diesel/petrol split on the Territory was skewed 70:30 in favour of the oiler. Diesel only it is, then.
And that’s no bad thing, because this 2.0-litre unit is at once quiet and refined. There’s a bit of the ol’ diesel clatter at idle and down low, but once the Endura is up to speed, there’s little more than a hum inside the cabin.
Performance is spritely enough, although it’s no ‘sports’ utility vehicle, even with a Sport mode at hand that improves throttle response and lifts the revs into the torque sweet spot.
Acceleration from standstill is fine, if not breathtaking, but then it doesn’t need to be. Rolling acceleration is good, though, the Endura getting its mumbo on in a smart fashion. The steering is nice and direct, with decent feedback. Leather-wrapped, too. There’s a nice heft to its weighting and it’s precise.
Around town, the Endura behaves exactly as most buyers will want. The ride remains unflustered by even the worst of Sydney’s tragicomedy road surfaces. It’s comfortable and forgiving, the Endura settling quickly and nicely over larger obstacles such as speed humps, while the usual accoutrements of patchwork repairs, road joins, corrugations and other minor blemishes are barely felt – or heard – inside the cabin. That refinement transfers nicely to highway cruising, as well, the Ford humming along smoothly and quietly.
That becomes a pleasant memory on rural back roads, though, where the Endura does become a little jiggly. It’s not terrible, by any stretch, but it’s worth noting. So, too, its behaviour on those same country roads. You’d expect a large SUV to feel a little cumbersome, unwieldly, when faced with a succession of bends and twists. Instead, the Endura remains composed and assured. It’s no corner-carver, naturally, but there is a surprising amount of precision and confidence in the way it handles itself. Body roll? Sure, but not enough to cause alarm.
Of course, practicality is a major selling point in this segment, any large SUV needing to be capable of carrying the family and their stuff in comfort, if not style. And here, a few cracks begin to appear in the Endura’s armour. Let’s start with the big one. There’s no third row, making this strictly a five-seater. And that’s a rarity in this segment, with only the Jeep twins, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, joining the Endura in the two-row club.
Want seven seats from a Ford? You’ll need to climb into an Everest, which will set you back an additional $5200 (before on-road costs) for that third row. It seems buyers are prepared to stump that extra cash, though, with the Everest outselling the Endura by a healthy margin (1615 against 635 to the end of April). A far cry from the segment-leading Toyota Prado, which has found over 6000 new homes in the same period.
For comparison, the much-loved local Territory regularly sold 10,000–15,000 per year with a peak of almost 24,000 in 2005. A meaningful comparison? Not really, but it does reflect changing tastes and the sheer array of choice consumers now have in the segment.
Inside, the Endura presents nicely, if not class-leading. The quality of materials is about par for the pricepoint, with plenty of harder plastics making their presence known. And felt. Soft-touch surfaces are reserved for key line-of-sight points, which is standard practice at this end of the price spectrum.
The rotary dialler serving as a gear selector is a nice touch, adding a hint of premiumness and a neat endpoint to what is a pretty elegant centre console arrangement, topped by an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen running Ford’s excellent Sync 3 infotainment system. Sync 3 is not the last word in graphic design, but the user experience is easy and intuitive.
Standard features include satellite navigation with traffic alerts, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio, a CD player, and Bluetooth connectivity. Responses to inputs are razor sharp, as is connecting your smartphone, either via mirroring or Bluetooth. There are plenty of more premium brands that could take a leaf out of Ford’s book in this regard. Surely, it can’t be that hard to engineer snappy responses to user inputs. Well done, Ford.
There’s a large – and deep – storage bin in the centre console, while a dashtop cubby, with lid, is the perfect place for your smartphone, thanks to the two USB points lurking within.
Creature comforts are not so prevalent in the second row, with no USB points. There is a 12V outlet and 230V inverter socket, though. The seats themselves are comfortable, and there’s enough room for three adults to travel in comfort. Toe, knee and leg room are excellent, too, as is head room. A fold-down centre armrest reveals a pair of cupholders, while the seatbacks offer some recline, should those travelling in the back want to lounge around in a more relaxed pose. Two ISOFIX points on the outboard seats are matched by three top-tether hooks, for those needing to transport little ones securely.
The Endura’s boot, with manual tailgate, errs on the side of large, with 800L to play with. That expands to 1847L with the second row folded (60:40), which can be done via a couple of levers located in the boot. Handy.
There are a couple of hooks, too, to hang your bags, while a pair of cubbies are useful for holding smaller items. There’s an additional 12V outlet in the boot, while under the floor hides a space-saver spare wheel.
It’s shame, then, there’s no cargo blind to hide your goodies, not even as an option. It’s standard on the ST-Line, as is a cargo net, but no such luck for the Trend, which offers a vast and exposed area that also serves as a reminder there’s no third row of seating.
For those looking to haul a load behind the Endura, towing capacity is listed at 2000kg braked, and 750kg unbraked, on par for the segment. That’s a way behind the old Territory’s AWD diesel’s 2700kg capability.
There's a five-star ANCAP score (awarded in 2016) for the Endura which has, as standard, a decent amount of safety kit. There are seven airbags covering both rows, autonomous emergency braking, evasive steering assist, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control. Throw in front and rear parking sensors, hill start assist and a tyre pressure monitoring, and the Endura is on a par with its main rivals.
The only glaring omissions are blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, neither even available as an option. Those technologies are reserved for the top-of-the-range Titanium.
Ford covers the Endura with its five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and caps servicing at $299 per visit for the first four years or 60,000km, whichever occurs first. There’s also free roadside assistance over that period, provided servicing is carried out at authorised Ford dealers.
The Endura proved reasonably frugal on fuel, too, showing an indicated 7.7L/100km after a week of urban and highway driving against the company’s claim of 6.7L.
The reality is, while seven-seater SUVs have become increasingly popular and prevalent, not everyone needs seats for persons six and seven, and for those who don’t, the Endura presents as a decent proposition in the segment. With a well-resolved ride and decent enough, if not thrilling, performance married to a handsome visage, the Endura fills a neat gap in Ford’s local SUV line-up.