I’ve had my beloved Tezza since September 3, 2016 as my trusty first car and family truckster/dog-mobile. If you don’t want to read on, then my summary is this: it’s a fantastic car in every single way and the best $5000 you’ll ever spend if you’re anything like me.
Also, the 8.9/10 rating is only an aggregate from the CarAdvice ratings criteria. My personal rating is a 9.5/10.
Design is always going to be subjective, so my word (like the rest of this) isn’t final, but I think it looks the goods – even considering the design is going on 14 years old now. Its stance is wide, low and purposeful, and the flared wheel arches give it some visual muscle. The body is a fluent mix of Falcon and Explorer, but with its slowly rising window line and falling roof line it looks sportier than either.
The interior is half of what made the Territory the first SUV to win Wheels Car of the Year in 2004. In all, there are 27 storage spaces inside including things like a removable, dishwasher-safe bin in the rear seats, stretchy cupholders in every door (that can take anything from the size of a Red Bull can to a 750mL iced coffee) and two rubberised storage compartments atop the dash.
The boot is more than generous for my two family labradors (with space to spare – if the little one wasn’t such a space invader, you could easily fit four). The floor is completely flat and wide, and there is a little bit of extra storage underneath the reversible boot floor cover. As a bonus, mine came with the ($300 option!) cargo cover and metal cargo barrier, so the dogs and anything else that goes in is safe and sound.
Head room is massive, even for 6ft 3in me – front and back. Leg room is even better. I have sat in the back when the seat in front of me is adjusted to my driving position, with my legs fully extended, and my knees are still easily a foot from the seat in front. The only issue is that you can’t get your feet all the way under the driver’s seat due to the seat wiring and storage drawer underneath, but the amount of room you get for your feet anyway makes it fine. The seats themselves are nice too, with the front seats offering good bolstering and cushy centres, and plenty of (part-electric) adjustment and lumbar support. Perfect for road trips.
Fit and finish are good – it’s no BMW, but for a 237,000km-old Ford everything is screwed together tightly and there are only two small occasional rattles. Equipment-wise, my optioned-up TX (worth, by my calculations, $46,990 as new) is generous, but it wouldn’t be a big stretch to even go for the TS and its colour screen and dual-zone climate control.
Mine has (excellent) A/C, six-disc CD, auto-save radio, cruise control, power windows, partial power driver’s seat, power adjustable pedals, power mirrors, parking sensors and a multi-function steering wheel. Probably not many wish-list items by today’s standards, but it has kept me more than happy through the 11,000km I’ve driven it so far.
It’s needless to say, really, that the Territory has plenty of grunt. The 190kW/383Nm Barra 4.0-litre straight six (with over 200kW/400Nm on 98 octane) is a smooth and strong engine that gets the two-tonne Ford going with plenty of conviction. The torque is massive and comes on its peak at just 2800rpm, an engine speed achievable just about anywhere. Living in the Adelaide Hills, a true test of a car’s strength is getting up the 9km-long Adelaide-Stirling stretch with a 300m climb at 100km/h. Obviously, any car can make it up here, but the Territory makes it look easy – even when towing a full trailer, as it has done.
Its 0–100km/h time, last I read, was 8.8 seconds, but I’d be willing to take at least half to three-quarters of a second from that time. In other words, easily enough go to make overtaking or merging onto the freeway an easy task.
There’s only one thing I’d change about my Territory – the transmission. It’s certainly not bad; it’s smooth and operates smartly (doing things like engine braking down hills) and the performance mode and manual modes are very good. Not to mention that the -/+ is the right way around, pulling back to shift up and forward to shift down. The problem is that it’s the four-speed DSI auto that had been on Falcons and Territorys since 2002, when in 2008, my car’s model year, AWD models were available with the new ZF six-speed.
Around town the four-speed is just fine, timing its shifts well and not hunting around in the Barra’s massive torque band. But more gears are better, and the adjustability of the six-speeder would certainly give a little boost to performance and economy. Ordinarily I get about 13.4–14L/100km, which I would say is perfectly acceptable for driving that is mainly done in the Hills or city traffic.
Ride & Handling
This was the other half of the Territory’s COTY triumph. The Falcon-based chassis with its Control Blade IRS is really as good as they say it is. Being the more important criterion for a family SUV, the ride is still what’s most impressive. It takes riding in another car to remember what it feels like to feel bumps. There’s never the obligatory “owwww”, “ooofff”, “oh for God’s sake let it end” that comes in just about any other car on SA’s usually busted tarmac. It soaks up bumps like they aren’t even there, especially at highway speeds, yet you still feel totally connected to the road.
The ride is what makes the handling even more impressive. As Wheels said in its launch review (June 2004), “Not only is it truly car-like; it’s a bloody brilliant car”. Through bends, particularly long sweepers, the Territory’s lower-than-usual ground clearance and brilliantly engineered independent suspension give plenty of grip and body control that let you trace the same out-in-out driving line through every corner.
I know this isn’t coming from someone who has driven a lot of different cars – dynamically, the best car I’ve driven is Dad’s F30 328i. The BMW is obviously an unfair benchmark for the 500kg-heavier Ford, but for the Territory to still impress me after seeing the BMW’s DTM-car dynamics is no mean feat.
What also earned the big Ford widespread praise was its capability on dirt. Now, I don’t do a whole lot of dirt driving, but what I have done has shown me that the Territory is a brilliant car on dirt. Its stability and comfort in acceleration, cornering and braking show just how much it was made for Australia.
The steering is a thing of beauty, as well. The steering is pretty much the same system as used in B-series Falcons, and without even having driven one, I can tell right away. The feedback is excellent, the weighting is consistent, kickback is almost non-existent and it’s nice and quick off-centre. Cornering is an effortless exercise, as is parking. Turning circle’s not bad, either.
Perhaps what makes the Territory feel most luxurious, though, is how quiet it is. Wind noise is low, but road noise and vibration are incredibly so. It helps having smooth-riding Bridgestone Ecopia tyres fitted, too, but the Terri’ is the kind of car I could drive to Melbourne in one day and not feel tired at the end. The engine is a refined companion as well. It’s ultra-smooth and almost silent at under 2000rpm, where it spends most of its time, but makes a nice straight-six bark if you get stuck into it, without being loud.
And that, really, is that. The Ford Territory is as faithful and lovable a car as anyone could want, and can do just about anything you’d ever need it to. It’s versatile, quick, comfortable, handsome, tough, cheap to buy and run, quiet, dynamic and, of course, made right here where it belongs. No SUV fits our country better.
NB: If you’re wondering about ball joints and diff bushes, they really aren’t that much of a headache. They’re about $1000 to replace, but only require doing every 100,000km or so – a small price to pay for the asking price of the car, and just about the only thing that will need doing.