Business Maverick

MOTORING

Crossover territory — Ford SA launches a much-needed volume seller

Crossover territory — Ford SA launches a much-needed volume seller
The new Ford Territory. (Photo: FMCSA)

Made in China in partnership with JMC Motors, the new Ford Territory plans to cause a stir in the hugely populated crossover SUV market.

I don’t often feel sorry for motoring companies, but a couple of years ago the local arm of Ford had my sympathies. After Ford’s production facility in Chennai, India shut down in 2022, it soon became clear that many of their much-loved products among us locals, like the EcoSport, the Figo and the Fiesta had been unceremoniously dumped into the car cemetery. 

This left FMCSA with a huge vacuum in the SA passenger car market, with the addition of their Focus and Kuga no longer available. As media, we were told that all their efforts would be focused on their Silverton-based manufacturing plant where the new Ranger bakkie was being produced as part of a partnership with VW, primarily for export purposes. 

Make no mistake, Ford’s new Ranger has done exceptionally well in the South African LCV (light commercial vehicle) market since its launch in late 2022, outselling its archrival, the Toyota Hilux in the double-cab segment last year. 

The Ranger won SA Car of the Year 2023 and recently there were two additions to the range: the off-road demon Tremor and the high-on-luxury new Platinum. But in reality, besides their bullish bakkie, all FMCSA had left to sell after Chennai shut down was the niche Mustang, the MPV Torneo and the SUV Everest. 

The recently launched Ranger Platinum. (Photo: FMCSA)

A couple of months ago their “lack of variety” spell was broken when the new Puma found its way on to SA shores. And while it’s been selling pretty decently, the funky compact crossover was never intended to be a volume seller. Now FMCSA appears to be making a strong product comeback with the launch of the Territory.

The current Territory should not be confused with the original name badge, built by Ford Australia, which made its first appearance Down Under back in 2004 and sold about 2,300 units when it was exported to SA the following year. 

The Territory we’re talking about here is a compact crossover SUV, the result of a joint venture between Ford and JMC (Jiangling Motors Corporation) that came into being in 2018. 

To get some perspective on how popular the C-SUV segment is in South Africa, one in 10 cars sold here belong in this subdivision and no less than 33 players are revving for market share in a segment that sold 63,000 compact new crossovers last year. The Territory will draw guns with the likes of the Toyota RAV 4, the Hyundai Tucson, the VW Tiguan, the Kia Sportage, the Mazda CX5, and Chinese brands like the Haval H6, the Jaecoo J7, the Chery Tiggo 7 and 8 Pro. 

In convoy, the Territory on launch. (Photo: FMCSA)

Inside and out

I recently got to test drive Ford’s new metal child at a two-day media event in the area of George and its scenic surrounds. Up close, the new Territory looks well proportioned with strong shoulder lines and has a noticeably large grille which appears to be a prerequisite in this segment. 

Inside, I immediately became aware of the large rectangular screen that dominates the dash and houses a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, as well as a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment screen. Ford is known for getting its tech to work quickly and intuitively and the Territory doesn’t disappoint. 

There are three trim levels available: the entry-level Ambiente, the Trend and the range-topping Titanium. At launch, I got to test-drive the upper two and there is a noticeable difference when it comes to cabin trim. The Trend is kitted out in “Vinyl Domino”, which is a faux leather type of fabric, while the range-topping Titanium’s upholstery is genuine leather. It also has a full moonroof.

The interior is a bit of a mixed bag between hard and soft-touch surfaces, but the build quality appears solid. (A small gripe is the chrome-look audio control buttons that have a bit of a cheap feel.)

The Territory’s ergonomic cabin. (Photo: FMCSA)

The drive 

While other markets have a 1.5-litre in the lineup, FMCSA has selected to offer a single engine by way of the more powerful turbo-petrol 1.8-litre EcoBoost which is good for 138kW and 318Nm of very handy torque. Our drive was a combo of different surfaces including highways, secondary roads, potholed tracks and twisty passes to put the Territory through its paces.  

Overall, I found the ride well-balanced, refined and comfy. The suspension soaked up most road imperfections and I was especially impressed by its insulation against road and engine noise. On mountain passes, taking hairpin bends at speed, the Territory felt well-planted with no discernible body roll. 

The 7-speed auto gearbox was a definite highlight. It felt well matched to the engine, which was able to accelerate with ease and make some pretty brisk overtakes when needed. 

In terms of fuel efficiency, while Ford claimed consumption of 7.0L/100km, (which is rather good in this segment, especially against some of its thirstier Chinese rivals), I came closer to 8 litres, but then again I wasn’t exactly driving with efficiency in mind. 

There’s generous rear-passenger space and a load capacity of 448 litres, increasing to 1,422 litres when the rear seats are down. The Territory can also accommodate a tow hitch, with a 1,310kg braked towing capacity.

The top-of-the-range Titanium has a moonroof. (Photo: FMCSA)

Since it relies on the same engine as the range-topping Titanium, which is significantly pricier, in my books the mid-range Trend hits the sweet spot when it comes to pricing and what’s on offer, which includes handy stuff like a reverse camera, auto LED headlamps and wipers, a power tailgate, wireless charging, climate control and keyless entry. 

Where the Titanium sticks out is in its generous safety features, which include Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Warning with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. All models have six airbags.

It’s hardly a secret that the “traditional” South African new car market, previously dominated by German, Japanese and US brands like Ford, is under major threat due to Chinese nameplates like GWM and Chery going on an all-out offensive to gobble market share. Since 2022, Haval and Chery have regularly featured in the top 10 selling passenger car brands in the country. And they keep on coming. 

A sub-brand of Chery, Jaeco, recently launched the impressive and competitively priced J7. Then there’s their “luxury” brand Omoda and BAIC’s Beijing X55 giving cash-strapped customers a range of choices in the new car market.

I’m regularly surprised how some of the more “traditional” brands seem to have a bit of an ostrich, head-in-the-sand approach when it comes to their Chinese competitors. The threat is real and that’s why the new Territory, with its trusty blue oval badge, made and produced in China, is clearly a strategic move on the part of Ford. DM

PRICING

Ford Territory Ambiente – R590,000

Ford Territory Trend – R646,600

Ford Territory Titanium – R721,000 

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.