The Ford van is back. Built in Port Elizabeth from 1967 to 1974, and then disappearing from local showrooms, the Ford Transit Custom panel van, as well as the eight-seater people-mover version built on the same platform, the Tourneo Custom, made a return to South Africa last week.
They will be followed by their larger, two-ton siblings in the second quarter of 2014.
However, this upsizing does not mean Ford will necessarily look at entering the minibus taxi market, says Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) president and CEO Jeff Nemeth. “We haven’t been in this segment [in South Africa] since I was in grade school. We are not sure what we will do.”
Nemeth says FMCSA will bring in the larger panel vans and people movers, and “see what happens”, but adds that the possibility of “branching out” from current markets does exist. He says the new Tourneo and Transit will not be assembled in South Africa, even though they share their engine with the Pretoria-made Ranger pick-up.
FMCSA’s Port Elizabeth engine plant, producing engine parts for the Ranger, has picked up more work, though, and will be supplying 30 000 to 35 000 engines a year to the Transit/Tourneo plant, in the US.
But why bring the Ford van back to South Africa only in 2013?
Nemeth says the technological advances made in the new product – voted International Van of the Year 2013 – have finally given FMCSA “a competitive edge” in the local market.
The start-up of a large-scale Ranger export programme also means that the local arm of the US manufacturer now earns enough import credits under government’s new Automotive Production and Development Programme to make importing the Tourneo and Transit “commercially viable”.
The Tourneo Custom
FMCSA expects the Tourneo Custom to attract families and lifestyle and executive shuttle customers. Pricing starts at R385 200.
The main competitors in this segment are the Hyundai H1, which leads the market, along with the Volkswagen Transporter.
The eight-seater is available in a short-wheelbase (SWB) version, at 4.97 m overall length, and a long wheelbase (LWB) version, at 5.34 m.
The additional length of the LWB version translates into extra luggage space behind the third seat row. At a height of less than 2 m, the Tourneo Custom complies with most car park height limits. This advantage is retained when the vehicle is fitted with a specialised integrated roof-rack system, which can be raised or lowered when required.
The Tourneo Custom offers twin side-sliding doors as standard, with running boards below the doors for low-level step access. A liftgate is fitted at the rear as standard.
Inside, the driver-focused instrument panel features technologies closely related to those found in Ford passenger cars. The cockpit offers an adjustable driving position, with the steering column also modifiable for reach and rake.
The seats in the two rear rows can be folded into multiple configurations and removed in segments, or completely. In total, there are more than 30 seating permutations.
All seating positions provide three-point lap- and shoulder-style seat belts.
Air conditioning is a standard fitment for front seat occupants, while a separate air-conditioning unit for the rear compartment is available as an option.
Also available is Ford’s Sync voice-activated, in-car connectivity system that enables mobile phones and music players to be connected to the vehicle and operated by voice control.
Customers can select from the Ambiente trim, or the higher-specced Trend trim. The Trend models feature Sync, electrically operated mirrors, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, and more, as standard equipment.
The Tourneo Custom has achieved a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. It has an electronic stability programme, as well as vectoring control for enhanced traction and stability.
The minibus is powered by the 2.2 ? Duratorq TDCi diesel engine available in two power ratings: 74 kW on Ambiente derivatives and 92 kW on Trend derivatives.
Both are mated to a six-speed manual transmission delivering fuel consumption of 6.5 ?/100 km on a urban/freeway cycle, with carbon dioxide emissions at 172 g/km, says Ford.
The Tourneo Custom comes with a four year/ 120 000 km warranty, a five year/90 000 km service plan and three year/unlimited kilometre roadside assistance plan.
Service intervals are every 15 000 km.
The Ford Transit
The Ford Transit Custom is set to appeal to a broad range of professionals, skilled tradesmen and small businesses, says FMCSA.
Pricing starts at R302 700.
The main competitors in the local market include the Toyota Quantum, as the market leader, as well as the Volkswagen Transporter and the Renault Trafic.
It shares it exterior styling cues with the Tourneo, but has a different, more commercially minded door configuration. It is also available in SWB and LWB versions.
Its key features include a bulkhead and loadspace design that enables the SWB model to carry three Euro pallets loaded to at least one metre high; a load-through hatch in the bulkhead that enables loads up to three metres in length (3.4 m with LWB), such as pipes or ladders, inside the vehicle; a deployable integrated roof rack system; and tie-down hooks and fixing points located on the body sides.
Payload options vary from 600 kg to 1 400 kg.
Inside, the Transit shares its technology and styling with the Tourneo, even though it does have more of a workhorse feel. It also provides seating for three up front, and not two, as with the Tourneo.
The technologies available include Ford Sync, lane-keeping alert and hill-launch assist, which helps the driver pull away with ease on an incline. The Transit Custom has also achieved a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
The 2.2 ? Duratorq TDCi engine is offered in three variations. The 74 kW model offers 310 Nm of torque from 1 300 rpm, the 92 kW version 350 Nm at 1 450 rpm, while the high-powered 114 kW version offers 385 Nm of torque at 1 600 rpm. The three units deliver differing fuel consumptions figures, but all come in at under 7.3 ?/100 km on a combined urban/freeway run, says Ford.
The Transit Custom comes with a four year/ 120 000 km warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000 km, with a service plan available as a dealer option.
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