The Comfortable Contender
When I first caught a whiff of Ford's plans to try and launch the Chinese-made Territory in the Philippines, I was skeptical.
That skepticism was fueled by the fact that the Territory is really made by Ford's joint-venture partner in China, which is JMC. And it's based on one of their other models with their engineering, design, parts bin, technology, everything. Will this be a case of a product not being good enough for the Chinese being sold off to a “secondary” export market?
Some say Ford was challenged by that skepticism. So they tossed me the keys of the Territory to drive before the launch. Driving it in the cities and beyond, I'm seeing and feeling a lot of potential for the Territory on our, uh, territory.
But first, let's wind the calendar back a little bit.
The Territory is a compact crossover SUV, and it's intended to bridge the rather big gap between the little EcoSport and the much larger Explorer. Okay, so the Everest is there, but it's based on a truck platform, and very different from a more sedate crossover that rides on a monocoque like a car. And even if we do count the Everest, the gap to the EcoSport is still huge and filled with opportunity.
Before, Ford had the Escape. They actually made it here, and exported it; so far the only car company we know to have exported a modern vehicle out of the Philippines. But that factory is now owned by Mitsubishi, and they do intend to export a vehicle: the L300, the undeniable Lazarus of the auto industry after its resurrection.
When the Escape ceased production, Ford tried importing the Escape from the United States. That, however, proved to be economically inefficient. It's one thing to import big American SUVs wherein they can be more flexible with prices, but it's a different matter for more imported compact crossovers that need to be affordable. The Titanium variant sold for PhP 1,790,000... in 2015. Case in point: the larger first generation 2015 Toyota Fortuner 2.5V I reviewed around the same time was just PhP 1,525,000.
So yes, these models really operate best in the auto market if there is a free trade agreement in place. Something that ASEAN (yes, including us) has with the People's Republic of China. And that's the reason why Ford Philippines is offering this Territory Titanium+, the top-spec of the model range, at an introductory price of PhP 1,299,000. Even the entry variant of the Territory, the Trend, has an introductory price of PhP 1,179,000.
So, the question remains: do you actually get your money's worth for just under PhP 1.3 million in the Territory Titanium+?
When it comes to visuals, the Territory does impress. It really does look good with its wide stance, sleek body, and handsome details. We like the quad-LED headlamps, the big grille, the creases and curves, the wide wheel arches, the slim greenhouse, and those big wheels. There's also a panoramic moonroof as evidenced by the black roof.
Even the rear end is somewhat reminiscent of the Ford Explorer, albeit scaled down significantly. I actually really like it in person, as the photos on the web really don't do it justice to how the Territory looks overall. The only thing that we found to be odd was the dual exhaust tips; they're totally cosmetic. The actual exhaust tip points downward, nowhere near the chrome tips. Just a minor detail, but yeah it was really unnecessary.
Like the exterior, I found the interior to be truly impressive. There are times that you make concessions and accept certain things with Chinese automobiles particularly in the aspect of interior build and consistency. But not with the Territory. They chose nice materials for the switches, surfaces, and other bits and pieces. Everything looks very well put together. The stitching on the seats could be improved further though, but all in all, this is a high-grade cabin. I'd say it's approaching the level of Geely's new generation models like the Azkarra.
The front seats are very clearly geared for comfort and not spirited driving; you can tell by the relatively flat contour of the backrests and seat cushions are. I'm not complaining; these seats are soft, as are the seats in the back.
For those asking, the Territory isn't a three-row SUV like the Everest, meaning it's a 5-seater compact crossover. As such there's a good deal of space in the back, as the Territory is able to take on 420 liters of cargo even with the back seats occupied. If there's no one sitting there, you can fold it down, remove the backboard and you'll have 1120 liters of cargo space. And the rear seats are almost folded flat.
In terms of value for the size, well, you're getting something much bigger for the price of a subcompact crossover. At 4580mm long and 1674mm tall, it's almost the same size as a current model Toyota RAV4. But the unique thing about the Territory is that it occupies more territory (sorry, couldn't resist) in terms of width at 1936mm. Now we're not quite sure if that includes the side mirrors, but it clearly translates to interior space; you feel it when you sit inside that you're in a pretty wide vehicle.
The one thing that really will elicit the Owen Wilson “Wow” is the level of equipment that's standard in the Territory Titanium+. The usual things are power-assisted like the steering (of course), the mirrors (definitely), the windows (come on), and the seat adjustment. Also standard in this model are automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, an electronic parking brake, an autonomous emergency braking (brakes by itself in low speeds if you don't react), an adaptive cruise control (automatically maintains a safe distance to the vehicle ahead), a lane departure warning, a blind-spot warning system, a 360-degree camera system that's crisp and clear, and even a system that allows the Territory Titanium+ to park itself, be it parallel to the road or perpendicular to it. Try reading that last sentence out loud without losing your breath.
The gauge cluster is a screen, and I like how clear it is. What I particularly liked was the multimedia system. Unusually, this isn't a SYNC derivative, as it appears to be unique to JMC-Ford. It has Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and can serve as a control pad for basically all the not-so-critical vehicle functions like climate control, Bluetooth telephony, and more via a 4-way split screen that you can adjust when you drag the central diamond. In terms of speed and response, I still prefer Geely's GKUI, but this one is pretty nice too. So yes, the Territory Titanium+ is a great value when it comes to standard kit.
Powering the Ford Territory is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo engine that makes 143 PS and 225 Nm of torque, and is mated to a CVT that's front-wheel-drive. Here's where it gets a bit interesting though. The engine may be branded as EcoBoost, but the engine (if we got our information correctly) is a derivative (albeit a much improved one) of the 4G15. That engine code may sound familiar to some of you, and it's because JMC uses that engine in the Territory's platform brother in China called the Yusheng S330. But hey, Ford says they worked on the engine to make sure it delivers based on their performance and economy standards, thus enabling it to be branded as Ford EcoBoost. Ford Philippines Managing Director P.K. Umashankar even stated that the engine underwent testing and development at Ford's technical center (or centre) at Dunton in the UK.
Around town, this Territory feels more like a scaled-down Explorer rather than an upsized EcoSport. What really became apparent very early on is the level of comfort that the manufacturer had dialed into the Territory from the ground up, and I mean that literally. This Territory rides very well over our local rough concrete roads and bumpy asphalt. This is a stark contrast to a lot of other compact crossover SUVs that try to be sportier with stiffer suspension settings. It cruises quietly too, and has 180mm of minimum ground clearance, though it looks a bit taller than that. Still, the Territory just absorbs it all for you including annoying potholes. Just don't do it too often, because you might rip up the tires that also do a bulk of the work.
The 1490cc EcoBoost engine performs very well at city speeds but has a noticeable degree of lag when you step on the gas which is apparent in the standard driving mode. Be that as it may, it doesn't feel underpowered. All you really have to do is approach 1500 rpm so you have max torque, and just gradually apply pressure to the throttle to move you along efficiently, especially with the CVT.
I had the Territory under GCQ driving conditions, so the fuel economy was at a very decent 8.9 km/l (27 km/h average). On the highway, I initially thought the Territory was only doing 12.5 km/l, but I forgot to do a reset of the fuel economy meter. When I did, the Territory was doing 14.3 km/l and verified to be doing 14.34 km/l after doing a refill. There's good potential with the powertrain, and the adaptive cruise control works.
Personally, I wouldn't use the Co-Pilot360 feature, but it's a nice parlor trick to have. I would more likely enjoy the panoramic moonroof more, a good playlist on the nice 8-speaker audio system, and just enjoy the drive on a nice long stretch of expressway... maybe when the quarantine measures are no longer needed.
Now, in the handling department, the Territory doesn't seem to excel. That's not to say its wayward which it isn't; the Territory gets by. Turn in is ok, body roll management is good, as are the manners of the vehicle under braking. It's just apparent that Ford didn't prioritize cornering with the Territory, and one telltale sign is the lightness of the steering.
Does Ford's intent to bias the Territory towards comfort instead of a more balanced vehicle that can handle around a mountain pass detract from the experience?
My answer is no. If you're looking for a great handling vehicle, there are plenty of crossovers in the market that can satisfy those desires. Or perhaps you shouldn't be looking at a crossover altogether; maybe a sport sedan or wagon would fit your wishes.
Instead what Ford delivered is a Territory that will undoubtedly cater to the needs of Filipino customers; the kind that doesn't want to fuss about how rough the road is ahead, paved or not. They geared it for customers that require efficiency, need full connectivity, and demand for the utmost in safety and convenience, up to and including self-parking. And they did it at a superb introductory price for this Titanium+ variant thanks to the FTA with the PRC.
Yes, this is a great option for a crossover for every day, and it comes with 3 years of free preventive maintenance factored in.