In the years that I've been reviewing cars, it is my opinion that more often than not, I rate mid-grade variants higher than their top-of-the-line counterparts.
My reasoning is simple: the mid variants can already offer most of the key benefits of the model line for much less than the range-topping model. And oftentimes I don't actually get to maximize the added features of the high-grade variants, so it's just wasted money. That's how I feel with a lot of the vehicles I've tried, and it was true with the Everest; I prefer the Trend over the Titanium or Titanium+.
Now onto the Territory.
It's been over a year since I last drove the Territory in Titanium+ trim, a Ford vehicle that showed that it has quite a bit of potential in a market where value for money is important. And even though there are those with misgivings about it being made in China via Ford's partnership with JMC, I'm seeing quite a few on the road.
The question that remains: Can this Trend variant win me over the same way that the Everest Trend did?
In the Ford model line, a variant designated as Trend is the mid-grade model. It typically sits above the Ambiente and below the Titanium or Titanium+. In the Territory lineup there is no Ambiente, so that means this is effectively the base variant of the line. But it doesn't look like one.
If you walk up to a Trend and a Titanium+, the exterior differences are not obvious. The look is almost exactly the same. I actually half-expected Ford to swap out the LED headlights in the Titanium+ for a pair of cheaper multi-reflector halogens, but they didn't. I fully expected Ford to un-check the sunroof; that's typically a feature reserved for top-of-the-line variants. But the sunroof is still there; Ford didn't even downsize it to a regular sunroof as it's still the panoramic kind.
The only real differences can be spotted if you're familiar with the Titanium+ version or have a spec sheet next to you. The first is the door handles; instead of chrome, the Trend gets body-color exterior handles. I actually like that better. The wheels have been downsized by 1-inch too; this one has 17” rims instead of 18”. That's not really a big deal. Apart from those two, there is no other way to tell that this is a lower grade model unless you spot that the owner folded the mirrors with the push of a button or spotted the lack of a sensor that would signify automatic wipers.
Overall the look is quite alright. I like how the Territory looks wide and low; something reminiscent of a smaller Explorer which in turn reminds me of a Range Rover. Ford did own RR once upon a time. The only issue I really have with the exterior is the rear end, specifically those silly chrome tailpipe finishers. Those are purely ornamental and serve no actual function with the exhaust because if you look closely you'll see that those are mounted on the bumper there are no holes to allow exhaust to go through. Actually, the pipe on the muffler isn't even anywhere near because it's pointed downward.
Pop the boot and the Territory shows off quite a bit of cargo space even with the rear seats up, 420 liters. When you fold down those rear seats, you get an almost flat load space, one that can accommodate much larger items as total cargo volume almost triples to 1,120 liters.
Inside the Territory, there's not much to report really. It's practically the same as the Titanium+, at least at first glance. A lot of the features that were unticked on the spec sheet are mostly unnecessary. Gone is the one-touch up/down function for all the power windows; that's not a big deal. Instead of a digital instrument cluster, the Trend has an analog cluster with a multi-info screen; that's fairly minor. I do wish at normal operating temperature the temp needle didn't point straight up; that's something unusual, but still just a tiny nuance.
The audio screen is still the same as the Titanium+. It's not a Ford SYNC unit, but I like the functionality. The resolution could be better, but the adjustable nature of the screen is something I like, oddly enough. Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay are standard, but the Territory Trend does lose two speakers from the eight on the Titanium+. Again, not a big deal.
When it comes to safety, Ford actually retained the 6 airbag system, stability control, ABS, EBD, and brake assist. Instead of front and rear sensors, the Trend has just the rear sensors. Instead of a 360-degree camera system, this one has a rear camera system only. The major change is the deletion of the CoPilot driver-assist system. That means this doesn't have automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, and adaptive cruise control, among others. Yes, the cruise control is retained, but it only maintains speed and not the distance to the vehicle ahead.
The seats are still wrapped in leather, but lose the ventilation and heating function; not major. But what I did find to have a big effect on my drive of the Trend is the ergonomics of the vehicle. The reason for that is the deletion of two minor but significant features: the telescopic adjustment of the steering and the power adjustment for the seat. This Trend has a manual adjustment for the driver's seat, but I don't like the lift function; I found that it tilts a bit too far forward for my comfort.
The lack of the telescopic function was perhaps the one that bugged me the most; with the seat adjusted so my legs and feet are in the proper position, the steering wheel is a bit further than I would like by about an inch or two. That means my arms are a bit too stretched out compared to the seating position I usually try to set with any car I drive.
As with the Titanium+, the Territory Trend is a comfortable drive in the city. The suspension is clearly biased for comfort, and the rather flat shape of the seats isn't ideal for cornering anyway. The engineers definitely intended the Territory to be a boulevard or highway cruiser.
But I did find some things with the Trend, and I think it has to do with some wear and tear. Unlike the Titanium+ I drove last year which only had about 100 km (or less) on the odometer, this Trend has a bit more at almost 3800 km. It's not much, but I can notice a few mechanical rattles when the wheels go over a rut or a small pothole.
There was also the issue of the cruising RPM. When I put my foot steady to get a good cruising speed of about 40 or 50 km/h, I can feel some unusual undulations. I had thought it was the wheel/tire combo, so I popped the transmission into neutral so I can coast and isolate it. The undulation vanished, meaning it wasn't tire-related. When I put the lever back into D, it returned. Only then did I notice that the needle on the tachometer moves ever so slightly up and down while my foot was steady on the gas. Strange, right?
Maybe it's the mileage, but powering this the Trend is the same engine as the brand new Titanium+ I drive: it's a 1.5-liter EcoBoost, meaning it's a gasoline turbo engine. And no, this doesn't use Powershift; the gearbox that earned DCTs a bad rep. The Territory has a continuously variable transmission or CVT, and it's only front-wheel drive; there is no option for AWD. This crossover SUV isn't meant for any kind of off-roading given its FWD layout and the 180mm (about 7 inches) of minimum ground clearance.
But back to the engine. EcoBoost is a name Ford uses for a variety of engines that they developed. The most popular ones include the award-winning 1.0-liter 3-cylinder which has around 120 horsepower, up to a 3.5-liter V6 twin-turbo that makes 365 horsepower. If you notice, those engines generate over 100 horsepower per liter of displacement. But the EcoBoost in the Territory has 143 horsepower from a 1.5 liter. Torque is also not that high; 225 Nm is decent but could be better. There is another 1.5L EcoBoost which was used in foreign variants of the Ford Focus, Mondeo, or Escape, but those have power outputs from 150 to 184 PS.
The reason behind it is the origin of the Territory: it started life as a JMC Yusheng S330. Many of us (myself included) thought it was mechanically related to the Mitsubishi 4G15 given the engine code of JX4G15; actually, there are new vehicles in the PRC that still use a variation of the 4G15. Based on whatever we can find on the engine, this doesn't seem to be related to that MMC engine at all.
The S330 has since been discontinued (as far as we can tell) in China, but it has been remodeled for export markets (e.g. ours). The engine too is from JMC and has been branded as EcoBoost, which probably explains why it doesn't register with the other EcoBoost engines found in other markets. Ford says the engine did undergo verification at Dunton in the UK (where they developed the 1.0L EcoBoost), but the engine feels different. It doesn't behave like the other EcoBoost vehicles I've tried, and takes a while to spool up; but once that boost kicks in, it can be fun.
If you mash the throttle from a standstill, the Territory Trend can reach 100 km/h in 13.17 seconds. That's actually a pretty respectable time, and only just behind the larger Geely Azkarra (non-MHEV). The fuel economy in the city was quite close to the Titanium+, as the Trend can do 8.5 km/l (21 km/h average). On the highway, that goes up to 12.5 km/l.
If the road gets twisty and you want to enjoy a faster drive, the Territory (in general) is alright, but don't expect it to corner too confidently. The steering is a bit too light for that kind of driving, and the CVT isn't fantastic even when you're selecting the “gears” manually. The Territory is really a vehicle that prefers comfortable cruising.
After some time with the Territory Trend, I can say that it fell short of my expectations. I did outline some issues I found with the vehicle that Ford will undoubtedly check on to be sure, and hopefully, it was isolated to that unit and not reflected on the others. But even if the vehicle performed flawlessly, I prefer the Titanium+.
When Ford launched the Territory in 2020, the introductory price of the Titanium+ was PHP 1,299,000 while the Trend was at PHP 1,179,000. That's a difference of 120k. Now the Territory Trend is retailing for PHP 1,277,000, but the Titanium+ is only 33k more at PHP 1,310,000.
The gap is too small to be significant, and given that the fundamental issues I found with the driving ergonomics (seat adjustment, steering adjustment) are addressed with the Titanium+, then I'd say go for the TOTL if your heart is set on getting a Ford Territory.