In the movies, they say it's hard to make the sequel better than the original. But I think the same also applies to vehicles, particularly with the Ford Territory.
When the popularity of affordable crossovers rose at an exponential rate, Ford was right on top of the wave with the first-generation Territory. It wasn't exactly perfect, but most buyers liked the fact that for less than PHP 1.5 million, you could get a feature-packed 5-seater crossover with a Blue Oval badge even though it wasn't exactly a Ford through and through. At one point, it was even Ford's best-selling vehicle before the next-generation Ranger came in. That's a testament to the brand value that consumers here place in Ford.
You can only ride the wave for so long, and before we knew it, established competitors and new manufacturers came into the Philippine market left and right with crossovers poised to challenge the popular Territory. That also means Ford had to step up and introduce the second-generation model.
Now that the Territory is one of Ford's most important models in the market, the second generation has a lot to live up to.
The second generation (at least in the Philippines) Territory looks “Ford-er” than ever, if that does make any sense. The first generation was a badge-engineered JMC Yusheng S330, meaning Ford had to make do with changing some elements in the styling, but the groundwork is still pretty much done by JMC. That all changes for the second-generation model. While it's still being built by the JMC-Ford joint venture, the design language from the ground up was done in the Blue Oval studio. In its home market (China) this model is known as the Equator Sport.
The execution of the LED daytime running lights is something I like, as because of this you can easily identify the Territory on the road. The increase in size along with the change in proportions make it a refined-looking crossover; it's more of a baby Explorer now than a beefed-up EcoSport.
Ford also went for a more sculpted look for the side profile rather than the chiseled lines of the previous generation. The result gives the Territory a more upmarket vibe, especially with the 19-inch wheels exclusive to the Territory X. However, I don't know if it's just me, but I do see some similarities between the side profile of this and the Changan CS55 Plus for some reason.
There's much less going on as well when you look at the back. The chrome bits have been minimized and the only shiny things you see are the emblems. The plastic overriders are also much less pronounced. And finally, they got rid of the faux tailpipe finishers which I wasn't a fan of.
Overall, the exterior is the result of Ford having a clean sheet when it comes to design. At least in my book, Ford has been nailing it in the curb appeal front with the Everest and Ranger, now I can also say the same with the second-generation Territory.
Inside, however, is where you are reminded that the Territory was indeed developed in China – for its good and not-so-good aspects. Let's start with the good stuff.
You're pretty much spoiled with a lot of nifty features inside the Territory. The dual screens have very crisp displays, the 360 camera gives smartphone quality visuals, the wireless Android Auto / Apple CarPlay works like a charm, there's a wireless charging pad... all that stuff you've come to expect from a car that's developed in China.
Standard kits are plenty, much like the first-generation model. You get power seat adjustment in front, dual-zone climate control with PM 2.5 filter, rear A/C vents, smart power tailgate, and the like. Yes, it still has that neat party trick called active park assist where the car can basically do parallel and perpendicular parking.
In terms of ergonomics, the bigger size does indeed translate to a roomier cabin. Legroom is not an issue even on the second row, and the leather seats are nicely bolstered to hold you in place and in comfort.
For the cargo, you can put in things up to 32 inches in length, 45 inches wide, and about 31 inches without an issue. If you need more space, then the second-row seats, while they don't fold flat, give you an extra 29 inches of length.
Now on to the not-so-good stuff. Let me begin things with the first thing you'll notice once you open the door – the new car smell. I'm not quite sure if it's the adhesives they use or the leather, but the distinct (and not-so-pleasant) smell is there. You'll notice the difference when you come from a brand-new Everest and then you step inside the Territory.
Another thing is the fit and finish of the panoramic sunroof. I'm hoping it's just in this particular unit, but I noticed there's a bit of (presumably) excess rubber sealant that has not been wiped off in the railing.
My last observation applies not just to the Territory, but also to most China-made vehicles – they tend to bury simple interior functions on the submenus of the infotainment screen. While the clutter-free dashboard is nice to look at, Ford could have put in dedicated knobs or buttons for simple things such as the temperature adjustment for the climate control, and the drive mode selector.
Powering the Ford Territory is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo engine that puts out 160 PS and 248 Nm of torque. Much like the previous generation, the Territory is front-wheel-drive but it does have a new transmission – the CVT has been changed to a 7-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission. In the brochure, they call it a 7-speed auto, but in reality, it's actually a dual-clutch. So why is that the case?
Well, Ford has not had a pleasant experience dealing with dual-clutch transmissions, especially with the Powershift on the EcoSport, Focus and Fiesta. But there's a night and day difference now – the new dual-clutch on the Territory is a wet type, which operates smoother with the presence of lubrication, and it shows with the way the Territory behaves.
Normally, DCTs have the tendency to get jerky in slow-moving paces and stop-and-go traffic. But during my time with the Territory, I didn't have those experiences. Though I do wish it had paddle shifters for better control of the cogs in spirited driving situations, and going downhill on winding roads.
In terms of driving, the Territory can definitely be a smooth operator. The suspension is dialed in more on the comfort side, with enough composure to not be too wallowy when you take on those expansion joints on our expressways. It rides very well over rough concrete and asphalt, even with the 19-inch wheels on.
Of course, the drawback would be handling that's less engaging than a crossover with a stiffer suspension setting, and it's clear that Ford wants you and your passengers to have a relaxing time inside, as even the steering can be very light at expressway speeds.
The engine also makes it apparent that the Territory is made to cruise, not to sprint. There's enough power to pull you along but it's not a rev-happy unit; so power delivery itself does not come in a big lump. In terms of fuel economy, I got around 9 km/l in the city at a 19 km/h average, while highway numbers go up to 15.5 km/l at a 79 km/h average. The 60-liter fuel capacity means you get a lot of range on a full tank.
However, I noticed a little bit of tinkering can be done to improve the Ford Territory's ADAS suite. The adaptive cruise control, the blind spot monitors, and the parking sensors are already great, but the lane-keeping aid tends to react at the last second to make the corrections. In comparison to Subaru's EyeSight and the Honda Sensing suite that steers the car along the path, the one on the Territory tries to do it in a single pulse to keep it in the center, making the experience unnerving.
In my opinion the 2023 Ford Territory has made quite a leap forward from the previous model, while continuing to deliver the goods that made the predecessor a popular crossover in the Philippine market.
What customers have to deal with however is that the Territory in the top-spec Titanium X comes at PHP 1.599 million. Ford has confirmed it's due to the tax bracket that the variant belongs in. The price jump is quite significant from the previous generation, let alone the PHP 264,000 difference in the current Titanium variant.
So is the Ford Territory's sequel better than the original? In many ways, yes it is. Will it top the charts like its predecessor? That remains to be seen. Value for money may have taken a step back but with the step up in features, refinement, and not to mention after-sales (Ford now offers a 5-year warranty), the Ford Territory Titanium X is still one of the most attractive crossovers in the market today.