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Ford: A Shuttle Vehicle for all Reasons

Road Test: New Ford Tourneo Connect 1.6 EcoBoost Grand Titanium

What requirements do Tour and Airport Shuttle Service Operators have for an ideal tour vehicle? In this article Des Langkilde finds out and matches these requirements to the Ford Tourneo Connect.

As the pre-eminent association representing Tour Operators in the inbound sector of tourism into southern Africa, the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) conference, held at Fancourt in George from 13 to 15 August, provided an ideal opportunity to question operators on their requirements for an ideal shuttle vehicle, while the Ford Tourneo Connect 1.6 EcoBoost Grand Titanium provided an ideal vehicle to compare their requirements to.

On questioning operators, the top five requirements are:

1. Price. Seems obvious, but given the low margins that shuttle services operate on, the price of the vehicle is top of the list.

2. Fuel Efficiency. Although crude oil prices have been declining steadily since June this year ($49.52/b on August 6), which should have resulted in lower fuel prices in South Africa (R13.01/ℓ for 93 octane unleaded petrol, which only dropped to R12.32/ℓ on 02 September), fuel efficiency is still a major deciding factor.

3. Parts. Availability of spare parts and dealer service outlets came up next. This makes sense considering the operator’s annual obligation to secure Tour Operator Permits and Certificate of Fitness checks.

4. Space. Not only space for luggage but space for passenger leg room, camera equipment and hand bags too.

5. Safety & Comfort. Safety and comfort features for the driver and passengers was a unanimous deciding factor.

Before going into how the Ford Tourneo Connect matches up to these requirements, let’s take a look at the vehicle itself. I road tested the Ford Tourneo Connect 1.6 Grand Titanium seven seater. This is a long-wheel base version with Ford’s revolutionary new 4-cylinder EcoBoost Turbo-charged Direct injection petrol engine, which provides all the power you’d expect from a conventional 1.6 litre engine (1596cm3), but achieves better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions (targeted from 8l/100km and just 184g/km2).

So, how does it match up? Let’s look at each requirement in turn:

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1. Ford Price.

The Tourneo Connect range retails from R273,900 to R283,900 for the 4-seater 1.0 Ambiente and Trend range, and R363,900 to R371,900 for the 7-seater 1.6 Titanium Grand and TDCi (diesel) Titanium Grand versions. By comparison, the full-sized Ford Tourneo Custom 10-seater retails between R443,900 and R510,900, while the Tourneo Bus offers up to 17 seats for around R20,000 more.

2. Ford Fuel Efficiency.

Ford labels its fuel efficiency as ‘ECOnectic Technology’, with some impressive features available in the Tourneo Connect range:
Eco Mode: The system monitors a driver’s behaviour and provides clear feedback about their eco-driving performance, along with simple tips about how to save more fuel.
Auto-Stop/Start: Auto-Stop/Start automatically shuts down the engine when the vehicle is stationary and in neutral gear and restarts the engine when the driver wants to move off, saving the fuel usually wasted while the vehicle is stationary.
Gear Shift Indicator: The system monitors driving, taking into account road gradient, vehicle load and your individual driving style, to identify the most suitable and fuel efficient gear change point, indicated by a light in the instrument panel.

3. Ford Parts.

With dealers located in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and all major cities in South Africa, Ford warrants its parts (purchased from and fitted by an authorized Ford Dealer) for a period of 12 months or 20,000kms, whichever occurs first. There’s also a Ford Fleet option for comprehensive support with access to recommended fleet discounts, leasing and rental options. News vehicles come with a 4yr/120,000km Comprehensive Warranty and a 3yr/60,000km Service plan on all EcoBoost derivatives and a 4yr/60,000km Service plan on the 1.6TDCi, which covers all scheduled servicing except friction materials i.e brake pads and wiper blades.

4. Ford Space.

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This is where the Ford Tourneo Connect really excels. Each second and third row rear seat folds flat, creating a myriad of passenger- and load-carrying possibilities. The second row seats can tumble forward for easy access to the third row. The only drawback is that you either get seven seats or loads of luggage space, but not both at the same time like in its full-sized cousin.

There’s also several small item storage features for passenger’s belongings, to keep the cabin clutter free. These include a front overhead storage shelf; an aircraft-style overhead storage compartment in second-row; small item under-floor storage (located behind first-row passenger); and map pockets in the front-door trim panel pockets.

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5. Ford Safety and Comfort.

In terms of safety, the Tourneo Connect comes with a bunch of standard features, including; ultra-high strength steel safety cage; anti-lock braking system with Emergency Brake Assist; front, side and curtain airbags, and seat belts on all seats with ISOFIX child seat attachment points next to the second row outer seat positions.

Unlike some MPVs, the seats in the Tourneo Connect provide car-like comfort with arm rests for the driver and front passenger. What I found to be really impressive is that the rear passenger seats are slightly elevated to allow commanding views of passing scenery through the larger than average tinted side windows and expansive sun roof.

Additional Ford Features

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Ford has brought all the modern gadgetry that consumers expect into the new Tourneo Connect. Bluetooth® connectivity pairs your phone to the sound system, and the hands-free technology is taken a step further with Ford SYNC® streaming music and more with simple voice commands.

Other useful gadgets include windscreen wipers that automatically adjust to moisture and rain saturation, cruise control with ASLD (Automatic Speed Limiting Device), headlights that turn on automatically in low light conditions, air conditioning with dual-zone temperature control (for the driver and front passenger zones), a tyre pressure monitoring system, and a nifty rear view camera that pops up in the internal mirror when in reverse gear.

Conclusion

Driving this long-wheelbase people-hauler is very comfortable, and the high-profile 16” tyres along with elevated ground clearance gives better-than-average pothole-soaking abilities, and it doesn’t feel top-heavy when taking sharp turns.

For more information visit www.ford.co.za