The Ford Territory is one of the better family-focussed soft-roading SUVs on our roads
Ford's Territory was once good enough to win the AA Motoring Excellence Awards two years running. It's an SUV that handles better than many large cars; the ultimate family wagon, planned by folk who clearly live real lives with real kids, and its only compromise was its taste for fuel.
But the fact it's designed and built in Australia, and NZ is still its only overseas market, means expensive updates just aren't possible. The basic car had to stand the test of time, and updates have been relatively mild.
So how does Territory fare nowadays? We sampled the top-spec Ghia to find out.
It's powered by a 190kW/383Nm 4.0-litre in-line six mated to a six-speed auto with normal, performance and manual modes.
That's tucked into the same basic body with the same basic dash and layout the original buyers will recognise, though this latest generation - in Ghia format - gets stuff like side steps and a roof-mounted DVD player with two wireless headphones as standard.
Those steps proved more useful than expected - not only to ease the scramble aboard, but easing access to the rear for those awkward family tasks - fitting child seats, or slotting children into them.
My borrowed tot loved the high-riding position's better view, while I found an additional benefit to leather seats. Fabric or velour may better mask dust and dirt, but it's easier to clean little footprints off leather seatbacks.
In fact this whole car is easy-use. The engine is stress-free in 'normal' mode. Handling remains well capable of coping with a lead-foot attitude with the transmission in performance or while changing manually, but that doesn't do much for the car's thirst. Ford claims 12.9l/100km overall; the test car was much higher on collection and fell to 14.1 after 1000km of mainly semi-rural hilly running about, and very little highway driving.
Assuming family - not V8 supercar drivers - aboard, normal mode works just fine, indeed it impressed on the many hills of my daily drive as its 'grade logic control' holds the gears for better engine braking on even steepish descents.
Meantime you're comfy - there's enough seat-and-wheel adjustability for most, plus electrically extending pedals for shorties. There's plentiful storage, and even three rows of seats. I never needed the rearmost set, but without them the 1153-litre boot was soon strewn with shopping. Keeping the third row up boxed in a tighter space better suited to daily errands, and as easily accessed by raising the rear window as by lifting the boot door.
Folding both rows down? You could hold a party back there; I got a Christmas tree taller than me inside, windows and hatch closed, no worries. Impressive.
Spend a few days with a car, and you tend to notice only the best, or the worst. A few weeks? You get used to the good stuff - the park distance control and rear view camera, the cubbies and adjustable bottle-holders, the good handling - and only notice the niggles. That there really was little to annoy underlines how good Territory is.
Yes, it's still a bit thirsty - not too surprising given its size. And there's no iPod port as yet, though your dealer can retro-fit one for $238.50. And that's it.
Territory remains one of the better family-focussed soft-roading SUVs on our roads; given a frugal diesel, it'd be damn hard to beat.
See the Ford Territory Ghia and all Ford Territory cars for sale here.