Ford Tourneo Custom 2.2 TDCi

The fun-handling Ford Tourneo tries hard to hide its commercial roots

While it might not be the last word in style or refinement, the Ford gives a masterclass in space and value – the two things family buyers really want. It has the interior flexibility and carrying capacity to meet even the most demanding customer’s needs and, while it’s not as classy and upmarket as the VW, it takes an easy victory here.

Ford has been building the Transit since the mid-sixties, and it’s now one of the most popular commercial vehicles in the UK. However, the MPV versions of the van have always been much slower sellers.

They found plenty of work ferrying tourists as airport shuttles, but private buyers demand more than a big load capacity and durable mechanicals, so the latest Tourneo will have to be refined, comfortable and luxurious enough to use every day.

It certainly has size on its side. If you line the two contenders up alongside one another, you soon notice the Ford’s extra bulk – it’s 80mm longer, 82mm wider and 50mm taller than the Caravelle.

The exterior styling is shared with the Transit Custom van, and has some nice details like elongated rear lights and a rising shoulder line. Yet there’s no disguising the vast dimensions. The Ford looks awkward from some angles, and the exposed grey plastic on the air intake and front bumper betrays its working class roots.

Climb aboard (steps are standard, but even so it’s a long way up), and the sheer amount of interior space makes up for the lack of elegance. There’s seating for eight – the VW takes only seven. Three adults can sit side-by-side in either rear row of seats without rubbing shoulders, and the high roof means you barely have to stoop to get seated. Go for the optional dual front seat of our test model, and the Ford has space for nine – a significant advantage over an ordinary seven-seat MPV.

Even with all those seats in place, there is still 1,323 litres of luggage space. Pull on the red fabric handles to fold, slide or remove them entirely, and that room increases to either 5,520 litres with room for six, or a massive 6,000 litres with just the three seats up front. No rival comes close to offering that kind of practicality – although it’s worth noting that the seats are heavy and you’ll need somewhere to store them.

The driver gets heated seats, DAB radio and cruise control to play with and the chunky switchgear seems robust enough to withstand years of abuse. You sit high in the cabin, and benefit from a commanding view of the road, while a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment helps you to get comfortable.

Thoughtful touches like the 230V power socket on the floor, a wide hidden storage cubby above the dials and rubberised phone holder next to the gearlever show how modern the Ford is compared to its rival, too.

The 2.2-litre diesel is less impressive. It clatters into life and strains loudly under acceleration, while the long gearing of the six-speed manual box means you often have to change down to tackle a steep incline.

There’s plenty of torque on tap (just 15Nm less than in the VW, at 385Nm), but wind and road noise are pronounced and the Tourneo feels sluggish on the motorway. Even so, it was only half a second slower than the Caravelle from 0-60mph, setting a time of 12.4 seconds, and the weighty steering and torque vectoring system mean it handles with surprising agility.

Plus, although the suspension can carry up to 859kg over the rear axle, it’s actually more compliant than the VW over bumps.

However, the Ford’s biggest advantage by far is a financial one. Thanks to some ECOnetic tweaks like stop-start and a speed limiter, it was nearly 5mpg more economical than the Caravelle, returning 25.2mpg on test.

Meanwhile, lower CO2 emissions mean a £60 saving in road tax every year compared with the VW. Factor in an asking price that is thousands of pounds lower – even in this £32,605 flagship Limited spec – and the Tourneo looks like good value. That might ultimately be what pushes it over the line ahead of its more premium rival here.

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