Excellent, easy to drive large family vehicle with low costs
Please note that our vehicle has 8 seats (2,3,3 layout) including the driver, and is not the 9 seat (3,3,3) version, which is identical in every other way - but is IMPOSSIBLE to insure without using a minibus or trade policy, and cannot be covered by the AA or most breakdown covers.
Our version was originally a nine seat, but on delivery, the twin front passenger seat was swapped for a single seat for the above reasons, and the V5c amended to “8 seats”.
We originally insured it via Aviva, but they had to take it to underwriters, and they took three hours of phone calls to agree on a similar premium to our old Nissan Primera estate.
If considering a Tourneo for family use, read this fully and consider insurance cover, breakdown cover, and see the note about the confusion of speed limits by the authorities.
We purchased our Tourneo off eBay after looking at several, and paid £3300 for a 51 plate with 40,000 on the clock, with some paintwork damage needing work.
Ours is a Mk6 2001 75BHP base model version with air-con; the passenger carrying version of the low roof, front wheel drive Ford Transit van.
We wanted a durable family vehicle on a tight budget for both purchase and ongoing costs, which was enjoyable to use for both myself and my wife with 4 years driving experience, and no experience of driving or parking a larger vehicle.
We looked at every MPV in our budget, and these fell into the following categories:
Smaller MPVs with 5 seats and two occasional child seats and no luggage space, like the Zafira.
Larger MPVs with 7 or 8 seats and some luggage space, like the Galaxy.
Van based people carriers like the VW Caravelle.
We spent years deliberating our choice, and very quickly ruled out the Zafira category, as the whole idea was to take us four and two grandparents, and the thought of evacuating the middle row to get to our kids hemmed in alone in the boot, and impossible to buckle in, was just awful - plus there was no luggage space.
The Galaxy size was more attractive, but we faced a problem; the ones we could afford to buy were either too old, too high miles or petrol powered. We nearly bought a diesel Kia Sedona, but both disliked it after a test drive. Most of the cars we saw were pretty complex, and we just could not find a clean, non-doggy, low mile, manual, diesel large MPV that looked like it would last the distance for our budget. Most were also horrendous to park with huge blind spots, long noses and wide C pillars, which made my wife uncomfortable.
The VW Caravelle was amazing and we would have bought it if we had £40k to spend... but after searching, we soon realised that these and the Shuttle or Transporter conversions are so revered, that we could either have an ancient one, or one with Neptune and back mileage.
Traditional minibuses were out of the question, due to insurance and breakdown cover, and the problems with parking, height restrictions, and the increased costs on ferries, tolls, bridges etc.
We looked at various Tourneos along the way, and even the earlier Mk5 models, but these were past their best and had rust issues. We drove a 2003 ex-taxi with 436,000 miles on it, which still felt new, and although highly impressive, we dismissed Tourneos as being too old or too expensive, as we could not afford one late enough and low mileage enough to avoid huge future bills. We read the reviews, and had wanted to get a GLX TDCi, which start at about £5000 for a reasonable 100,000 miler privately.
In despair, we started going back through the categories above again, and then spied a low mile 2001 base Tourneo on eBay in our budget. We took the risk, and even though the seller appeared dodgy and the service history was “lost” and some items on the listing were incorrect, we liked it and paid.
My first few days with it were painful, as we felt the odo reading of 40k must be wrong for the age, and I found a raft of issues as listed below. I had looked at Tourneos of 200-450,000 miles, and all looked fresh inside and out, as they are very durable; we assume the mileage must be higher (even though the ownership and all VOSA MOT records check out). On inspection, it had missed servicing many times, as the air filter looked like a rat's nest, and the oil was like tar.
However, we expected some work, and had budgeted £1000 to put it right, with a full service, mechanical overhaul and the paintwork to sort.
Faults were as follows:
Water leak into driver’s footwell, cured by a dab of sealant on the roof gutter edge, where a tiny hole was left when built, plus the removal of the sound insulation blocks in the offside wing. These are brick sized piece of foam, sealed in plastic bags, which reduce the engine noise travelling down the inner wing. When removed, the plastic outer was found to have perished and was letting water in, which then dripped out through the sections above right of the throttle pedal.
Central locking faults: solved by adding lubricant to the keylocks and abrading the contact pads and pins to the rear end of the sliding doors - both green with salt corrosion.
Rear screen heater inoperative: checked one fuse and the wiper relay block, but after forum consultation, realised the one fuse operated the relay, and another supplied the power to the rear heater. Once replaced, it worked fine until using with boot open, when the wires boot-body must have earthed. Changed fuse again, now only use with the boot shut.
Loose trim and carpets; fixed down and tightened.
All seat armrests all settling at different angles: unzipped covers, adjusted inner bolts in seconds, re-zipped, done.
Rattling rearmost seat row: removed, added small piece of foam rubber over catch, refitted, fine.
Sagging headlining: replaced trim clips after cleaning and using carpet adhesive, sorted.
Air-con inoperative: bizarrely, (as stated in handbook) the A/C switches on automatically when the rotary dial is switched to screen, but does not illuminate the switch as being activated, so the compressor gets hard use. Mine did not blow cold, so we re-gassed it, checked for leaks, then found a wire had been removed off the compressor-probably by a mean owner who did not understand the above. Now works fine, I keep the rotary to halfway between overall air and screen to prevent it being on constantly, and use the switch to turn the A/C on when needed.
Screeching belts: adjusted.
Sliding door opening windows not sealing properly, letting in water and wind noise: cleaned out the guides with a toothbrush, then lubricated them so they now shut firmly against the seal.
Clutch at very highest point of pedal: assumed worn out, after a few weeks adjusted itself.
Poor braking and graunching: hard braking and regular use cleared the surface rust on the discs, and the drums self adjusted.
General dryness and tightness to everything: sorted by lubrication and adjustment.
Cabin windows steamed up constantly and ventilation very poor: pollen filter was the original, and looked like a jet wash drain - filthy and full of mud, leaves etc. Once removed, the housing was hoovered out and the new one fitted, problem solved - but the side window need the face vents on them to stay clear in wet cold weather, unless you use the air-con constantly.
Air pump lumbar support inoperative: the front seats have a squeeze pump and valve to regulate the seat shape, but ours do not do anything - not a problem as seats are comfy. Ignored this.
A full DIY service with synthetic oil, oil filter, fuel filter, sump plug and washer, pollen filter etc cost less than £60 using genuine Ford service items (Transit parts are cheap), and this improved the whole driving experience; quicker to start, better idle, better MPG.
After 3,000 miles and a few months of use, we put it through an MOT and it passed with no advisories; the tester just said we should clean and grease the brake pipes before the next MOT, and commented that the emissions were extremely low indeed, and the underside perfect.
For an eleven year old bus of unknown mileage, this was a surprising result.
Cassette player replaced in 15 seconds with a CD6000 Mondeo unit off eBay, cost £29.99 delivered.
Full floor mat set fitted; rubber fronts and carpet to both rear rows at a cost of £40 off eBay.
I removed a outer windseal off a Mondeo, and cut two 50cm sections off it, which fit the front door edges mirror-roof perfectly, and cured wind noise around the door.
2008 model year wheel trims improved the look massively.
A set of additional cheap wheel off eBay and winter tyres got me along icy tracks, which would have been impassable with the standard tyres.
Upgraded H4 headlight bulbs to high-power versions (60w Nightbreakers).
All wiper blades were replaced with aero-style flat blades, which are excellent.
I am no Ford expert, but saw 75, 85 and 100BHP options, and the later TDCi have higher outputs - the SMF version Tourneo is not all that common, and most go for the GLX TDCi models for the best kit and most power when fully loaded.
I chose my 2001 TDDi Duratorq 75BHP base model both on price and for its simplicity and long term reliability, as it has far less to go wrong than the later models. Mine has SMF (single mass flywheel), no common rail, to DPF, no traction control or ESP, but is more van like and slower than the later models. For me, the trade off is well worth it, as once fettled, as mine has been, it's utterly reliable and lovely to drive.
The Tourneo comes in base and GLX spec, with the GLX adding standard air-con, rev-counter, heated screen and heated electric mirrors, alloys (which corrode badly), remote locking, electric windows, and a separate rear heating and air-con system for the rear.
Our base engine/trim model with factory air-con, in metallic Pepper Red with low recorded miles, had an exceptionally clean and unmarked interior due to private use, and seemed a good choice as a family vehicle, offering the least hassle and simplest tech for long term cheap ownership. I have been very impressed with the Transit Forum, and the very cheap price and next day availability of parts - sorting it out was cheap and easy.
If choosing again, I may take the rear heating/air con more seriously, as regulating the rear temperature from the front and keeping the windows clear all round is a battle without it, plus passengers cannot control it (if fitted there is a roof mounted control for the rear). You end up with requests to heat or cool the rear, and having your own area too hot or cold so that air travels rearward. That said, the heating is excellent, and the air-con effective with the simpler front only system, and there are side opening windows on mine. If using as a taxi or shuttle bus, you need the rear system.
Reading the handbook is key to making the best of a base Tourneo - it explains the air-con switching and also the deadlocks using the key (no remote on base) - when wanting to deadlock, simply unlock again and lock twice with key - the hazards flash to confirm. Easy and effective.
A very well developed vehicle based on a huge selling Transit van, with industrial strength fitments (try removing the 80kg seat rows!), having an excellent forum knowledge base, unrivaled spares and salvage part availability, and being built to be used hard, day in, day out, for galactic mileage.
The whole vehicle feels industrial and solid, with durable fabrics and well placed controls.
Passengers love it, and enjoy the journey with sprung seats, armrests, loads of leg room, great visibility and decently long, non grabbing seat belts.
It is truly outstanding for use with kids, as it is durable, the sliding doors are great, the kids can all see out of the windows (they can’t in many new cars with a high dash or high window bases), and getting them in and out is a breeze. Fitting child seats is so easy, and dealing with the harnesses at chest level while stood up straight is ace, plus the kids adore the whole adventure aspect of the bus, and there is no need to fight over seats - they all have great views and loads of space.
After trial and error, we now use a strange formation to seat two parents and two young children, simply due to the walk through space between the front seats (8 seat only) - one parent drives, one child rides shotgun, one parent sits in the middle seat on middle row and one child on the offside seat in the middle row. With an additional small rear view mirror stuck to the windscreen below the standard one to see the passengers clearly, this makes a really good way to travel.
The reasons are: the nearside middle row seat folds forward like the front seat in a 3 door car, to allow access to the rear row of seats, meaning a child seat prevents this. The middle row middle seat is ace for legroom and views, and allows the user to lean forward and speak to both front seat users - everyone can talk to each other easily, and has a great view - we could never go back to the adults in front, kids in back set up of a car or MPV now, after having this great set up.
This makes every journey a joy to behold - the kids aren’t isolated in the back of the car.
Another huge bonus is that the kids can all see everything around them, due to the huge windows and height of the vehicle, so they stay interested on long journeys - they can see over the hedges.
Our oldest child was thrilled when we put his child seat in place, and he could see the view for miles - he could not see over the front seats or out of the rear window of our estate car, and got thoroughly bored and irritated in it.
Fold down the pushchair? Never, just throw it in - you feel so smug, especially in the rain when standing bone dry under a tailgate so large that it would class as an awning.
Even our lowly 75BHP model has ample power for 8 adults in normal driving, so we do not know what the fuss is about having the TDCi powered models - who needs strong acceleration on a motorway in a fully loaded bus anyway? Ours, once serviced keeps up easily with traffic on any road, overtakes fine and is good to drive. The crux is that you drive differently to when driving a car; the bus has its own rhythm and you learn what it likes and what it can do happily - you are not going to overtake much up steep hills or race motorbikes around the twisties, but you quickly gel with it, and can hustle it with a vengeance if needed.
In everyday, stop start, round town use, we are getting 32-35 MPG, which beats many MPVs, so with the simplicity, low parts prices and decent MPG, running costs are low - plus depreciation is negligible as the Tourneo is the darling of taxi owners, shuttle bus operators and families across the land - even when older. Put simply, cheap to buy, does not depreciate, cheap to fuel, cheap on parts/servicing.
It is a doddle for a novice to drive with a dead simple standard Ford controls, positive gearbox, virtually unstallable torquey diesel engine, a high driving position, outstanding visibility, excellent dual lens mirrors (upper standard mirror, lower convex mirror lets you see rear wheels for positioning and parking, plus covers blind spots), square proportions and a bolt upright rear end with huge tailgate glass for easy reversing.
We find the Tourneo easier to position on the road and easier to manoeuvre than a car with rounded sides and ends, and daft little mirrors. The novice will also appreciate the way people will give way to you, and the all round huge glass lets you cheat when parking - you can use shop window reflections to see where the back is in relation to the car behind!
My wife’s friends were amazed how she took to the Tourneo in days, and can nonchalantly chuck it into a parking space or squeeze in and out of a packed nursery car park.
The tiny turning circle - similar to a Fiesta - also helps greatly. If you can drive a Fiesta, you can drive a Tourneo - with a week or two to accustom yourself to it - it is certainly easier to judge than a Galaxy, and you get more “respect” on the roads ***except*** when doing 60mph on A roads and people pull out in front of you, assuming you are a van, and think you will be going much more slowly.
Being van based, it has a sturdy chassis and drive train, plus has excellent ground clearance and commercial, high sidewall tyres that shrug off kerbs and speed humps, plus it is pretty handy off the beaten track with decent tyres, as it is torquey and front wheel drive. A four wheel drive will leave it in the worst conditions, but the Tourneo will laugh at most cars and MPVs when the going gets rough.
Note: after much wrangling with police and government regarding speed limits, I have been informed that both the 8 and 9 seat Tourneo can do 60 on national speed limit, 70 on dual carriageway and 70 on motorways - NOT 50/60/70 as the Transit van would be. This is due to the seating capacity, weight and M1 passenger carrying vehicle V5c classifications all falling into it being classed as a car, and the legislation stating a minibus is a vehicle with 9 passenger seats or over. Confusing as the V5c states body style “minibus”, taxation class “diesel car”. The local traffic police are still adamant that it is 50/60/70, and said they would take it to court if over 50 on a national speed limit road - but central government state they are wrong.
£260 for 12 months tax - but similar to many large MPVs.
No rev counter on base model.
Rear seat rows are quite upright and do not recline - passengers can lol forward if dozing.
Impossible to lock doors individually - e.g. at a boot sale when you want the rear tailgate open and all other doors locked.
Rear tailgate pours rainwater in the boot if on the slightest slope - and with the size, it is a lot of water.
Rear tailgate slow to open, needs acres of space and is physically demanding to close.
Some interior plastic trim is brittle and rattly, which is at odds with the rest of the vehicle - notably the paper thin B-pillar base covers joining the floor step, and the trim around the rearmost side window, which reverberates and creaks.
No flats areas on dashboard to stand drinks, plates etc when stopped, plus the cup holders are useless - too shallow, only hold standard 330ml can, out of reach and rattle like hell when used. All changed on later Mk7 model with huge bottle holders, loads of cup holders, fridge glove box and a flat dash top.
The rear seat rows are superbly built, fit 6’10/20 stone adults, and are a breeze for fitting child seats - but they are inflexible compared to an MPV: they both remove, but are a killer/once a year faff only due to huge weight and difficulty to lift without breaking the end plastic base trims.
The rear row upright section tips forward to improve load space and give a flat surface, which will take a good weight, but the middle row does not, which is loopy, and means that big long items will not go in without removing both rows and leaving them behind, which is not practical.
For example, the load space without seats is the same as a SWB low roof Transit van - perfect, but with the fixed upright on the middle row, you cannot fit a three seater settee in. We have removed the middle row, and carried 5 passengers and a large two seater settee placed across the bus, sliding door to sliding door, though.
If the designers had more forethought, the middle row would fold down too, or the seats could have been made individual to remove any of the 6 rears to suit. 99% of the time the huge boot and cabin takes anything you throw at it - it is huge compare to an MPV, but don’t expect MPV flexibility. Again, the trade of between amazing passenger space with a large boot is a good trade off for us against more flexibility. With the rear row removed, five adults and five bikes fit comfortably.
The middle row of seats also can be turned around to face rearwards, but this is a spanner/brackets out job, and kills the walk-through from between the front seats. Again, with more flexibility and ease of use, this would be nice from time to time such as on a picnic, but it is not possible in the same way as in, say a Caravelle.
So, on balance, what is the verdict?
We adore our Tourneo, and it has given us so many opportunities to have fun at a price that we can afford. The kids are besotted with it, and love to be able to bring grandparents, friends and anything they want to bring with them; go karts, tents, sticks etc.
We have a better time on any journey by sitting in the order we do for best communication and view - impossible in most vehicles.
We take other parents and their kids out with us, and they spend what they would spend on bringing their own car on us - we get free parking, lunch, zoo tickets etc for driving them, so our day out is cheaper than using a car.
Day to day use is perfect - it fits a normal parking space, is low enough for multi-storey or restricted beach car parks, and is easy to drive and park, yet is huge and very durable inside.
Being objective, it does have flaws - the rear seats are inflexible, and ridiculously heavy and awkward to remove, and it is based on a van, so handles as such - but the front wheel drive versions of the Transit van drive tidily anyway.
Safety is not as good as a late MPV; NCAP 3***, no side ‘bags etc - but you drive less aggressively due to the type of vehicle, and you all sit very high up above bumper level.
Would I buy it again?
The benefits far outweigh the downsides, even though many would consider an 8 seat bus excessive for a family of four. It has become part of the family, and we all love using it.
A perfect (impossible) choice for us would be a new one with our version’s old simple engine/tech, but the latest flat dash with cubbies and fridge, more safety kit, and lighter, easier to remove rear rows of seats, which reclined, separated and folded flat. Ours is just so good for the money, we don’t need another!
If buying again, I would ignore the mileage and go by the ownership and service history - buy the best I could afford, and keep £1000 back to cover any faults to make it as new. A near neighbour runs a 326,000 mile TDCi, and it looks brand new - and being a taxi, is thoroughly inspected all the time. It has never failed, and I would have considered it if I had not seen mine, as they do the mileage well.
Do read up on them if buying one, as they can have expensive issues, like the DMF giving up on later models - do your homework, look at many, get it checked over, keep a budget back for fettling.
It took my wife some time to get use to the idea of having a Transit with seats instead of an MPV, especially after having an estate car, but after getting used to it and running it for every task, day in, day out, she finds it very user friendly and easy to place on the road, park and manoeuvre. There are so many, many benefits to the Tourneo as a family vehicle, that a car or MPV looks like the poor man’s alternative once you get used to it. We both still drive our families’ cars - but now under duress - the Tourneo really has got under our skin.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 12th March, 2012