2015 Ford Territory Review

The Ford Territory is Australia’s only locally designed and built SUV - and the latest model Ford Territory has just been released. Production will cease in 2016 when the Ford factory closes for ever - the badge might continue, but the Australian Ford Territory will die. Should you rush out and buy one?

Predictably enough, Ford says the new SZ Mark II Territory is a winner, but the reality is, Territory sales went into free-fall in 2014, and in response they’ve slashed the price. It’s desperation stuff. The truth is, the Ford Territory is a train wreck. So if you’re thinking about buying a ticket and jumping on board, think again.


Hyundai Santa Fe


  • 2 more years warranty with 10 years free roadside assistance and capped-price servicing for life.
  • Better seven-seat arrangement.
  • Same engine outputs from 0.5 litres less capacity.
  • 17 per cent better fuel efficiency.

Kia Sorento


  • 4 more years warranty.
  • Better seven-seat arrangement.
  • Same engine outputs from 0.5 litres less capacity.
  • 17 per cent better fuel efficiency.

Toyota Kluger


  • Significantly better resale value, if history repeats, yielding 20 per cent better return at trade-in time.
  • Better build quality and reliability (it's a Toyota).

Nissan X-Trail


  • Japanese build quality.
  • Fuel efficiency.
  • Value for money.
  • Superior resale value proposition.

The new Ford Territory has been part of the motoring landscape in Australia since 2004. Back then, it was a good - albeit thirsty - vehicle. Unfortunately, though, Ford has done the absolute bare minimum to it, over 10 years, while the rest of the market has sprinted competitively ahead. 

This is perhaps understandable: the Ford factory in Broadmeadows was bleeding money hand over fist, the global financial crisis hit, and Ford had to unload Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin at desperation-sale prices just to avoid bankruptcy. 

Ford also enacted its One Ford policy, essentially the death sentence for local manufacturing. It wasn’t too hard to join the dots, as early as 2011. Against this turbulent backdrop, senior Ford management in Dearborn was hardly in a position to send a shipping container full of Greenbacks Down Under, with strict instructions to go nuts on R&D with the Ford Territory.

As a consumer proposition, the later half of the Ford Territory’s life cycle screams ‘too little, too late’. That’s just how it is. 


The inline six was making 184kW @ 5000rpm back in 2004. Fast-forward a decade and it’s pumping out 195kW @ 6000rpm: That’s 20 per cent more revs for just 7 per cent more power. If you know anything about engineering, that’s an example of going backwards. Spinning an engine faster to derive an impractical increase in power is something you only ever do for the press release, not something you do to benefit consumers. 

Compare a Mazda3 2.0-litre engine over the same period. From 2004-2014 it jumped 10 per cent in power, and manages to deliver it at 8 per cent fewer revs - with a 34 per cent drop in fuel consumption. That’s progress. To be fair, Ford Territory has gained some fuel efficiency as well - 22 per cent better. It’s gone from from atrocious to just awful. A V6 Kluger makes more power, but less torque, with half a litre less engine, and the same approximate economy.


And then there’s the diesel. It took seven long years to fit that diesel engine to a Territory and stifle all those high fuel consumption criticisms, by which time that diesel engine was a geriatric - ready for the zimmer frame and the nursing home. It’s a 2.7, and today, Hyundai/Kia manages to deliver the same engine outputs with a 2.2. When the South Koreans stick that engine in a Santa Fe or Sorento - direct Territory competitors - it’s also 17 per cent more fuel efficient.


Territory’s dynamics are very good. If you’re looking for the silver lining, that’s pretty much it. It handles well. But then, so does nearly everything else these days.


Unfortunately, those dynamics don’t translate to robustness. Historically, Territory has developed a reputation for ball joints wearing out early, suspension bushes that chop out prematurely, and front brake rotors that give up the ghost well before they should. The six-speed ZF gearbox shifts pretty well, but anecdotally, it has plenty of failures, too - especially if regular towing near maximum 2.3-tonne capacity is part of the duty cycle.


One thing’s pretty certain: If you buy a Territory, it’s gunna depreciate like a stuck pig. A five-seat Territory Ghia from 2009 cost $57,500 new and, according to Redbook, it sells privately for an average of $20,000 today, losing 65 per cent of its new value in that time.

If you’d been smarter and paid $1000 more upfront for a Toyota Kluger KX-S seven-seat V6, you’d sell it privately today for an average of $25,300. So you’d be the best part of four-and-a-half grand better off - that’s almost 22 per cent more cash at resale time.

Ford obviously doesn’t care about you, if you’re in this position, because you’re only a customer. Once you’ve spent the big bucks, you’re off the radar - which is such a 1980s car industry attitude. This is the only conclusion possible - because Ford Australia has fire-saled the price of the just-released SZ Mark II Territory. They’ve slashed prices to the tune of between $3000 and $6500, depending on the model. What this does is burn the equity that existing owners have in their cars - because the value of your used used Territory reacts directly with the price of the new replacement, all other things being equal.


So, if you’re a potential new Territory customer, that’s great. Territory just got cheaper. But if you’re a loyal Territory customer, it kinda sucks. And it’s a very short-sighted marketing strategy in my view.


This fire-sale has actually occurred because Territory sales are in freefall. Using the latest official sales figures available, Territory sales have crashed by 31 per cent in 2014. Word has obviously gotten around - the wasted taxpayer funding, the closure of the factory, the 1200 Australian workers who will all lose their jobs thanks to Ford’s fundamental failure to adapt to the changing market. Or maybe it was the $2 million party they threw at Fox Studios for bigwigs, ambassadors and celebrities, just after the big factory closure announcement, to celebrate the future. That was crass. But it gives you some insight into the corporate mentality. They could have spent the $2 million training the workers for jobs after Ford.


When you look at all of that, the only conclusion I can draw is that the Ford Territory is emblematic of the failure of Ford Australia to adapt to the market, the failure to value its customers, and the failure even to respect the considerable brand loyalty they managed to build up in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s disgraceful.

You might love Ford. You might own a Territory. You might even be happy with it. If that’s you, then I’m happy for you. You might not be happy with this report. I respect that. There’s a hugely subjective component to buying any car. I’m just on about the facts here - and I wish they were different, but they’re not. Territory is one of the market’s great lemons and, objectively, buying one is a mistake.

Ford and Holden are stuck on the fast track to obscurity, and there’s nothing they appear to be able to do about it. If you still want to buy a Territory after all of that, I really can’t help you … but in my view, you do need help. The Ford Territory is, sadly, one of the market's most enduring lemons - but its days are numbered. In an attempt to end on a positive note, the best I can offer is: it's objectively better (slightly) than a Holden Cruze.