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Ford Kuga: month four
On fleet since: July 2011
Official combined mpg: 41.5 mpg
Our average economy: 32.6 mpg
Performance: 0-62mph 9.6secs/119mph
Power/Torque: 163hp@3750rpm/251lb ft@2000rpm
Insurance group: 21/50
Options fitted: Powershift automatic transmission £1,550, Metallic paint (£525), Titanium X Pack £2,100, Appearance Pack £275, Convenience Pack £775, Touchscreen navigation, Bluetooth, USB £1,300, Deflation detection £75, Towbar £500.
Price as tested: £32,045
Pros: Good looking, easy to drive, well thought-out interior
Cons: Firm seats and suspension, economy sometimes indifferent
Where have we been?
I am writing this in Maidstone, after arriving early for a meeting with public relations agency PFPR to discuss a classic car event we are organising. I should, of course, have driven down in one of my own classics, but the Kuga is the car of choice when it comes to the M25, especially in January.
What do we like?
I am going to concentrate this month on the Powershift transmission. That's Ford-speak for automatic gearbox. Gearboxes of the non-manual variety come in more varieties than you might think. Ford's Powershift is the latest technology, yet it is not without its detractors.
The traditional automatic gearbox has hardly changed in principle since it was invented, apart from the increase in the number of forward gears it offered. An alternative, Continuously Variable Transmission, became available in the 1960s in Dafs and Volvos.
This offers, in theory, amazing advantages in efficiency, but at the cost of unexpected engine noise. Today Audi and others use CVT to great effect, but it's the 'double-clutch' gearboxes like the Ford Powershift that is now the growth area.
In effect this is a manual transmission with electronics and clutches to make the gearchange for you. As a result you get all the efficiencies of a manual gearbox with the advantages of an automatic. It means economy shouldn't suffer one jot by choosing one of these over a manual, and the statutory mpg figures prove this.
What's more, the Powershift Kuga and its brethren can be driven with full manual control, without the need to use a clutch, should you choose. Sportier cars are offered with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, allowing flattering F1-style gear changes. The Kuga doesn't get this, but you can still get the same effect by nudging the gear lever back or forth.
So what does it all mean? £1,550 extra on list price, for starters. But significantly, as this long-term test has born out, economy and a driving experience that is to be admired.
The six gears slide from one to another almost imperceptibly which, combined with the high torque for the 163hp diesel engine, means relaxed, refined progress. Or, relaxed until you demand maximum performance. Floor the accelerator at low speeds and it can take a moment for the gears to change down and then a bit of a clunk as the transmission sorts itself out.
Slipping the lever into Sport mode can largely circumvent this issue. It generally keeps the transmission in one gear lower as well as speeding up the throttle response. The reason I specified the more powerful diesel engine in the Kuga was to gain some extra performance, so you'd think I'd use Sport mode most of the time.
In fact I rarely do, unless I am on a mission on a great road (and where are they in the South East of England?) or want more punch out of a roundabout. The normal Drive mode still gives fine performance and aids the economy too.
The mpg is improving now there are close to 5,000 miles on the clock. The average is 32.6mpg, compared with computer's 34.6mpg. Although this is some way short of the 41.5mpg quoted in the brochures, there have been lots of short journeys where the average speed has been well under 30mph. Now that I am using the Kuga for longer trips the figures should rise further.
What else? I have been driving a rival from Kia, the Sportage, which has excellent seats with two heat settings. That's quite enough thank you, and I have no comprehension why Ford feels it necessary for offer five heat settings in the Kuga!
What don't we like?
Not much to add here over previous reports. The two-part tailgate is a neat idea though we rarely use the option of opening just the back window, even though in theory it offers advantages in tight spaces such as multi-story car parks. Its downside is the tailgate shuts with a cheap 'clang' rather than a solid 'clunk'.
As for the voice-activated control system, it's useless. As it is on every other car.
What next for the Kuga?
We are waiting for snow. Lots of it. To prove that choosing a four-wheel-drive Kuga instead of the cheaper front-driver made sense.
Report 1: Ford Kuga arrival
Report 2: Ford Kuga month two
Report 3: Ford Kuga month three
Report 4: Ford Kuga month four (this report)
Report 5: Ford Kuga month five
Report 6: Ford Kuga month six
Report 7: Ford Kuga month seven
Report 8: Ford Kuga final report
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