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Ford Kuga: What is it?
Ford launched its Kuga compact SUV in 2008, a time when most 4x4s were still swaying and bouncing their way around the road network on chassis technology designed with at least half an eye on driving through axle-deep mud. In that company the Kuga was a revelation. Sharp, poised and nimble, it mixed the SUV attitude with the handling of a regular hatch – and a good one at that.
Now there’s an all-new Kuga. It’s operating in a market were the road-biased SUVs and crossovers that its forbear helped prepare the ground for dominate. Small crossover SUVs are the major automotive success story of our times but the new Kuga has grown quite a bit bigger.
Ford Kuga: Where does it fit?
We can lay the blame (if blame is what needs to be laid) for the Kuga’s growth at the door of the Americans. Who else? Where once Ford sold the Escape in North America and the Kuga in Europe, this latest Kuga must cater for both markets. Its shuffle up the size scale has helped it fill the void.
We’re trying it with Ford’s familiar 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine, Ford’s very own all-wheel-drive transmission system and the Powershift dual-clutch gearbox. That, along with the posh Titanium X trim, takes the Kuga close to the £30,000 mark but you do get a bumper harvest of equipment thrown in. Buyers wanting a cheaper Kuga can pay from just over £20,000 for a front-wheel-drive petrol model.
Ford Kuga: Is it for you?
Where the original Kuga played the role of youthful, sporty upstart in the compact SUV segment, this new model looks more mature. With the increase in size (it’s over 80mm longer than before), there’s a step up in practicality that buyers in the target market should appreciate.
This new model looks more mature
A 456-litre boot with the seats up is generous and rear legroom is also competitive against the top compact SUV contenders. The likes of Mazda’s CX-5, Toyota’s RAV-4 and Honda’s CR-V are all very much in the Kuga’s sights.
Ford Kuga: What does it do well?
A little of the old Kuga’s verve has been lost but it is only a little bit. Considering the height and weight the suspension has to deal with, the car displays fine poise and combats the stodginess that can afflict SUVs very well. There are livelier drivers’ cars in the crossover class but Ford’s effort must be at the top of the tree if you need a full size compact SUV.
Most Kuga owners won’t have driving dynamics as their number one concern and while avoiding a serious decline on that score, the latest Kuga has made real improvements in many other areas. The 4x4 system fitted to the Kuga intervenes seamlessly when called upon. The Powershift gearbox shifts quickly and seamlessly but can get a little indecisive if you’re over eager with the throttle. The 163hp engine performs strongly without pulling up any trees and ride comfort is very impressive.
Ford Kuga: What doesn’t it do well?
To make manual shifts with the Powershift gearbox, you have to employ a strange rocker switch at the side of the gear lever. Most modern automatic cars either get you to prod the gear back and forth to make manual changes or go the whole hog and give you paddle shifters on the steering wheel. This halfway house solution isn’t likely to please anyone, the only saving grace being that few Kuga drivers will ever have cause to use it.
The Kuga instantly feels very much the all-encompassing family car
Performance figures of 10.4s for the 0-60mph sprint and 122mph all ends up are acceptable, but the Ford TDCi diesel is a little noisier than the best units on the block these days.
Ford Kuga: What's it like to live with?
Get inside and the Kuga instantly feels very much the all-encompassing family car. The high driving position is a little more laid-back than in some compact SUVs but the view out can’t really be faulted and there’s room for five adults.
Ford’s interior design with its angular lines and glossy materials will look thrusting and modern to some but fussy to others. Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste but you do occasionally get the feeling that the intuitiveness of the control layout has been sacrificed a little for the aesthetic.
Ford Kuga: How green is it?
Combined cycle economy suffers when you choose the Powershift automatic transmission but only dips from 47.9mpg to 45.6mpg, it’s not a disaster. Emissions of 162g/km are also good for a sizable automatic SUV like this one.
Ford Kuga: Would we buy it?
The original Kuga stood out because of its sharp driving experience, this one is less of a star on that front but still more than holds its own against rivals. The real appeal of today’s Kuga is its all-round strength in depth. These days Ford’s compact SUV has space, comfort, quality and polished dynamics to recommend it, which will be seen as a step forward in most buyers’ books.
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