Being late to the compact crossover SUV party, one would expect Ford to come out all guns blazing with their “new” Kuga in this well represented and increasingly saturated segment. According to Ford, the compact-ish crossover SUV is as practical as a Focus hatchback, possesses the off-roading abilities of a proper 4X4 and the flexibility of a compact MPV.
Typically such crossovers are averse to enthusiastic driving and are mostly driven by people who have little care for driving. Unlike most of the offerings in this segment, the Kuga is able to take corners just like a “normal” car.
Based on the mechanical structure of the Ford Focus (MKII), but rides 80mm higher from the ground, there is a good balance between comfort and control despite the extra height and lard. Perhaps this is Ford’s way to redeem itself for entering the market so late, though we wish the steering can be more feelsome and quicker.
Underneath the bonnet lies a 2.5-litre turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine shared with the Focus ST and RS. Though detuned to 200bhp and mated to a five-speed auto, the mid-sized SUV is still able to get to 0 to 100km/h in 8.2 seconds. Its closest competitor, the Volkswagen Tiguan is faster at 7.1 seconds, but the Ford’s engine (nicked from Volvo) has more character. Though we wished Ford had traded in some refinement for a louder exhaust note.
It has to be mentioned that this delightfully flexible and pretty punchy engine will eventually be phrased out by Ford/Volvo with the new Ecoboast engine(s), so hurry before it’s too late.
Speaking of being in a hurry, Ford has gone through the trouble of fitting a FordPower Start button, where you can wake the “beast” without having to do the old-fashion twist and start. But when you are in a rush or having your hands tied, you would still need to reach for the key flob to open the doors. Seems like a hindsight not to include keyless entry where touching the door handles would do the trick.
Styling wise, we think the Ford design team has been on a purple patch since the 2007 Mondeo (until the recently unveiled Focus). Family DNA can be detected from the headlights from the Mondeo and the sharply defined bone line that runs across the tailgate splitting the rear lights. For the “sporting” bits, the Kuga shouts it out with the gaping mouth, bonnet ridges, side air vents and twin tailpipes.
One area that Ford needs to work on would be the interior, or rather the perceived quality to be precise. In isolation, the Kuga interior looks smart and has good space all round. However, there are rivals that shade it; the plastics in the lower cabin can be a little coarse and the presentation of information could do with more clarity.
If you are in the market for a compact crossover SUV, you would be spoilt for choice, the Korean bargains (Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Renault Koleos), the now pricey Japanese (Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4), Volkswagen Tiguan and if the bank manager allows it, the Land Rover Freelander. After your showroom hopping, we are convinced that you will agree with us that the Ford Kuga is easily one of the best. And if you like driving, it will be too hard to resist.
|Engine||2521 cc, 5-cyl DOHC, 20 valves, turbocharged|
|Wheels Driven||4-wheel drive|
|Max. Power||200bhp @6000rpm|
|Max. Torque||320Nm @1600rpm|
|0-100 km/h||8.2 secs|
|Top speed||210 km/h|
|Fuel Economy||10.3 Litres/km (claimed)|
|Dimensions (L x W x H) / Weight||4443X1842X1710 / 1653kg|
|Price with COE*||S$153,999|