© Image by www.jubag.com
Although not its best selling model range, the first generation Kuga SUV launched in 2008 has been a significant model for the brand. It has been bought in the main by customers who have not had a Ford before and it has received the highest customer satisfaction ratings across the Ford range.
Given the growth of SUV/4×4 passenger cars, 21% in the UK last year alone, the all new mid-sized five door, five seater Kuga launched from February, with lower prices from £20,895 (around £1,000 les) should appeal.
They have more fuel and tax efficient 1.6 petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines, from 139gkm of CO2 and up to 53.3mpg and two and four wheel drive versions with manual and automatic transmission options.
They have more load space with one movement fold flat rear seats which give between 82 to over 200-litres more space. There is improved passenger comfort, more equipment, more driving refinement, sharper steering, better noise insulation in the cabin, better handling and ride comfort, smarter more premium looks inside and out, a lighter and stiffer bodyshell and a five star Euro NCAP safety rating.
The new Kuga is 81mm longer and this extra length is given over to providing more load space following feedback from Kuga owners. The wheelbase remains the same at 2,690mm which means no more rear legroom but the seat backs reclining in steps so the rear feels roomier.
A further up-market addition is the hands-free rear tailgate which is operated by placing a foot under the rear bumper. That activates the opening and closing sensors providing the key-fob is within the vicinity of the vehicle (see below).
The interior quality of the vehicle with higher grades of trim is noticeable and the curved dashboard is now lower improving front visibility.
The sat/nav screen however is small by today’s standards and recessed too far into the fascia so it is not readily in the driver’s line of site, a mass of buttons on the upper centre console operating the sat/nav, sound system, heating and ventilation and it really looks cluttered and not intuitive to use. There are also numerous other controls on the steering wheel and control stalks. Button/control wise it is a very ‘busy’ design and needs changing. I understand moves are already underway to refine the design of the screen and controls after feedback from customer clinics and the media.
The interior spec list for the expected most popular Zetec version includes alloy wheels, front fog lights, twin exhausts, front/rear underbody scrape plates, power/heated door mirrors, heated windscreen, electric windows, keyless start, manual air con, sport front seats with cloth upholstery, cruise control with speed limiter, alarm and mini spare wheel.
Titanium additions include auto headlights and wipers, DAB radio, Ford Sync with emergency assist, partial leather seats and Roll-Stability Control.
Titanium X additions include 18-inch alloys, Bi-Xenon automatic levelling headlights, electrically adjustable driver seat, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate and full leather upholstery.
To reduce noise intrusion acoustic glass is used for the windscreen and thicker glass for the side windows. Better insulation is used throughout including foam filling for the upper body beams and panels.
One of the first characteristics I noticed driving the new Kuga was just how quite it was inside, so quiet in fact wind noise was more noticeable although the door mirrors have been specifically designed to be more aerodynamic.
It was very easy to have a conversation without the need to speak louder even when driving at high speeds. The second most noticeable change was just how comfortable the ride is from the new model even with the larger 18-inch alloy wheels fitted.
Zetec and Titanium versions have 17-inch ones and I suspect ride comfort would be even better with those. Not only are the seats better the suspension is more compliant giving a supple and flowing ride with little bodyroll.
The suspension has seen a lot of changes with wider shock absorber tubes, new lower location point bushes and new rear antiroll bar. Titanium and Titanium X models get Roll-Stability Control, a further step towards driving refinement.
The revised steering remains sharp, precise and linear in the level of power assist it provides. The Kuga retains its four door coupe side profile with a higher domed bonnet at the front with a new three horizontal part grille.
The wider wheelarches and high rising waistline give it a chunkier, more muscular appearance with more visual impact and moving it away from the image of yet another soft off-roader or crossover model.
Using lightweight steel weight has been shaved from the vehicle and new Kuga models range from 1,580 to 1,707kg depending on engine, transmission and two/four wheel drivetrain choice.
There is a new generation all-wheel-drive system which includes Curve Control which controls against severe understeer by braking and reducing engine torque. Torque Vectoring Control is introduced to the drivetrain, this reduces torque-steer.
The electronically controlled AWD system constantly delivers variable amounts of power to the front or rear wheels depending on driving needs.
Normally for on-road driving most of the power is fed through the front wheels. On acceleration more power is automatically fed to the rear axle, up to 100% if needed. For off-road driving the all terrain mode is selected to provide secure front and rear wheel drive and grip.
This is no heavy duty 4×4 but it will do the job coping with steep muddy farm tracks, snow, sand, towing and generally coping with life on our poor quality, potholed road surfaces.
At the Valencia based motoring media first drive experience of the new Kuga only the 2.0-litre TDCi Duratorq 163PS turbodiesel powered models were available either with the six-speed manual or six speed twin clutch automatic transmission. We get to drive the main selling 2.0-litre 140PS versions later this month in the UK.
Having more power and more torque resulting in more speed, more chance to sample the higher cornering speeds and the overall handling and comfort refinement the new Kuga offers was a logical choice.
If it works with this engine it will work with the lower power units as well. The 163PS (160bhp) 340Nm (250lb ft) four cylinder unit common- rail, direct injection turbocharged diesel provides ample ‘grunt’ from 2,000rpm so it is response for acceleration and relaxed at high cruising speeds.
Driving over a winding and mountainous route this engine returned 33.3mpg with the auto twin clutch gearbox and 34mpg with the six speed manual transmission, both impressive given the terrain. Officially this version in auto form will return 45.6mpg and the manual 47.9mpg.
The outgoing Kuga was not short of handling refinement, ride comfort and ability. The new generation is significantly improved in all areas and costs less to buy and run. We wouldn’t expect or accept anything less in this competitive and growing market sector, a sector that Ford has not dominated to date but with the C-Segment Kuga now, the smaller B-segment EcoSport SUV due later this year and the larger D-segment Edge in 2014, things could change in Ford’s favour.
New Ford Kuga AWD Titanium X £29,795
Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder, common-rail direct injection Duratorq turbodiesel, 160bhp, 250lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm, 6-speed, Powershift twin clutch automatic, intelligent all-wheel-drive
Performance: 122mph,0 to 62mph 10.4 seconds, 45.6mpg Combined Cycle (33.3mpg on test), CO2 162g/km VED road tax £170. BIK company car tax 26%. Insurance group: 23 (tbc). Dimensions/capacities: L 4,524mm, W 1,838mm, H 1,744mm, load bay 456 to 1,653-litres
Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles.
For: New standout styling, fun and efficient to drive, comfortable and quiet to ride in, smart technologies, fuel and CO2 efficient engines, cheaper to buy, improved interior quality and more load space.
Against: Fussy layout for too many control buttons, small and remotely positioned info/sat/nav screen, no more rear passenger legroom, non-generous warranty.
© David Miles