Here in the UK, the trend in car buying has led to an explosion of medium sized SUV sales. Gone are the days when the reliable saloon or estate was enough for the everyman (or woman), now in 2017, nothing less than a slightly tall soft-roader will do for the average family.
These things are literally everywhere, think models such as the Ateca, CX-5, the Qashqai and the like.
Ford came into the medium SUV market with the Kuga in 2008, the first year’s sales forecast was a mere 3,000 cars. Now the Kuga is one of Ford’s biggest sellers in the UK and now there’s a new one.
Ford wanted me to drive the new Kuga so badly they invited me all the way to the Peak District where I was teamed up with an artist wearing shorts in February. They also let us loose on some of the great roads hidden within the Peak District and then took us all off-roading where I managed to get both the car and myself very muddy.
The Kuga is a hugely important car for Ford, the company has seen sales of their expanding SUV range rising by a staggering 320% in the last three years. In 2016 Ford sold over 53,000 of their SUV’s to us across the Kuga, EcoSport and the recently introduced Edge model ranges.
The re-designed Kuga features a revised design without straying too far from the original, yes, you know it’s a Ford Kuga but it now boasts the Ford SUV family signature front grille. Park it next to a Ford Edge or Ranger and you can instantly tell they are related.
The model where I spent the most seat time was the all new ST-Line version. This is the first time Ford have given us the Kuga in this revised trim-line. In case you are unaware, ST-line has now replaced the Zetec S line across the Ford range.
The ST-line is the pick of the range for me looks wise, you get sporty black trim around the bodywork including that SUV family signature grille in menacing black. Also included is fully color coded body work along with ST-line only features in the form of revised front and rear bumpers featuring sporty looking honeycomb grille inserts. The outside is finished with the addition of eight-spoke two-tone finish 18-inch wheels which add to the looks to make the ST-line stand out next to the other trim levels.
Placing the ST-line next to a Kuga with unpainted black plastic lower bumpers, sills and archwork, the ST-line wins every time in the aesthetics battle.
Overall the Kuga has always been one of the more handsome looking of the many SUV’s available, Ford’s re-design while extensive has merely bought the Kuga up to date. They could have taken a vastly different direction but here thankfully they have got the looks just right.
On The Inside
For anyone that has been inside a Ford in recent years the revised Kuga will feel utterly familiar, the dash layout is simple and intuitive. You now get the new Sync-3 infotainment system which features significant upgrades in the power department by being a staggering 10x faster than the Sync-2 system, the development work Ford have put into the updated system really shows as it provides an exceptionally strong navigation and multimedia experience for even the most basic of users.
The ST-line model is equipped with Alcantara-clad sports style seats; this differs from the other models in the line-up but was my preferred choice over the other trim levels available. The now familiar Ford dashboard design feels cocooning in a way. Overall the fit and finish of the cabin is excellent and feels for the most part good quality. However, I did feel that some of the plastics used in the cabin are perhaps a little cheap feeling, this is a minor grumble however as overall the Kuga’s cabin is overall a very nice place to be.
The driving position of the new Kuga is excellent and offers great visibility overall and it’s no more difficult to park than a standard hatchback with the array of parking aids on offer. Another plus point for the Kuga is that there is plenty of space upfront and more than ample room in the back for the children as well. Three full sized adults may struggle a bit in the back for longer periods but overall the Kuga provides ample head and leg room for driver and passengers alike.
If you’re in the market for a Kuga then there is a strong chance you will be hauling the many things that you will need along with you, Ford has you covered here by giving you a massive 1,603 liters of load space with the rear seats folded down. This is more than all of the Kuga’s direct rivals which is again another plus point.
Normally here in the UK, a car of the Kuga’s type will never see any off-road action of any kind, taking one of your many children to a football match and having to negotiate a muddy path on the way in does not count. Here though I have to recommend the all-wheel-drive version as it offers superior grip levels when required. During normal driving, the intelligent all-wheel-drive system puts the power to the front wheels saving fuel when it detects any loss of grip it simply shifts the power around to counteract any traction issues.
Ford did allow us to take the Kuga off-roading across some of the Peak Districts stunning countryside; this off-road track was actually quite substantial with massive dips and plenty of mud thanks to several straight days of rain. The Kuga performed very well on this course, dealing with whatever the course threw at it by. While I cannot recommend the Kuga as an all-out off-roader, you can seek comfort in the fact that it can handle a certain level of rough terrain.
During my spirited testing of the Kuga on the challenging roads of the Peak District, I found the handling, mainly thanks to the all-wheel-drive system to be excellent. The car feels planted and precise; the steering is light and direct while offering a good sense of feedback as to what is actually happening at ground level.
The 180ps 2.0 diesel motor is the choice of the units available across the range; it offers plenty of useable torque from low down in the rev-range as well and strong amount of pulling power. Couple this with a low road fund license cost thanks to a low emission figure of 134 g/km and a combined fuel economy of 54.3 MPG and it’s the obvious choice.
The Powershift automatic gearbox is also excellent; it changes smoothly and seamlessly between gears. This also comes with paddle shifters for the first time in a Kuga, these are a tiny bit off the pace from the actual click of the paddle to the car actually changing gear. Having tried both the six-speed manual and the Powershift automatic I would choose the auto every time for simple ease of use.
The ST-line being the sporty version of the model range means does come equipped with 18-wheels as standard (optional 19’s are available), on the road the stiffened suspension and larger wheels did provide a very slightly bumpy ride over the more broken up road surfaces but this was only a minor amount as it absorbs a majority of the bumps very well at speed during normal driving.
Ford could have chosen to mess with the formula that made the previous Kuga such a strong offering, thankfully they have made a lot of subtle tweaks to the car which means that it has kept pace with its rivals in terms of standard equipment offerings and the excellent Ford safety tech.
Add to this the excellent driving experience and the composure that the all-wheel drive system offers and you have an excellent all-rounder, Essentially the Kuga is the car for all occasions, the daily commute, hauling the family around in comfort and even a bit of light off-roading should the mood take you (which it likely never will).
Add all of these plus points to the fact that the Kuga also gets a 5-star NCAP safety rating, thanks in part to advanced tech features such as the Active City Stop system. Add to this standard features as Enhanced Active Park Assist, automatic lights with daytime running lights and the intelligent all-wheel drive system and the Kuga gets a strong vote as a very safe and capable family hauler.
Engine: 4-cylinder 2.0, Turbocharged, Diesel
Power and Torque: 177bhp, 400nm
Gearbox: Powershift 6-Speed Automatic with paddle shift
Kerb weight: 1,716kg
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 10.0 seconds
Economy: 54.3mpg (combined)
Price: £31,795 (As tested £32,870.00)