Nicely styled, imported from Germany and powered by an awesome five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, the Ford Kuga demands attention from those considering a medium SUV. New for the local market earlier this year, the Ford Kuga is a real adversary for the other attention-grabbing new arrivals into our red-hot medium SUV segment.
Adding to the allure of Ford’s European SUV is European steering precision, ride and handling. Make no mistake; the Kuga is good – very good in fact.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium Overview
Car Showroom first sampled the Ford Kuga earlier this year at the international media launch in Auckland, New Zealand. Given the preferences of medium SUV buyers, Ford’s drive program over the ditch sensibly didn’t include any mud-digging extreme off-road stuff, but a steady downpour and tricky roads north to Matakana highlighted Kuga’s star attraction – sporty European ride and handling.
So it was time to put the range-topping Ford Kuga Titanium through our usual Melbourne-based test routine.
Priced at $44,990, the Ford Kuga Titanium isn’t the cheapest medium SUV…but you can’t ignore its German quality. And there’s plenty of inclusions - over the entry-level Trend model, Ford Kuga Titanium’s extras include: 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats (fronts heated and six-way power adjustment for the driver), a glass roof, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a heated windscreen (“Yay!” say the snow skiers!), dual-zone climate control air-conditioning and fold-out rear seat tables (“Yay!” say family buyers).
Safety gets a green tick too with a maximum five-star ANCAP rating thanks to items like six airbags, stability control and anti-rollover mitigation.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium Engine
Regular Car Showroom readers will know we have huge wraps for the five-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine Ford shares with Volvo. Some say six cylinders is too many for medium SUVs and some say four cylinders are too little, so the European-designed, forced induction in-line five provides the best of both worlds.
With maximum power of 147kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 320Nm from just 1600rpm, Ford’s surging five-cylinder turbo leaves most in this segment wilting. Fuel consumption is rated at 10.3/100kms.
Ford Kuga Titanium drives all four wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speeder would be nice, but with 320Nm on-tap the Kuga isn’t lacking.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium The Interior
You sit high in the Ford Kuga (as demanded by SUV buyers). And in the Titanium version as tested, you’re seated on nice leather (heated too!) – plus the leather-wrapped four-spoke steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach to provide a great driving position.
Kuga’s looks are modern, in the current Ford Europe design theme (similar to Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo) with clean, crisp lines and high-gloss black highlights. We’ve liked the airy feel and nice colour palette of every Kuga we’ve driven – including this Titanium model.
Audio is a six-speaker single CD system with the usual compatibility.
Rear seat passengers sit high for a good view and legroom matches the best in the segment. Luggage space is impressive too – 360-litres with the rear seat in place and 1355-litres when folded.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium Exterior & Styling
Although not the latest design in the medium SUV segment, the classy work of Ford’s European stylists means the Kuga looks great. We like the user-friendliness of the package (4443mm overall length, 2690mm wheelbase for easy city work) which combines well with a degree of ‘urban toughness’.
The front features a look shared with most current generation Fords, the silhouette on our Titanium grade test car was boosted by the 18-inch alloy wheels, while the rear with modern tail-lights and separate tail-gate opening is both distinctive and practical.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium On The Road
The five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine used in Ford Kuga remains one of our favourite engines. The odd-number of cylinders not only provide high-tech bragging rights with your mates, you’ll enjoy the surge as the 147kW/320Nm goes to work under acceleration.
In fact, when pressed to extremes over our mountain roads test loop, we did notice some torque steer as the Ford Kuga worked hard transmitting all that power to the road – quickly corrected by the standard Dynamic Stability Control. Apart from that and, based on the previous model Ford Focus platform, the Kuga delivers high-standard, sporty European road feel – firm suspension and taut response over bumps.
Back in the city we again enjoyed the refinement and performance of Ford Kuga’s five-cylinder turbo petrol. It loped along the freeway very quietly in fifth gear but delivered hearty instant response when pressed for overtaking or merging with peak-hour traffic.
Good all visibility made for easy parking (helped by the rear parking sensors) although the lack of a reversing camera thesedays seems odd.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium Challenges
$1790 – that’s the difference in recommended retail prices between the Ford Kuga Titanium and Mazda’s CX-5 range-topper the Grand Touring. We agree with our media colleagues that the CX-5 is now this segment’s benchmark vehicle, but in most departments (except price) the Mazda is matched by Ford’s German star.
That aside, the only ‘biggie’ for us is the Kuga’s perplexing lack of a reversing camera.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium Verdict
Ford of Germany has always produced some of Ford’s best cars and, given that background, it should be no surprise the Kuga easily accounts for most rivals and goes head-to-head with Mazda CX-5 for ‘best in class’ honours.
If you’re coming out of a passenger car, you’ll appreciate the handy performance and refinement of Ford Kuga’s five-cylinder petrol turbo and the nicely-finished interior which closely follows Ford’s imported cars (Mondeo, Focus, Fiesta).
And that German engineering is readily apparent in Kuga’s top-shelf driving dynamics.
2012 Ford Kuga Titanium The Competition
Since we first drove the Ford Kuga, Mazda has rocked the medium SUV segment with the all-new CX-5. It’s pretty well unanimous the CX-5 is the segment’s best all-rounder although some find the rounded nose detracts from its looks.
Ford Focus Titanium ($44,990) as tested goes head-to head with the range-topping Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ($43,200). We’ll give the German Ford a slight points lead for driving dynamics and as always carefully check the detailed specifications when making comparisons specific to your needs.
Nissan’s British-built Dualis should be on your list. The all-wheel-drive Ti model is a bargain at $36,890.
Kia Sportage still turns heads with its looks and the Platinum grade petrol is great buying at $36,220. In a close-run race, Sportage’s high-standard driving dynamics are marginally overshadowed by Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5.
Hyundai’s handy ix35 now has a six-speed automatic transmission and Volkswagen’s Tiguan now has a front-drive entry model (118TSI). Compared to the Ford Kuga, but both pull-up a tad short on interior and luggage space.
And don’t forget Honda’s excellent all-new CR-V is due for launch later this year.