Do car companies not like the traditional Australian football codes – NRL and AFL? First we had the Hyundai A-League (soccer) and now we have the “Soccer Kick” in the all-new Ford Kuga. It’s how you open the tailgate in Ford’s made-in-Spain mid-size SUV.
A well-directed “Soccer Kick” under the rear bumper of range-topping Titanium grade Ford Kuga is detected by sensors which instruct the tailgate to fully open electronically. We love it – as will Ford Kuga owners when fully-loaded with shopping bags or sporting equipment.
Priced from $27,990, the all-new Ford Kuga - the result of global collaboration between Ford England, Ford Germany and head office in North America - is comprehensively equipped with available technology including blind-spot assistance and lane-keeping assistance. Critically the all-new Ford Kuga has more rear seat and cargo room that the previous model. In fact, Ford’s newcomer is very good all-round – as it needs to be to survive in the mid-size SUV segment, one of the market’s toughest and most diverse.
Ford Kuga Overview
You need your ‘A-Game’ in this league and Ford Kuga certainly arrives at the pointy end of the field with ‘segment-first’ technology (the automatic tailgate and active parking assistance).
The all-new five-door Ford Kuga comes in the familiar Ford model grades – entry-level Ambiente, mid-grade Trend and range-topping Titanium.
Ambiente is available in 2WD, powered by a 110kW/240Nm version of the 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine driving through a six-speed manual transmission or AWD which adds a 134kW/240Nm 1.6-litre petrol engine, driving through the six-speed SelectShift automatic.
Trend is exclusively AWD and runs the higher-output petrol engine or the 120kW/340Nm turbo-diesel. The petrol version uses the same six-speed automatic transmission but the diesel gets the six-speed Powershift twin-clutch automatic.
Specification-wise the Trend adds extras such as 18-inch alloy wheels (17-inch steel wheels for Ambiente), leather-insert seats (10-way electronic adjustment for the driver) and a nine-speaker audio with a colour 4.2-inch screen and DAB radio.
Titanium adds 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, rear-view camera, a massive panoramic glass roof, Bi-xenon headlights with LED DRLs, LED rear lights, the hands-free power tailgate, extra interior leather, multi-colour interior ambient lighting, tables on the front seatbacks, active park assist, a five-inch colour screen for the audio, Advance Trac Roll Stability Control, Hill Launch Assist and Trailer Stability Function.
Optional ($2,650) on both Trend and Titanium models is the comprehensive Technology Pack which brings Active City Stop, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System, Lane Keeping Aid, Lane Departure Warning, Auto High-Beam Control and the Driver Impairment Monitor.
The full range is:
Ambiente petrol FWD manual $27,990
Ambiente petrol AWD automatic $31,490
Trend petrol AWD automatic $36,240
Trend diesel AWD automatic $39,240
Titanium petrol AWD automatic $44,740
Titanium diesel AWD automatic $47,740
Ford Kuga Engine
Stay with us here, this bit gets complicated – bottom line overview is the all-new Ford Kuga petrol engine (aided by technology such as Active Grille Shutters and auto start-stop on the manual version) is 25 per-cent more fuel efficient than the previous generation and the diesel in 10 per-cent more fuel efficient.
The 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine comes in two forms – a 110kW/240Nm version for the Ambiente 2WD or a 134kW/240Nm version when fitted to a Ford Kuga with the six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive. The 110kW 1.6-litre returns combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.7l/100kms while the more powerful version returns 7.7l/100kms.
Ford’s Duratorq 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is good for 120kW/340Nm and fuel consumption around 6.3l/100kms.
Ford Kuga AWD introduces Ford’s latest intelligent all-wheel-drive system which was developed in-house and takes input from 25 sensors delivering 40 inputs every 16 milliseconds – impressive stuff – and a cluster display on the dashboard gives a real-time readout of the torque going to each wheel. Kuga also gets Ford’s Torque Vectoring Control (first seen on the Focus RS) which applies small amounts of braking to the inside wheels during cornering.
Ford Kuga The Interior
Big news for Ford inside the all-new Kuga…and mostly you’re sitting on them. The seats are the first to be designed, developed and engineered in-house (typically car companies outsource this business to specialist seat suppliers).
And Ford has used the extra dimensions of the all-new Kuga to provide extra space for the rear seat as well plus a 10-degree recline range to aide comfort for those seated in the rear.
We liked the European style interior of the previous generation Ford Kuga and the latest model continues the trend with a nice shape and angles for the dashboard, excellent graphics and colours for the gauges and lots of directional vents for the climate control system. And we continue to like Ford’s handsome, four-spoke steering wheel which adjusts for rake and reach and contains numerous buttons for audio, cruise control etc…all-up a very stylish cockpit for driver and front passenger.
Practicality also gets a green tick with handy card storage locations in the sun-visor and centre console (for parking tickets and toll-road tickets), a hidden storage bin under the second seat row plus umbrella holders in the front seats.
Also immediately noticeable was the extra cargo space – a design requirement for the all-new Ford Kuga was to match the cargo space of the Ford Escape in North America – the model which Kuga replaces in that market.
Ford Kuga Exterior & Styling
“Visual Premium-ness” – that’s how Joel Piaskowski, Ford’s new Design Director for this part of the world summed-up the all-new Kuga. And in many ways the latest Kuga does make a bolder impression that its direct Japanese and Korean rivals.
Compared to the outgoing model, the all-new Ford Kuga shares the same wheelbase but is 81mm longer overall, 8.0mm lower and 4.0mm narrower. As we mentioned, Ford took these extra dimensions to provide better rear seat space and cargo capacity.
Designed for global markets with input from Ford stylists in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, the all-new Kuga started life as the Vertrek concept car. The intent was strong design and smart packaging.
Supporting that strong design at the front is the hallmark Ford grille, with large cool air intakes and prominent sculpturing of the bonnet. The side view sees muscly wheel arches and further character lines while the rear tailgate is very nicely shaped.
Ford Kuga On The Road
Car Showroom sampled the majority of the all-new Ford Kuga range over the roads from Adelaide south to Port Elliott and back, including a couple of dirt sections.
So let’s talk engines.
In that combination of city and rural driving, all-new Ford Kuga’s 2.0-litre turbo diesel impressed with its strong torque but we reckon refinement levels were a tad behind the best of the Euro turbo-diesel. Impressively, Ford’s twin-clutch six-speed automatic is actually superior to some of its big-name German rivals – smoother, more intuitive and faster shift times it felt to us.
As fitted to the entry-grade Ford Kuga Ambiente front-wheel-drive, the 1.6-litre petrol engine and six-speed manual transmission were nicely matched and delivered a crisp, almost sporty dynamic thanks the smart transmission ratio spacing and that slick chassis tune (see our later comments on that one). When driving all four wheels via the six-speed automatic transmission, the 1.6-litre engine worked a little hard in the climbs and swoops.
And as we expect from Ford Germany, he new global C-segment chassis is very slick – even the entry-level Ambient on the 17-inch steel wheels gave a good account over the twists and curves.
Ford Kuga Challenges
In North America, the Kuga (called the Escape) doesn’t have the turbo-diesel option but does come with a 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol. We’re wondering if this might have been a wiser choice for Australia rather than the 1.6-litre.
There’s a lot to like about the performance and impressive fuel economy of Ford’s 1.6-litre engine, but much like Mazda in adding the 2.5-litre engine to the 2.0-litre CX-5, we’re liking the idea of the Ford Kuga with 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines.
Ford Kuga The Competition
The name on everyone’s lips in this segment is the Mazda CX-5. Priced from $27,880 and available with two petrol engines (2.0-itre and 2.5-litre) or a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, the CX-5 with its ‘SkyActiv’ everything is a superb all-round package.
Honda’s all-new CR-V should certainly be on your list. Like the Kuga and CX-5, the CRV is available in both 2WD and AWD and priced from $27,490, it’s certainly in the value-for-money mix.
Also freshly-arrived is Toyota’s latest RAV4. A bit more SUV than the ‘Crossover’ Kuga, CR-V and CX-5, the RAV is a looker and Toyota has predictably got it feature-loaded and sharply-priced.
Ford Kuga Verdict
As you would expect for a global car for Ford to sell in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, the all-new Kuga is a slick all-rounder. We like the looks, we like the practicality and we like the drive. And the Technology Pack (Trend or Titanium models) brings new technology to the segment…and that’s a winner.