When people ask us about mid-size SUVs, frequently they talk about Mazda, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. To which we say: “You must include the Ford Kuga”.
Ford launched an all-new lineup of its German origin Kuga a last year. Now handily priced, larger, better equipped and more fuel-efficient, the Ford Kuga has what it takes to match the best in its class.
And we speak with authority having just spent a month with several Ford Kugas back-to-back including the range-topping Titanium, entry-grade Ambiente and mid-grade Trend and with both the 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.
Ford Kuga Overview
Ford Kuga is a creation of Ford Europe in Cologne, Germany and is manufactured there and in Thailand. The range kicks-off with the Ambiente manual at $27,990 (exclusively 1.6-litre petrol and the only front-wheel-drive model, all the rest are all-wheel-drive), mid-grade Trend (diesel or petrol) starts at $36,240 and the range-topping Titanium (diesel or petrol) starts at $44,470.
Our Titanium grade test car included the excellent Technology Pack ($2,650) which adds high-tech features including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping aid and departure warning and the blind spot information system.
Entry-level Ford Kuga Ambiente runs 17-inch steel wheels (18-inch alloys for Trend and 19-inch alloys for Titanium).
Key additions for the Trend models are leather inserts for the seats, 10-way power adjustment for the drivers’ seat, silver roof rails, a leather-wrapped gear-lever, dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass and a nine-speaker audio system with a 4.2-inch colour TFT screen.
Ford Kuga Titanium boasts a massive list of extra features highlighted by a panoramic glass roof, Bi-Xenon headlights with LED DRLs, the innovative remote power tailgate (opened via your foot!), interior leather, stainless steel trim highlights, rear seat tables stored in the back of the front seats, satellite navigation (5-inch colour TFT screen), rear-view camera and Trac Roll stability control.
Ford Kuga Engine
We loved the previous-generation Ford Kuga with its powerful five-cylinder petrol engine but in the name of enhanced fuel economy the new model comes with a choice of Ford’s 1.6-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine (the first time this engine has been available in Australia) and the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Duratorq turbo-diesel.
Entry-level Ford Kuga Ambiente (six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive) is exclusively powered by a 110kW/240Nm version of the 1.6-litre petrol engine while all-wheel-drive petrol models employ a 134kW/240Nm version. The 100kW EcoBoost engine returns combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.7-l/100kms while the 134kW version is good for 7.7l/100kms (Ambiente model). That fuel consumption is assisted by auto start/stop (manual transmission Ambiente only) and Ford’s Active Grille Shutters (which operate at cruising speed).
The 2.0-litre TDCi turbo-diesel is the one we’d pick if buying a Ford Kuga. With 120kW/340Nm, the turbo-diesel offers good performance and is commendably quiet (like most European turbo-diesels). Combined cycle fuel consumption scores 6.3l/100kms (Trend model).
Ford Kuga The Interior
The latest Ford Kuga highlights Ford Europe’s latest design trends (like the Fiesta and Focus) with much better detail and soft tactile surfaces for the dashboard and door panels. Ford also paid attention to refinement, reducing the intrusion of wind and mechanical noise so, on the road the Kuga inside boasts one of the quietest interiors in the class.
We like the enveloping feel of the cockpit – the driver is presented with all controls handily-placed and logically laid-out. Gauges feature nice graphics and rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel combined with plenty of seat adjustment means the driving position is optimal.
A word too for Ford Kuga’s seats. Seats in some rival mid-size SUVs are bordering on being too sporty and hard whereas the seats in all Kuga models are large, comfortable and supportive even for tall occupants who sometimes feel short-changed for support around the shoulders.
Storage locations are plentiful including hidden bins under the second row seats and ‘umbrella’ bins for the front seats.
The Carshowroom.com.au juniors enjoyed the rear seat tables in the Titanium model (fold-out from the front seat backs) and the recline adjustment for the rear seat backs. Rear-seat legroom is amongst the best in this segment.
Luggage capacity has been boosted in the new Ford Kuga – now 406-litres with the rear seat in place or 1603-litres when folded.
You’ve probably seen the TV ads which show Ford Kuga Titanium’s remote rear tailgate which is operated by waving a foot (or pretending you’re kicking a soccer ball) under the rear bumper. The Carshowroom.com.au juniors thought it was neat trick and frequently demonstrated to their mates and in everyday use when bundled with school/sporting paraphernalia or groceries we can advocate the convenience of this feature.
Ford Kuga Exterior And Styling
We’re big fans of the Ford Kuga’s styling – it’s crisp and modern with nice proportions and while the new model shares the same wheelbase as its predecessor (2690mm) it is 81mm longer overall, 4.0mm narrower and 8.0mm lower. Styling is fresh but clearly an evolution of the previous model with its distinctive front-end (large, modern headlights) and thick C-pillar.
And we like the rear-end treatment with a nice shape for the tailgate and new-design lights.
Big styling points for the Titanium model’s 19-inch alloys too.
In fact the latest Kuga is the evolution of Ford’s Vertek concept car which came about to provide the ‘Blue Oval’ company fresh impetus in the fast-growing mid-size SUV segment. Buyers told Ford the new Kuga must display strong, engaging design and obvious craftsmanship – we’ll give Ford a green tick on those fronts.
Ford Kuga On The Road
The commonly held view is the Mazda CX-5 is the segment benchmark for driving dynamics. We’ll go along with that, but the Ford Kuga certainly challenges the CX-5’s excellence in every department.
Ford Europe has done a very good job with the Kuga’s MacPherson strut front/Control Blade multi-link rear suspension calibration. Even the entry-level 2WD Ambiente delivered nice refinement and precision but switching to the AWD models with Ford’s Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive system with torque vectoring control and the Ford Kuga really highlighted its German pedigree.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop (including some wet weather runs) we couldn’t fault the Ford Kuga. Nicely balanced, pointy and safe, the Kuga impressively combined slick high-speed dynamics with refinement and comfort.
That performance was enhanced by Ford’s excellent six-speed automatic with neat buttons on the gear lever for manual shifts.
Back in the city, our Kugas again proved worthy friends with good acceleration for freeway merging and impressive maneuverability. Like all SUVs the reversing camera was handy tool for tight parking but regardless, Kuga impressed with its click 11.1-mtre turning circle.
Overall we slightly favour the extra torque from the turbo-diesel but the 134kW petrol engine was no slouch.
Ford Kuga Challenges
After a month in various Ford Kugas our points deduction centres on the entry-level Ambiente 2WD manual. The chassis is more than good enough to handle the same 134kW 1.6-litre engine as the AWD models so we question whether the better fuel consumption justifies the 110kW powerplant.
Ford Kuga Verdict
A smart move by Ford to give us four Kuga models back-to-back for a month because without doubt this is one of the very best mid-size SUVs – a sign of things to come from Ford you might say?
We like the European design, we like the driving dynamics and we like the technology.
And there’s no doubt about the value-for-money.
A Carshowroom.com.au favourite - put the Ford Kuga on your shopping list.
Ford Kuga The Competition
Mazda CX-5 has everyone talking. Petrol or diesel the CX-5 (from $27,880) is a cracker. Starting price for the CX-5 AWD models is $32,880 ($31,490 for the Kuga) but Mazda gives you the excellent 2.5-litre petrol engine.
Honda CR-V is the other newcomer and there’s no doubt the latest model is a marked improvement over its predecessor. Honda CRV 2.0-litre 2WD starts at $27,490 and the AWD 2.4-litre kicks-off at $32,790. Both the CR-V and Kuga may nudge ahead of the Mazda CX-5 for luggage capacity.
We still like the looks of the Kia Sportage and the $25,490 starting price (2WD) commands attention.