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Posted by Joseph Clement on 22 June, 2018

Introduction

I must start off by giving a big thank you to the team at Ford for granting me access to a Ford Kuga for a week. The Kuga is a mid-size SUV, however, following a facelift in 2017 it has now become somewhat larger competing closely with vehicles like the Kia Sorento, Volvo XC90 and Hyundai Santa Fe.

The aforementioned facelift includes a striking corporate grille which was borrowed from the Edge; Ford’s even larger SUV offering. An overall upgrade to the styling of the Kuga coupled with a selection of new trim options definitely make this vehicle a lot more desirable on a global level.

The competitiveness of the segment has forced not only Ford but lots of other manufacturers to move away from a limited appeal, European-friendly design style and deliver something that has the ability to entice a larger group of buyers. I feel the Kuga is positioned to do very well as it offers a range of petrol and diesel engines that can cater to the various needs of customers.

Overview

Within the Ford lineup, the Kuga is positioned between the EcoSport and the Edge. The car I tested was the range-topping Ford Kuga Vignale that aims to deliver a more luxurious, high-end feel. For most, the Vignale variant of the Kuga will probably be a bit too pricey, but fear not, there are more affordable options, including the Zetec, Titanium and ST-Line models. The Kuga is also available with a selection of different engines, including a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine that offers either 118bhp, 148bhp or 180bhp output options, a 1.5-litre TDCi (118bhp) diesel engine and a 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine available with either 118bhp, 148bhp or 178bhp.

The Ford Kuga Vignale I drove had the 2.0-litre TDCi engine that delivers around 178bhp and produces up to 400Nm of torque. As for fuel consumption, the Kuga Vignale averages 54.3 miles per gallon which isn’t too bad, although, you may want to look at the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDCi option as it manages 60 miles per gallon.

Driving

With a 2.0-litre engine under the hood, I expected the Kuga Vignale to perform well on the motorway, and it did. As with many automatic Diesel cars, there was a slight drone from the engine when asking for more power on hills but the car always delivered an ample amount of torque when requested. Overall the car was quiet, however, now and then I did experience bit of road noise. That said, the Vignale I was testing came with larger 19-inch alloy wheels which may have contributed to the added sound. I’m sure that other models with smaller wheels would produce less noise.

Despite its size, the Kuga was very comfortable to drive around the city. I’m not a massive fan of automatics but I have to say that the Kuga felt great. The Vignale came with Ford’s powershift gearbox that supposedly improves fuel efficiency when compared to a conventional manual transmission. The vehicle was so easy to control that it made the overall experience of driving feel effortless. It’s ease-of-use and drivability made me want to get up and go which is how I think an SUV should make you feel.

One of the things that stood out to me about the Kuga is how planted it felt on the road. It handled extremely well, probably thanks to Ford’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system. This system determines how much grip, cornering balance and responsiveness is required for the terrain and conditions you are driving in and sends more drive to either the front or rear axle depending on the situation. It’s this type of technology that gives the Kuga a fantastic ride quality without you even being aware of what’s happening in the background.

Personally, I don’t like when steering is too light, so I’m happy to say that this isn’t the case with the Ford Kuga. Obviously, when driving an SUV you don’t want the steering to feel cumbersome, but at the same time, I don’t like it to feel overly light and uninvolving. For me, the Kuga struck the right balance, allowing me to feel connected to the road and in control. On demanding corners, I did experience some body roll but I would say that is to be expected for a vehicle of this size.

I think the turning circle of the Kuga could be improved slightly but it didn’t hamper me in any major way when parking or manoeuvring. The rear parking camera was clear and the guidelines made it very easy to use. Occasionally the parking sensors would trigger unnecessarily when a car was simply driving past which was a bit annoying. However, for actual parking, they worked just fine.

Design and styling

The best word for me to use when describing how the Kuga looks is: smart. It doesn’t have a futuristic, edgy look to it, instead, it has what I would describe as a current look. My favourite styling features are the new head and tail-lights that are very tidy and the new grille that gives the car a commanding presence. From a side profile, the car looks dominant and its sloping lines deliver a feeling of forward movement. Unlike some other other vehicles in this segment, the Kuga’s rear-end actually looks quite nice, especially with the optional Vignale bumper styling pack which adds character. Also, the Kuga Vignale has its own unique Vignale badging that replaces the Kuga badging which I thought was a nice touch.

Interior

The inside of the Kuga Vignale was very pleasant with no shortage of leather trim. It had a leather steering wheel and the seats boasted comfortable quilted leather. In fact, my girlfriend who often struggles with back pain on longer journeys told me that she didn’t experience any discomfort while riding as a passenger in the Kuga. All of the dials and controls on the centre console were conveniently positioned, complimenting the overall sleek design of the interior. My only gripe was with the SYNC 3 touchscreen which was set quite deeply into its position on the centre console. This sometimes made pressing the correct option with your finger a little bit tricky. Other than that, everything else – e.g. the dashboard, air conditioning controls and the electronically adjustable driving seat – worked perfectly. It’s hard for me to comment on what the interior is like for models further down the range, but the Vignale was delightful.

Space and practicality

The cabin of the Kuga offers plenty of storage space, including sizable door trays, an adequately sized glove compartment and a stash area underneath the central armrest. The storage compartment underneath the armrest also houses two USB ports and a small tray that can easily be removed if necessary. In front of the armrest are two cup holders and a small rectangular slot for you to store items like pens or spare change etc.

I have to commend Ford for producing an exceptional back seating area in the Kuga. Not only do passengers get a decent amount of overall legroom and headspace but they are also treated to air conditioning vents, a 12-volt socket, and (in the Vignale I tested) rear privacy glass. It’s safe to say that you are unlikely to hear anyone riding in the back of your Kuga complaining about much at all. The rear seats can recline backwards slightly for a more relaxed seating position or they can be folded forward to increase the boot space from 456-litres to 1653-litres.

Another nifty feature was the Ford Kuga Vignale’s power opening panoramic roof as it allowed lots of natural light and fresh air into the vehicle. Overall the Kuga is extremely practical, as an SUV should be. Comfortable seating takes the pain out of longer journeys and an ample amount of space for passengers make the Kuga a great option as a family car.

Technology

The Ford Kuga Vignale is kitted out with an abundance of useful technology that makes your life a lot easier when driving. I’ll start by talking about the lane keeping aid that is included in the driver’s assistance pack, an optional extra (£550) that I would highly recommend. I found the lane keeping aid particularly useful when driving on the motorway. In short, the vehicle has a forward-looking camera that can detect if you are unintentionally drifting out of a lane. If you do end up drifting out of the lane slightly a visual warning appears on the dashboard and your steering wheel begins to vibrate. When this happens you can straighten the car up and continue as normal. In more extreme cases where you are slow to react the car will actually provide steering torque assistance and guide you back into the right lane itself. Now I know some of you may worry that this type of technology runs the risk of being over controlling but I can tell you that it only kicks in when necessary and doesn’t hinder your overall driving experience in any way. I was really impressed.

Other safety systems included with the driver’s assistance pack include active city stop, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, driver alert and a blind spot Info system, all of which worked very well. This resourceful SUV also comes with LED daytime running lights, the option of auto headlamps and rain sensing front windscreen wipers. On the steering wheel, you will find buttons to initiate cruise control which has an active speed limiter and audio control/track selection buttons for the premium 9-speaker Sony sound system. Oh, and the Kuga also has dual electronic automatic temperature control (DEATC) which kept me nice and cool in the hot weather.

Some other notable features include power folding door mirrors, electric parking brake, hill start assist and keyless start. Also, I need to mention one of the more entertaining bits of technology included with the Ford Kuga Vignale: the hands-free tailgate. Let’s say you are carrying a load of shopping bags or equipment in both hands. Normally you would need to put everything down so you can manually open the tailgate…not with the Ford Kuga. Instead, you simply wave your foot underneath the tailgate area of the vehicle and the boot automatically opens up for you. Pretty cool, right? It’s actually quite useful and can be shown off to friends and family which is always good fun.

The Ford Kuga I tested came with the SYNC 3 infotainment system. Aside from the deep-set position of the touchscreen which I touched on earlier it works very well. It combines all of the things that were good about the SYNC 1 and SYNC 2 systems and makes them better and faster. The eight-inch touchscreen allows you to pinch and swipe your way through various options with ease. It also offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an intuitive voice control system. The satellite navigation system works very well and I think anyone who has used a Ford with sat nav will agree that their system is very dependable.

Lastly, the DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity worked just fine and the premium 9-speaker Sony sound system delivered crisp, well-rounded audio throughout the car. In summary, you won’t necessarily find any groundbreaking technology in the Ford Kuga but everything it does have is efficient, and in most cases, very useful.

Safety and reliability

The Ford Kuga boasts a five star Euro NCAP rating which will definitely give buyers some peace of mind when it comes to safety. The fact that all Kuga’s come with an electronic stability programme, plenty of airbags, a seatbelt warning system and the option of Ford’s driver’s assistance pack make it hard to call this SUV anything other than safe.

As mentioned earlier, the Kuga is practical, spacious and enjoyable to drive. The manual and automatic variants work well and you rarely hear of reliability issues. I feel there is room for improvement on the fuel economy side of things, but overall the Kuga is a solid option for anyone looking at buying an SUV.

Additionally, all new Ford cars come with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty to give customers that extra peace of mind should anything go wrong during that time.

Pricing

Similarly to many other SUV’s, pricing for the Ford Kuga starts in the region of £20,000. The standard on-the-road (OTR) price for the 2.0-litre TDCi Powershift AWD Ford Kuga Vignale that I tested out is £35,395. However, after adding optional extras like the 19-inch alloy wheels, appearance pack, bumper styling pack, power opening panoramic roof, heated steering wheel and driver’s assistance pack you’re looking at £37,995. When you think about it that is quite expensive even for a range-topping model. Therefore, you will probably be better off looking at either the Titanium (from £26,775 OTR) or ST-Line (from £28,375 OTR) models that are available. An entry-level Ford Kuga Zetec has an OTR price of £23,225.

Conclusion

The facelift that happened in 2017 was definitely a step in the right direction for the Ford Kuga, it has given the vehicle a broader appeal. The range-topping Vignale I tested will probably be too expensive for most, but a wide range of alternative models provides buyers with plenty of options. I really do feel that the latest Kuga is a solid challenger in the segment and I think it will do very well. A wide range of models and engines is a big positive for this vehicle. There are parts of the interior that will need updating in the near future, and fuel economy could be improved slightly, but other than that the Kuga is a good package. I was impressed with the SUV’s driveability, technology, safety rating and smart looks. It is a practical, usable motor that offers enough space to make both driver and passenger feel comfortable on long or short journeys. The hands-free tailgate adds character and in my opinion, the driver’s assistance pack is a must-have safety option. To sum it all up, the Kuga is a well-rounded, tidy SUV that ticks a lot of boxes. It demands consideration and is likely to be an attractive proposition for a lot of potential buyers.

If you would like to find out more about the Ford Kuga, please visit the official Ford website by clicking here

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