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Ford Kuga Titanium X 2.0 TDCi 163PS Powershift

Click to view picture galleryThe booming demand for SUVs,
  4x4s and crossovers is being
  driven by customers who want
  more appropriate, fuel-efficient
  and versatile vehicles able to cope
  with the UK’s unpredictable weather
  conditions and deteriorating roads...


WITH SALES of these dual-purpose vehicles now taking almost 10% (201,102 units in 2012) of the UK's new car market, the arrival of the all-new 'One Ford' global Kuga is timely
they're rolling into UK showrooms from early February.

The all-new Kuga offers customers more for less in a growing SUV market: more load space (with one-movement fold-flat rear seats which provide between 82 to over 200 litres more space); improved passenger comfort; more equipment; more driving refinement; sharper steering; better cabin sound insulation; better handling and ride comfort; smarter, more premium looks inside and out; a lighter and stiffer bodyshell; and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

And it's competitively priced — from 20,895. That's 1,005 less than the outgoing starter model because the new range has a 147bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine option rather than just a 2.0-litre TDCi diesel unit. Ford says that right through the range all like-for-like models are lower in price, with the top version, the 160bhp 2.0-litre TDCi all-wheel drive automatic, costing 29,795.

“The outgoing Kuga was
not short of handling
refinement, ride comfort
and ability.
But this new generation
is significantly improved
in all areas. And costs
less to buy and run
...”
The new Kuga is 81mm longer and this extra length is given over to providing more cargo space (456-1,653 litres). The wheelbase remains the same, at 2,690mm, which means no extra rear legroom although the stepped reclining seatbacks do make the rear feel roomier.

Another upmarket addition is the hands-free tailgate operation —
triggered, providing the key-fob is within the vicinity of the vehicle, by moving a foot under the rear bumper.

Step aboard and the higher grade interior quality of the vehicle is immediately noticeable; the curved dashboard is now set lower, improving forward visibility. The SatNav screen, however, is small by today's standards and recessed too far into the fascia panel so it's not readily in the driver's line of sight; and the mass of buttons on the upper centre console operating the SatNav, sound system, heating and ventilation looks really cluttered —
and they're not intuitive to use.

There are also numerous other controls on the steering wheel and control stalks so switch-wise it's a very 'busy' design —
and needs changing. I understand moves are already underway to refine the design of the screen and controls following feedback from customer clinics and the media.

The interior spec list for the likely most popular Zetec version includes electric windows, power and heated door mirrors, heated windscreen, keyless start, manual AirCon, sport front seats with cloth upholstery, cruise control with speed limiter, alarm, space-saver spare wheel, alloy wheels, front fog lights, twin exhausts, and front and rear underbody scrape plates.

Titanium trim models additionally come with auto headlights and wipers, DAB radio, Ford Sync with emergency assist, partial leather seats, and Roll-Stability Control. Titanium X Kugas add 18-inch alloys, Bi-Xenon automatic self-levelling headlights, electrically-adjustable driver's seat, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, and full leather upholstery.

Acoustic glass is used for the windscreen with thicker glass for the side windows to reduce noise intrusion; and better insulation is used throughout, including foam filling for the upper body beams and panels.

“Moving a foot under the
rear bumper, providing
the key-fob is
within the vicinity of the
vehicle, triggers the
hands-free opening and
closing tailgate
...”
And it works: one of the very first things I noticed driving the new Kuga was just how quiet it was inside; so quiet that wind noise was more noticeable although the door mirrors have been specifically designed to be more aerodynamic.

The good news is that in this new Kuga it's very easy to have a conversation without the need to speak louder, even when driving at high speeds.

The second most pronounced change is the comfortable ride —
even with the larger 18-inch alloys (Zetec and Titanium versions have 17-inchers, and I suspect ride comfort is even better with those). Not only are the seats better but the suspension is more compliant too, giving a supple and flowing ride with little bodyroll.

The suspension itself has also seen a lot of changes, with wider shock absorber tubes, new lower location point bushes and a new rear anti-roll bar. For an even more controlled ride, Titanium and Titanium X models get Roll-Stability Control —
a further step towards driving refinement. The revised steering remains sharp, precise and linear in the level of power assistance it provides.

The Kuga retains its four-door coupe side profile with a higher domed bonnet at the front underscored by a slim new horizontal grille. The wider wheelarches and high-rising waistline give it a chunkier, more muscular appearance with more visual impact, moving it away from the image of 'yet another' soft off-roader or crossover model.

Underpinning this latest Kuga is a new generation all-wheel-drive system which includes Curve Control —
this prevents severe understeer by braking and reducing engine torque. Torque Vectoring Control is also introduced to the drivetrain, and this reduces torque-steer.

The electronically-controlled AWD system constantly delivers variable amounts of power to the front or rear wheels depending on driving needs. Normally, for on-road driving, most of the power is fed through the front wheels. On acceleration, more power is automatically diverted to the rear axle —
up to 100% if needed.

“Driving along a winding
and mountainous route,
this engine returned
33.3mpg with the auto
twin-clutch gearbox
and 34mpg with
the six-speed manual
transmission.
For the record, this
version in auto form will
officially return 45.6mpg
(manual 47.9mpg)
...”
For off-road driving, the all-terrain mode is selected to provide secure front- and rear-wheel drive and grip. This is no heavy duty 4x4 but it will do the job, dealing with steep muddy farm tracks, snow, sand, towing and generally coping with life on our third-rate potholed roads.

At the Kuga's Valencia-based motoring media first drive event only the 160bhp 2.0-litre TDCi Duratorq turbodiesel models were available, with either the six-speed manual or the six speed twin-clutch auto 'box.

Not a problem —
having more power and more torque (160bhp and 250lb ft) results in more speed and higher cornering speeds. And if it works with this engine, it will work with the lesser power units as well.

On the road the 160bhp four-cylinder, common-rail turbodiesel provides ample 'grunt' from 2,000rpm; it's responsive to the throttle and relaxed at high cruising speeds.

Driving along a winding and mountainous route, this engine returned 33.3mpg with the auto twin-clutch gearbox and 34mpg with the six-speed manual transmission —
both impressive results given the terrain. For the record, this version in auto form will officially return 45.6mpg (manual 47.9mpg).

Against? Fussy layout, too many control buttons, small and remotely positioned SatNav screen, new model has no more rear passenger legroom than the old one. The warranty is not so generous either.

Good points include new stand-out styling, it's fun to drive and comfortable and quiet to ride in, smart driver aids and technologies, fuel and CO2-efficient engines, and improved interior quality with more load space.

The outgoing Kuga was not short of handling refinement, ride comfort and ability. But the new generation is significantly improved in all areas. And costs less to buy and run. —
David Miles

Ford Kuga Titanium X 2.0 TDCi 163PS Powershift | 29,795
Maximum speed: 122mph | 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 33.3mpg
Power: 160bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2 162g/km