2.0 TDCi Titanium
may have been a latecomer
to the Crossover feast; but it was
clearly biding its time checking out
what drivers really want from the
breed. The result, the Kuga, has been
well worth the wait...
BASED ON FORD'S HATCHBACK FOCUS and C-MAX MPV, the Kuga is a distinctive
five-door, five-seater all-purpose vehicle with intelligent all-wheel drive.
Visually, its lofty and lengthened hatch looks are enhanced by Ford's
current edgy-but-clean-cut 'kinetic' body styling.
Stand-out features include distinctive headlamps, contoured bonnet and large
front grille, pronounced wheel arches and a muscular shoulder line. And at 1,710mm
tall, 1,842mm wide and 4,443mm long, you shouldn't have much difficulty fitting
one inside your garage.
Unlike many Ford ranges, choosing an engine for your Kuga will not cause much
heart-searching because just one engine and two trim levels are currently
available. Power is firmly in the diesel camp with a 134bhp 2.0-litre Duratorq
TDCi unit drivng through a six-speed manual gearbox. Kuga prices kick off at
£20,900 for the entry-level Zetec, rising to £22,900 for the top-spec Titanium
variant. The any-fuel-so-long-as-it's-diesel is not a problem, because this
unit not only suits the Kuga but will suit almost all drivers: it is quiet,
and has more than enough power for smooth driveability.
As is often the way with soft-roaders and crossovers, few owners will be venturing
far off the beaten track with them. A fact reflected by the Kuga's 'intelligent'
on-demand 4x4 system that analyses driving conditions and automatically decides
how much power each wheel needs to suit the road/terrain conditions. Although
up to 50 per cent of drive can be sent to the rear wheels when needed, for most
of the time you effectively get front-wheel drive. And all done without any
But, if you should hear the call of the wild, then the Kuga's ground clearance
is sufficiently good and the front and rear overhangs sufficiently short
for you to drive some way off the highway. More everyday tasks, such
as hauling a boat and trailer up a slippery slipway, are easily managed.
Most Kuga's despite the echoes of 'cougar' in the name will be
found inhabiting more civilised surroundings. With a chassis that has much in
common with Europe's best-selling car the Focus it's not such
a big surprise to find that the Kuga delivers similar predictable driving dynamics
to those of its well-respected stablemate. We found the Kuga a lovely car to
drive and instantly felt at home with our test model.
SUVs aren't usually sharp around corners but the Kuga's cornering ability is
more than impressive for a tallish vehicle with a longish wheelbase; although
it does benefit from a wider track than its C-Max and Focus brethren. Not only
does the Kuga stay level in the corners, it can also helped by well-contained
body roll and nicely crisp and consistent steering be thrown around quite
safely. Incidentally, the driver has the option of selecting the 'weighting'
of the steering in addition to the perfectly fine standard setting they
can choose 'sporty' (more weighting) or 'comfort' (more power assistance). Discs
are fitted both front and rear and braking is progressive and effective. You
could even say it's on the uneventful side: you brake; the Kuga stops. But then
the name of the game is reassuring predicitability.
No complaints, either, about the ride (even on the test car's 18-inch alloys
fitted with 235/50 rubber), which is well damped, rarely ruffled and keeps all
travellers comfortable. The bodyshell feels stiff in a well-put-together
way even traipsing over rutted country tracks. For most of the time,
sharp bumps and bad holes are soaked up without any jarring. And even the bad
ones are smoothed out. Overall, there's a likeable feeling of solidity and an
ambience that's definitely more car-like than SUV/4x4-like. In fact, its defining
character is that of an all-purpose family hatchback albeit with the
added security that the on-demand all-wheel drive provides.
A major factor in the Kuga's sweet driveability is the 2.0-litre TDCi turbodiesel
under the bonnet a tried and tested powerplant that can be found throughout
the Ford range. This puts out 134bhp at 4,000rpm. But as it is torque
and not horsepower, that determines an engine's flexibility and performance
more important is the Kuga's 236lb ft of torque. Available from 2,000rpm,
there's also an additional 15lb ft on overboost during hard acceleration. Which
explains why it feels far brisker on the move than its 'straight-line' acceleration
paper figure would suggest.
Like most diesels, being in the 'right' gear is a cardinal rule for smooth and
pacey progress. Happily, the high-mounted gearchange action is positively slick
and makes working the six-speed gearbox a pleasure.
And the foolproof gearbox is a good match to the Kuga's 2.0 TDCi, which pulls
strongly in the mid-range sufficient to get the Kuga to 62mph from standstill
in 10.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 112mph. Officially, it will return
44.3mpg overall and as much as 52.5mpg on longer runs and although our combined
figure over a week's hard testing was 36.3mpg, a little less throttle would
have improved that. Motorways are cruised easily with commendable composure
and, thanks to a mere 2,000rpm called for on the rev-counter at the legal limit,
very little noise of any kind.
While not unwieldy, the Kuga is nevertheless not a small car as is instantly
brought home to you when you sit inside. A good start: it's very easy to get
into even for the elderly and those with minor disabilities. The interior
is very spacious and comfortable the panoramic full-length glass roof
floods the interior with light but if you find it too much you can manually
close the front and rear sun blinds. Most, I suspect, will choose to let the
sunlight in. And, of course, in the Kuga everyone sits that bit higher above
most other road-users.
The panelled, leather-covered front seats are sportily shaped with ample bolstering
and manual lumbar adjustment and very comfortable to travel in. The passenger's
is manually operated but the driver can fine tune with power seat adjustment
and generous reach and rake adjustment of the four-spoke, leather-clad, multi-function
steering wheel to get to a first-class driving position. A finger pad on the
side of the steering column provides easy remote operation of the audio and
voice control without moving your palm from the wheel.
The on-board computer with a red LED display between the rev-counter
and speedometer is operated via one of the sturdy column stalks. Both
seats also have a good range of height adjustment and the front seats belts,
too, are height adjustable. The icing on the cake is the excellent 5-stage set
heating on both seats. This satisfying physical comfort is enhanced on the move
by good cabin insulation and the Kuga's compliant ride quality.
Titanium spec models have a smart, modern fascia with a brushed-aluminium centre
stack neatly housing the bulk of the controls in a functional arrangement. Instrumentation
is clear in addition to the two larger main dials there are two smaller
gauges for fuel and temperature. There's a commodious glovebox, a useful and
very deep (it takes wine bottles and an iPod) centre cubby beneath the adjustable
(sliding) armrest between the front seats and there are also well-site
Lots of Brownie points to Ford for placing the hazard switch and the start/stop
button exactly where they should be right on top of the centre stack.
Also adding to the accolades are the good-sized easy-to-see, easy-to-reach and
easy-to-use audio/ computer controls and the built-in 6-CD autochanger with
A swan-neck handbrake saves space and is the smoothest operating one of its
kind I have encountered to date. There are a number of useful storage areas
dotted about as well as big, deep door pockets, a small net pocket on the passenger's
central tunnel and a drop-down glasses case. Ford has clearly paid attention
to getting the cabin's practicality as well as its perceived quality right,
with lots of soft-touch fabrics and trim.
Fit and finish is good, and the fittings and switchgear all feel satisfyingly
robust. From the driver's point of view, the driving position is of the commanding
variety and ensures excellent sight lines to both the front and the sides. However,
most drivers will be glad of the audible help from the optional parking sensors.
Titanium trim versions are well-specc'd and feature: a 'Ford Power' engine start/stop
button and keyless start, Ford's Easy Fuel capless refuelling system that can
tell the difference between petrol and diesel fuel pump nozzles, sports seats,
four powered windows (all one-shot up-down) and electrically-operated and heated
door mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Quickclear heated windscreen, partial
leather, driver's manual lumbar adjustment, Sony CD/DAB audio system, cruise
control, auto lights and rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control (very
efficient in both cooling and heating modes) and electro-hydraulic power-assisted
In addition to the intelligent all-wheel drive there's an Electronic Stability
Programme with Anti Roll-over Mitigation, Emergency Brake Assist, ABS with EBD,
traction control, driver's and front passenger's front and side airbags, front
and rear curtain airbags and Isofix child seat fixings.
Our test car also had a number of the more desirable options fitted the
Appearance Pack adds aluminium finish roof rails and blue-coloured privacy glass
(£150), 5-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels (£350), Bluetooth hands-free technology
and Voice Control system (£150), metallic paint (£425) and the titanium X Pack
that provides full leather trim, heated front seats, 6-way power driver's seat,
panoramic glass roof, Bi-Xenon headlamps and solar reflecting windscreen (£2,000).
If you really want to load up on extra kit there's more: 230v power socket (enables
the rear seat passengers to plug in appliances of up to 150 watts such as laptops,
etc), touch-screen navigation system (£1,000) and front and rear parking sensors
There's ample room for five passengers although four adults will travel
very comfortably and have the use of the centre rear armrest. All three rear
headrests drop down when not in use and the rear seat backrests are set at an
angle that more or less guarantees comfort. Rear seat passengers sit about six
inches higher than those in the front; and all occupants enjoy good and commanding
views out. Youngsters travelling in the rear will no doubt make good use of
the flip-up picnic trays with built-in cup holders.
The 60:40 split/fold rear seats tip forward easily to fold flat, exposing deep
under-seat stowage. The load space can be increased from 360 litres with the
seats in use to 1,355 litres with them folded flat and they do fold completely
flat. However, the boot is pretty wide (more so than it is deep) which better
suits packing in personal luggage. The luggage blind has an easy slide and lock
operation and shopping bag hooks are also fitted inside the boot.
And there is more stowage available under the floor of the luggage area, which
divides into compartments. A split tailgate is always handy, particularly when
you've had to park backed-up to a wall or a van and you need to load shopping.
No problem; open the upper window independently of the tailgate and most smaller
items can be loaded in quite easily. Loading with the full tailgate open is
easy thanks to a low (75cm/30 inches) sill height.
Drivers looking for a good-looking family 'wagon' that combines a measure of
enjoyable performance with practical SUV/4x4 attributes should put one on their
shortlist. Not only is the well-mannered and easy-to-drive Kuga just
get in and go as desirable as a trendy 'sporting' or 'lifestyle' estate,
but from the very first moment you get behind the wheel the feeling of security
puts you at your ease immediately. After a week's hard driving on all sorts
of roads in a Kuga, my advice is this: Take a test drive. But watch out because
you may find yourself 'crossing over' permanently! MotorBar
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium | £22,900
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 10.7 seconds
Overall test MPG: 36.3mpg | Power: 134bhp | Torque: 236lb ft
CO2 169g/km | VED Band E £170 | Insurance group 10