A klever little kitty
The spelling is odd but the quality is obvious in Ford’s small SUV
THE littlest Ford soft-roader (until the arrival of the EcoSport), the Kuga comes in front or all-wheel drive, petrol or diesel. The top-spec Titanium AWD turbo diesel with optional technology pack tips over the $50,000 mark.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel commands a $3000 premium over the 1.6-litre turbo petrol, as well as an extra $795 for total capped price servicing fees. There is ample standard gear.
It sits on 19-inch alloy wheels (with 235/45 tyres), a tilt and slide panorama glass roof, bixenon headlights with auto levelling and washers, LED daytime lights, power mirrors with puddle lights and ‘‘ kick’’ operated hands-free tailgate.
The seats get leather trim, the cabin ambient LED lighting has a choice of colours, the front seats have multi-stage heating, rear occupants get tables on the front seatbacks , the driver has keyless entry and ignition, auto parking and satnav on a small but well-shrouded screen.
The test car had the optional ($2650) technology pack that adds to the safety features list.
Top of the tech pops is the Sync infotainment system, particularly its Emergency Assistance function. It also integrates phones and music players easily. Curiously a stopstart fuel-saving system is included on the entry frontdrive manual.
The all-wheel-drive is ondemand system, which Ford says takes updates from 25 sensors every 16 milliseconds, so it’s busy. It controls the power split front to rear and even tries to counteract understeer and oversteer, by way of sending up to 100 per cent fore or aft as required.
The exterior look is strongly linked to the Focus family, of which it is a member, with ground clearance increased to just over 190mm, or 30mm more than a RAV4.
The sharper design has plenty of ridges, creases and air intakes to save it from looking too generic.
Inside, it’s snug but cargo space has improved, as have rear head and legroom, although it’s not as spacious as a Forester or RAV4.
The centre stack is busy with myriad buttons. The steering wheel is a little overloaded with buttons too, but the main gripe is the automatic transmission selector with its useless, pointless and counter-intuitive manual shift buttons on the side of the handle.
All-wheel drive apart, the Kuga flagship has seven airbags, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, autodimming centre mirror, trailer sway control and hill start assistant. The Titanium also gets a more advanced version of Ford’s AdvanceTrac roll stability control system, with extra sensors and computing nous to keep it shiny side up.
The test car had the optional (at $2650) technology pack that adds Active City Stop (automatic braking at up to 30km/h), adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warning systems, auto-dipping high beam and driver impairment monitor, which aims to combat fatigue.
The Focus is a favourite and putting it on stilts has done little to diminish the Kuga’s appeal. Ride quality is comfortable despite more than useful body control.
Steering and handling are well above par, beaten only by the Mazda CX-5, which KOs the Kuga for turbo diesel grunt.
What the Ford loses in impetus it makes up for with features, safety and comfort.
The diesel delivers a good surge when required and is well-matched to the dualclutch gearbox; engine noise is suppressed and cabin refinement is good, disturbed only by a little wind around the mirrors at cruising speed. The lack of a speed readout on the centre display is not unique to the Kuga. Rear vision is a little obscured by the roof pillar.
Don’t leave it off the SUV shopping list.