A klever lit­tle kitty

The spell­ing is odd but the qual­ity is ob­vi­ous in Ford’s small SUV

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

Don’t leave it off the SUV shop­ping list.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.