12-month test: Ford Kuga 1,5 Eco­boost Trend FWD 6AT

Can the Ford Kuga prove it still pos­sesses the fam­ily-ori­ented com­pe­tency which made it a Top 12 Best Buys win­ner in the past?

Car (South Africa) - - CREDITS -

IT takes time and ef­fort for a celebrity to re­gain the trust of the pub­lic af­ter a scan­dal. So ku­dos to Ford for push­ing the Kuga back into the lime­light by en­trust­ing it to CAR for a year­long test. This speci c model is a top-spec 1,5 Eco­boost front-wheel-drive de­riv­a­tive nished in Deep Im­pact Blue, here ac­cented with op­tional 18-inch wheels at R5 460. This Kuga cer­tainly looks the part; the still-fresh facelift ap­pears con­tem­po­rary and up­mar­ket.

It is clear why many ur­ban­based fam­i­lies opt for mid­size SUVS for ev­ery­day trans­port. The Kuga strikes the per­fect com­pro­mise be­tween com­pact size and gen­er­ous in­te­rior space to ac­com­mo­date kids and their para­pher­na­lia. Right from in­cep­tion of this test, the Ford ex­celled at its ini­tial role of con­duct­ing the school run, fac­ing rush-hour traf c and run­ning er­rands over the week­ends.

The raised ride height and com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion af­ford a gen­er­ous van­tage point and the re­spon­sive chas­sis and steer­ing make it a plea­sure to place on the road. That nim­ble­ness in the sub­urbs is aided by the smooth sixspeed, dual-clutch, au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, al­though a slight no­tion of slip is present dur­ing shifts. An early con­cern was the fuel-con­sump­tion gure of close to 12,0 L/100 km in city driv­ing, but this did thank­fully drop slightly to­wards the con­clu­sion of the test.

The rst sub­stan­tial road trip was a solo one from Cape Town to Lim­popo for Christ­mas, as my fam­ily had own ear­lier. This gave me the chance to en­joy the good sound in­su­la­tion of the cabin and lis­ten to my favourite adult-con­tem­po­rary mu­sic (par­ents will un­der­stand) on the qual­ity Sony sound sys­tem. I found the adap­tive cruise con­trol ex­cel­lent (it’s part of the driveras­sist pack­age at R16 060) at re­liev­ing strain and pre­vent­ing nes by stick­ing to a set speed when cov­er­ing long dis­tances. It was even a safety aid in thick fog out­side Bloem­fontein when the radar “saw” cars and braked

The Ford stepped up to the chal­lenge and eas­ily towed the Car­a­van at 100 km/h

be­fore I did. It is a pity the sys­tem does not func­tion be­low 40 km/h, ren­der­ing it ob­so­lete in stop/start traf­fic.

One of the unique sell­ing points of the Kuga, com­pared with other op­tions in its seg­ment, is the chas­sis setup. Ford’s dy­nam­ics en­gi­neers are renowned for their abil­ity to tune a sus­pen­sion just-so and it’s no dif­fer­ent on this mid­size SUV. It strikes a per­fect bal­ance be­tween com­fort and driver en­joy­ment. With­out the fam­ily in the ve­hi­cle and the beau­ti­ful Ma­goe­baskloof Pass ahead, the Kuga proved that fun be­hind the wheel does not have to wane with a higher ride height.

Join­ing up with the fam­ily, we vis­ited Kruger Na­tional Park. As the Kuga is only FWD, I was slightly hes­i­tant to veer off to the side roads for fear of get­ting stuck. How­ever, the Ford never strug­gled for grip and the kids loved the an­i­mals, es­pe­cially the giant ele­phant bull ap­pear­ing from nowhere. The trip back to Cape Town with the fam­ily went smoothly, with the fuel con­sump­tion dip­ping to 9,3 L/100 km on the open road.

Fast-for­ward past all the chores of daily life and it was time to pick up a Jur­gens Fleet­line car­a­van (a 1,4-ton­ner) for our an­nual hol­i­day to the South Coast. The Kuga had ar­rived with­out a tow­bar so one was fit­ted in a day at Bar­loworld Ford Tyger­val­ley for R10 380. Again, the Ford stepped up to the chal­lenge and the will­ing 1,5-litre tur­bopetrol en­gine eas­ily kept the train at 100 km/h. Fuel

con­sump­tion jumped to 19,74 L/100 km, though, and scan­ning the car park at the camp­site, it was clear tur­bod­iesel is the more ob­vi­ous choice of en­gine when it comes to tow­ing.

If the Lim­popo road trip can be com­pared to the Two Oceans marathon, the Kuga must have thought we had en­tered it for the Com­rades when aim­ing for our next des­ti­na­tion: Rundu in north­ern Namibia. At least it got fresh oil and fil­ters at Bar­loworld Ford N1 City for its 20 000 km ser­vice be­fore em­bark­ing on the ad­ven­ture (it ar­rived with a few thou­sand kilo­me­tres un­der its treads). A “ZA” sticker was the fi­nal stamp of ap­proval.

The SUV again im­pressed with its long-dis­tance abil­ity and the op­tional Sync3 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with sat-nav (R5 250) is one of the best I have en­coun­tered. Flick­ing be­tween two USBS (kids’ sto­ries and that con­tem­po­rary mu­sic again), ra­dio, sat-nav and even CD (yes, it still has that slot) could not be eas­ier. The sat-nav is sim­ple to use and has the added ad­van­tage of show­ing true GPS speed. This is help­ful when de­vour­ing thou­sands of kilo­me­tres with­out break­ing the law (to be pre­cise, 2 300 km to the turn­around point at Rundu). The FWD abil­ity was again taxed on soft, sandy paths to a lodge on the ma­jes­tic Oka­vango River, which we thank­fully made with­out any dig­ging to free clogged tyres.

The rest of the hol­i­day in­cluded vis­its to Etosha where the kids (and their par­ents) got very ex­cited when spot­ting a lion feed­ing on a re­cent ze­bra kill. The 150 km of dirt roads be­tween the gates were the first part of the gravel test. The other 300 km was on the way to /Ai-/ais where the kids en­joyed the hot spring and the Fish River Canyon look­out point. The Kuga shone and com­pli­ments to Con­ti­nen­tal for the road-bi­ased Con­tisport­con­tact 5 tyres which han­dled the trip ex­cep­tion­ally well; we did not need to re­move the space-saver spare wheel once.

Iron­i­cally, the lat­ter hap­pened just be­fore the Kuga was re­turned when a piece of metal sliced a rear wheel. Rot­ten luck…

TEST SUMMARY

The Kuga faced some of the tough­est chal­lenges any longterm ve­hi­cle in our garage has en­coun­tered and passed with fly­ing colours.

The only real black mark is the av­er­age fuel-con­sump­tion fig­ure of 10,66 L/100 km. There is an ob­vi­ous solution to this prob­lem, though. Dur­ing the 12 months, CAR briefly tested the 2,0 TDCI, which boasts the same good qual­i­ties but much bet­ter fuel econ­omy and all-wheel drive as an added bonus. In our opin­ion, it is worth the ex­tra R50 000.

Whichever Kuga you pick, though, this test made it clear that, de­spite its pub­lic stand­ing tak­ing a dip in the wake of the fire is­sues, Ford’s mid­size SUV is still a fron­trun­ner in its class.

This was one of the tough­est tests yet of a CAR long-ter­mer and the Kuga passed with ying colours.

clock­wise from be­low The el­e­vated ride height al­lowed ex­cur­sions off the beaten track; to al­low us to tow this Jur­gens, Ford agreed to have a tow­bar fit­ted; the 1,5-litre tur­bopetrol is will­ing but rather heavy on fuel.

clock­wise from above A high­light of the well-equipped, com­fort­able in­te­rior is the user-friendly Sync3 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem; the Kuga ex­celled at road-trip­ping, in­clud­ing fam­ily car­a­van­ning and vis­it­ing re­mote lo­ca­tions such as Rundu and the Oka­vango River in Namibia, as well as Tza­neen in Lim­popo.

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