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?
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…
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.