Base price: $52,990.
Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four, 134kW/240Nm, 6-speed automatic, all-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.7 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4524mm long, 1690mm high, kerb weight 1682kg, luggage capacity 406/1603 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 19-inch wheels on 235/45 tyres.
We like: Powertrain, handling, quality, equipment.
We don’t like: Fussy interior, tiny sat-nav screen.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
This is the Ford Kuga we’ve all really wanted from the start. You might remember that the previous model, available only with a five-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, was launched very late in the piece in New Zealand – about the same time that the wraps came off this, the all-new model, in the United States.
The new Kuga is another truly global model from Ford – in everything but name, as it is still know as Escape in some markers. It’s certainly the right car at the right for Ford New Zealand: a model packed with ability and high-tech equipment, pitching into one of the most popular vehicle segments in the country.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Forget about the fun but thirsty five-pot engine used in the old car. The new Kuga is available with Ford’s latest powerplant technology: a choice of 2.0-litre turbo diesel or (as tested here) a 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol.
Don’t be put off by the relatively small capacity: the EcoBoost engine range is known for combining modest displacement with impressive output, and 134kW/240Nm is very competitive. The 2.5-litre Toyota RAV4, for example, makes 132kW/233Nm.
Kuga is definitely a crossover rather than a serious off-road vehicle, but it is one of the very few in the segment to come exclusively with all-wheel drive (another being the Subaru Forester). It’s a system set up for on-road adhesion and features torque vectoring control, which can shift power around to assist the car in cornering rather than merely reacting to wheel-slip.
Ford has established a reputation for building dynamically mature mainstream cars over the past few years and the Kuga is certainly one of those. It’s a pleasure to pilot and in top Titanium specification is also loaded with active safety features, including Active City Stop (which can automatically halt the car at up to 30km/h to prevent nose-to-tail crashes), forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and lane departure warning.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
The Kuga’s rather busy-looking cabin may not be to all tastes. As with the latest Focus, Ford still favours an array of buttons and silver detailing over ergonomic simplicity.
But the quality of materials is excellent – arguably superior to anything else in what is a very competitive segment, with plenty of soft-touch plastic and a firm action to the switchgear.
Kuga also features Ford first-generation Sync voice control system, which takes a little acclimatisation but can work with an impressive array of commands to control audio and communications functions.
Satellite navigation is standard in the Kuga, although the screen is minuscule and the input a little clumsy via the centre-console switchgear.
One of the Kuga’s many surprise-and-delight features is a powered tailgate that will open with a wave of your foot under the bumper (as long as you have the keys on your person).
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
You probably should. The choice in this segment is astounding but considered on ability, equipment and value, the Kuga would surely have to make the top-three on any compact-crossover shopping list.
Even if you don’t want the high equipment level (and higher price) of the Titanium, the dynamic excellence and quality of Kuga still shine through in the lower-specification models.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: Yes
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Lane guidance: Yes
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Power boot or tailgate: Yes, activates with wave of foot under bumper
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: Yes
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes
Find a Ford Kuga HERE