Ford's new Kuga on the prowl
ON THE PROWL: Ford has released the new Kuga to the local market. It's one hot car packed with features that will make its rivals cry. Image: FORD SA
Ford’s new Kuga is on the prowl and, given its gutsy engines and packed features, the rest of the compact SUV pack had better look out when they're out on the open road.
It listens to you, speaks back only when needed, and even opens the tail door for you. Ford’s new Kuga might or might not be the ideal boyfriend but it does tick all the right boxes for a pretty practical car.
The first generation Kuga reached South African shores only 18 months ago – about five years later than the rest of the world - but the new model that has made its way locally is on par with the rest of international markets.
After driving the fourth generation Toyota RAV4 also launched at about the same time the Kuga offers a very enticing package, even compared to its other closest competitor, the Hyundai ix35. The range includes a new turbocharged 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and a two-litre turbodiesel engine (TDCi) in six models and three trim levels: Ambiente, Trend and Titanium.
The entry level 1.6 EcoBoost Ambiente and Trend manual models are the only two units in front-wheel drive, while everything else is all-wheel drive.
The 1.6-litre also comes in two variants, the first kicking out 110kW, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Ford claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.6 litres/100km with 154g/km of carbon emissions. This right here was my preference of the two models driven at the launch held in Cape Town over April 11/12.
While the rest of the motoring media ran for the two-litre my driving partner and I had our eyes set on the baby of the range. It’s super gutsy and the 240Nm from 1600-4000rpm is more than sufficient. This engine has attitude and as an entry level model, it’s well worth the price.
The 134kW model comes with all-wheel drive and has a six-speed auto transmission with SelectShift. It uses 7.7 litres/100km of fuel on combined cycle while emitting 179g/km of CO2. It also pushes out the same torque as the less powerful model.
The two-litre TDCi Duratorq diesel is good for 120kW/340Nm, the latter from 2000-3250rpm. It also has AWD and a six-speed powershift automatic transmission with SelectShift. Consumption is rated at 6.2 litres/100km with 162g/km CO2.
Although the two-litre engines are in higher-specified cars, I was a bit disappointed with this engine. It has loads of turbo lag that put a damper on my driving fun, so much that it was annoying. Paddle shifts on the steering wheel would have also been nice. However, I can’t fault the gearbox and except for the discouraging lag, driving is smooth once you get over the gripes.
The AWD system also features torque-vectoring control which sends the right amount of torque to each wheel under any particular circumstance.
If I had to give an award out for the best-Looking compact SUV on the market right now, Ford would win hands-down with the Kuga. So much so that even the guys who’ll be driving it would be forgiven for not being a yummy mummy behind the wheel.
Tighter lines, crisp and sharp styling have produced a stunning car. It has a narrow grille between the high bumper and end of the sculpted bonnet that catches your eye with boastful air intakes in the lower part of the front bumper. The bold wheel arches also are also fitting.
Ford SA’s marketing, sales and service vice-president Dean Stoneley said all levels of the SUV segments were growing and South Africa and Asia were at last picking up that trend with the rest of the world.
He explained that the new Kuga was the first global smart activity vehicle (SAV) hence is being launched worldwide through 100 markets.
Ford is being real clever with this car and I commend them on that because even the least expensive car in the range comes with a whole lot of kit: seven air bags, ABS, electronic stability control, electronic brake assistance and many other standard items one would expect to find only in higher-specced cars. It even has a belt-minder which shows the driver exactly who doesn’t have their seatbelt on properly.
It's also packed with smart technology, even the grille shutters are electronically controlled and it open and closes to improve air dynamics up to five percent. It also has a nifty regenerating function which charges the alternator at specific times.
Obviously the higher you climb up the price list the more advanced you'll find. Such as a stop/go engine function and adaptive cruise control which allows you to set the following distance of the car; self-parking uses ultra-sonic sensors to find a suitable parking space that is the correct size: just put the car in gear and the Kuga parks itself.
Ford also has an automated tail door on the Titanium models. One swing of a foot under the rear bumper opens it automatically by sensing the key in your pocket or handbag when your hands are full. There are many questions around this car, including safety. However, Ford says the car works with the sensors to pick the key up in very close proximity and one that detects the motion in the driver’s shin.
The new model is 81mm longer than its predecessor to provide more leg room, is 8mm lower and tucked in by 4mm. The wheelbase is still the same at 2690mm.
The cabin is spacious and the facia designed in such a way to make you know you’re in a SUV: neat and tidy, except I can’t find any fancy for the audio system controls in the centre – it’s a typical Sony unit, and not really a bad thing, I just prefer bigger buttons. There are steering-wheel controls, so maybe I’m just being petty.
But what I absolutely dislike is the miniature hazard-warning triangle; it’s not a button that allows fumbling.
The first thing I noticed when I got in the car was that the start/stop engine button is now on the left of the steering wheel. Not only did the previous one annoy me because it was on such an unlikely spot that I couldn’t get used to it, but. It was located right in the centre of the dashboard.
All models also have Fords’s Sync system which works with the car’s Bluetooth technology, voice recognition demands and can even read out your SMSes.
The range-topping Titanium models include 18" alloy rims, bi-xenon headlights, and LED tail lights. There’s also a Titanium option pack for R35 000 that adds 'active city stop,' lane-keeping, 19" rims and self-parking.
Ford SA is hoping to sell about 400 Kugas a month – its going to be really interesting to see how showroom floors battle it out.
So would I buy one? Most certainly and I’d even go for the entry-level unit because of its looks, fun-to-drive handling and engine. And when you line the Kuga up next to its 15 rivals in the market, this car takes the cake on all fronts.
The Kuga comes with a four-year or 120 000km comprehensive warranty, a four-year or 80 000km service plan on petrol models, a five-year or 90 000km service plan on diesel derivatives and three years of unlimited-distance roadside assistance. Service intervals are 20 000km on petrol derivatives, 15 000km on diesels.
Kuga 1.6 EcoBoost Ambiente FWD - R289 900
Kuga 1.6 EcoBoost Trend FWD -R324 900
Kuga 1.6 EcoBoost Trend Auto AWD - R364 900
Kuga 1.6 EcoBoost Titanium Auto AWD - R398 900
Kuga 2.0 TDCi Trend Powershift AWD - R384 900
Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium Powershift AWD - R418 900