First drive review: Ford Kuga
What is it?
Ford's new Kuga SUV, replacing the Focus-on-stilts-like current model that's proved particularly successful for the brand. It's all new outside and in, but still keeps that familiar Kuga look, albeit with (in our opinion) more handsome proportions. If you think it looks bigger, well, it is. Ford are now selling the Kuga not only in Europe, but their homeland of North America, which (unsurprisingly) means that it's had to pile on the pounds. Despite that, it manages to drink less fuel than the outgoing model – with efficiency on petrol models up 25 per cent, and diesels 10 per cent – so don't be too worried.
What's under the bonnet?
Four different engines: two 'Ecoboost' 1.6-litre petrols, with either 148 or 176bhp; and two 2.0-litre diesels outputting 138 or 160bhp. What you choose does rather depend on whether you'd like two or four wheel drive, though – the most powerful petrols and diesels are both AWD-only. We drove the 2.0 TDCi diesel with 160bhp and Ford's 'powershift' automatic gearbox, and it was really quite impressive – offering plenty of torque with very little fuss - the auto 'box shifting down effortlessly when the situation demanded it.
What's the kit like?
As with almost everything that sports a blue oval on the front these days, you'll find Ford's rather good SYNC system. It's the same setup as on our B-Max long termer that editor James Baggott raves about so much, and it's just as good here – though the screen is just a bit too small to be used for sat nav, in our view. Other new toys include a powered tailgate that opens by waving your leg under the rear bumper (it's less loony than it sounds, honest), and clever safety kit like Active City Stop and Lane Keeping Aid to try and prevent you losing that no claims bonus. Neither is standard though, so prepare to get option ticking.
Plenty around the Kuga's £20,000 price tag. The biggest rival is probably Land Rover's Freelander 2, but it costs £2,000 more and doesn't feel quite so spacious. For a little less you can pick up the Vauxhall Antara, but it's getting on a bit and drinks more fuel – particularly in baffling 2.4-litre petrol form. Next is the soon-to-arrive Mitsubishi Outlander, which has an extra row of seats but is likely to cost a bit more, and the Honda CR-V wades in at around £1,000 more expensive.
Is it any good?
We were concerned that the new, American-pleasing Kuga might have got a little too portly to please the McDonalds-munching types, but it's certainly not the case. Yes it's bigger, but if anything it's a more sensible size now, offering interior space much closer to its rivals'. The quality of materials is top notch too: there were no rattles or squeaks in our car, and the inside of the Kuga is a genuinely nice place to be. It inherits the rest of the Ford range's lovely-to-drive nature, too – though it is naturally quite a bit more roly-poly than something like a Focus. Still, the trade off for the soft springs is that overall ride quality is excellent – the new Kuga both soaking up bumps and proving a rather quiet motorway cruiser.
The AOL Cars verdict
The current Kuga has been a very successful car for Ford, and this new one should continue that tradition. In fact, it's even been charming Americans, who have been able to buy it for a few months now. Does it deserve to do well? Absolutely. It may not be the sort of thing you'll want to throw around a B-road, but it still has a great blend of refinement, space, comfort and driveabilty.
Long-term review: Ford B-Max
Model: Ford Kuga 2.0TDCi (163) Titanium Powershift
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged diesel
Power: 160bhp, 340Nm
Max speed: 122mph
0-60mph: 10.4 seconds
MPG (comb'd): 45.6