The current advertising campaign for the Ford Kuga has got me irked. If it really was a blank canvas of car design, why then, are there at least 15 other mini SUVs out there? Did someone not remember the Land Rover Freelander or Toyota RAV4?
The spin was unnecessary - the Kuga is late to the party, but that doesn't mean it's also bottom of the pecking order. Far from it, as the Kuga manages to look good and drive well, even if we have concerns over the satnav's ease of use. And the key - why does it have to be so hard to find out where to start this thing?
First to the engine, then. At the moment, there's only the 2.0 TDCi with 134bhp, but expect a 2.5-litre petrol to come towards the end of the year. Even then, though, the 2.0-litre diesel will remain the pick of the bunch - it's a very smooth unit that doesn't sound rattly at cold or idle.
With 236lb ft of torque, the Kuga is also reasonably responsive, but the Ford isn't the lightest of vehicles. Our new Nissan Qashqai long-termer has the same 236lb ft, yet weighs 45kg less and feels more sprightly from low revs. Still, these are soft-roaders, so performance isn't the deciding factor.Comfort is more important. And for that, the Kuga is as impressive as the Freelander, the class-leader for ride quality. The first Focus proved that Ford could simultaneously do comfort and handling, and that DNA continues here. While the Qashqai can bounce a bit over rougher roads, the Kuga feels that little bit more settled. The steering isn't as sharp asa Focus's, but it's still pretty impressive by most soft-roaders' standards.
Quite what it's like off-road is anyone's guess. I never went near a field, and I doubt many owners will either. There's an electronic control for the four-wheel-drive, which is a techie way of saying that for most of the time the Kuga runs in two-wheel drive. In other words, it'll do pavements but farmers will need to look elsewhere for their blank canvas.