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First drive: new Ford Kuga
A new Kuga? Already?
Yep, all new. After just four years on sale, when most cars would get a refresh, it was killed and replaced with this all-new version.
Blame the Americans. They needed a replacement for the shoddy-but-popular Escape, so took one look at the Kuga and decided that would do nicely. But new Fords must now be global, and the Kuga was very much for Europe, so it was decided that an all-new one would be built.
Good for them. What about us?
We rather liked the outgoing car, especially the way it looked and the way it went down the road. And, like the new multinational Focus, this new Kuga has lost some of that magic in favour of clone-ish styling and a less playful driving experience.
It’s not all bad. What it loses in dynamic sparkle, it gains in space and value. The boot is up to 200 litres roomier than before, depending on the angle of the rear seats, which now recline. There’s an optional, kick-activated tailgate - just swing a leg under the rear bumper and it springs open. This is helpful if you have armfuls of children.
There’s a full roster of safety stuff, from lane assist to ‘active nibble compensation’, which counteracts little tugs and pulls through the steering column. We miss the nibbles. They let you know it’s alive. And the old Haldex 4x4 system has gone, replaced by Ford’s own torque vectoring system.
Is that any good then?
You’ll probably notice the difference up an icy driveway, but you’d have to be driving quite heroically to feel it at high speed, where there’s not enough power to give it a proper workout. But here’s the thing: if you mess up, all this safety kit will sort things out and give you a big cuddle.
Please tell us it still has a five-cylinder petrol from the old Focus ST?
Sorry, it’s gone, replaced by four new engines. We tried a 161bhp diesel, which feels strong and nicely mannered, and a 180bhp petrol, which feels a bit out of place, especially with the torque-converter autobox that kicks down if you even look at the throttle (blame the Americans again). The lighter, front-wheel-drive versions might feel a bit sweeter (we haven’t had a go yet), though you’ll have to make do with 138bhp in the diesel and 148bhp in the petrol.
S’pose we’ll be paying more for it too…
Not so fast. This new one’s around £1,000 cheaper, spec-for-spec, than the outgoing version, with prices starting from around £20,895 for a petrol Zetec, rising to £29,795 for a diesel Titanium X.
Good. I shall buy one immediately!
Not so fast again. Where the first Kuga rebelled against more restrained rivals, this one has grown up and bought some proper trousers. Ford reckons it’ll still find up to 12,000 buyers per year in the UK, and while it’s hard to argue against a safer, more affordable product, we’d have a good look at the new Mazda CX-5 before joining them…
Ford’s globalization project continues, this time with a safer, roomier Kuga. We’ll miss the old one, though…
2.0TDCI Titanium AWD, 1997cc, 4cyl turbo, 4WD, 161bhp, 250lb ft, 1692kg, 0-62mph 9.9secs, 123mph