The poor old Kuga didn't even get a facelift. After just four years on sale, when most cars would get a refresh, it was killed and replaced with this new version. We can blame the Americans, because when the time came to replace their shoddy - but popular - Escape, they 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 a Euro thing, so it was decided that an all-new one would be built.
And, sure enough, they're queueing around the blocks to buy one. But what about the rest of us? We rather liked the outgoing car, especially the way it looked and the way it drove. Like the new multinational Focus, this new Kuga has lost some of that magic in favour of clone-ish styling and less playful driving experience. But what it loses in dynamic sparkle, it gains in space and value. The boot is 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 motors itself open. Helpful if you have armfuls of children.
Get things wrong, and it'll help you, too. There's a full roster of safety stuff here, from lane assist to ‘active nibble compensation', which counteracts little tugs and pulls through the steering column. And, sure, it's less nibbly, but nibbles let you know it's alive. We miss the nibbles. The old Haldex 4x4 system has gone, replaced by Ford's own torque-vectoring system. 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.
We tried two engines: a 161bhp diesel and a 180bhp petrol. The diesel feels strong and well-bred, but the petrol feels a bit out of place, especially with the torque-converter auto that kicks down if you even look at the throttle (blame the Americans again). Perhaps the lighter front-wheel-drive versions will feel a bit sweeter, though you'll have to make do with less power: 138bhp in the diesel, 148bhp in the petrol. And prices? You're looking at around £20,895 for a petrol Zetec, up to £29,795 for a diesel Titanium X (that's around a grand cheaper than the old car, spec for spec).
Fine. But here's the thing: where the first Kuga rebelled against more restrained rivals, this one has grown up and bought some proper trousers. Ford predicts it will continue to find 10,000-12,000 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...
1997cc, 4cyl, 4WD, 161bhp, 250lb ft, 48.2mpg, 154g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 9.9secs, 123mph, 1692kg
Ford's globalisation project continues, this time with a safer, roomier Kuga. We'll miss the old one, though...