Nine-time 24hrs champion gives the current crop some tips
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The Top Gear car review:Ford Kuga
For:Safer, more affordable, more spacious and more convenient than before
Against:Not as fun as it used to be. It's grown up and got some proper trousers...
What is it?
Back in 2008, when the world was obsessed with ‘planking’ and shutter shades, Ford launched the Kuga. It was a time when the SUV market was a less crowded and fighty than it is today. And the quirky Kuga was one of the first small SUVs to try and pump a bit more ‘Sport’ than ‘Utility’ into the SUV moniker – largely through wacky, angular styling and driving dynamics not too far removed from a Focus or Mondeo. At the time, that was a very good thing.
We liked it. It was different and held its own against the competition. But after just four years on sale, when most cars would be refreshed, Ford’s junior SUV was instead killed and replaced with this all-new version. Which is a shame, because we rather liked the old Ford Kuga’s proportions and the way it went down the road.
We can blame the Americans for its newfound bloatedness. As, when the time came to replace the shoddy – but popular – Escape, they took one look at the Ford Kuga and decided that would do nicely. But new Fords must now be global, and the Kuga was very much a Euro thing, and so it was decided that an all-new one would be built. It had essentially become a victim of its own success. And now the second-generation has had a mid-life nip ‘n’ tuck as well as a technological and connectivity reboot.
Being a bit bigger, there’s more space in the boot and leg and headroom for rear passengers. But getting a bit of extra length (all 81mm of it) it’s also manoeuvred itself out of its normal competitor range, rubbing shoulders with the Nissan Qashqai, Mazda CX-5 and Skoda Kodiaq, and into the sights of the Kia Sorento and Hyundai’s Santa Fe.
But it still drives finer, thanks to being underpinned by the same European platform as the Ford Focus, a new four-wheel-drive system (having dumped Haldex) and the same torque vectoring system (the clever tech that brakes a spinning inside wheel to shove drive to an outer one to improve grip) from the Focus RS. Basically, it’s drift mode turned on its head. But with a large spread of engines, trim packages and the ability to have two- or four-wheel drive, there’s something for every family.