Slotting in between the EcoSport and recently launched Edge in Ford's European SUV line-up, the Kuga, which carries the Escape moniker in the US and now also in Australia, takes inspiration from the Edge aesthetically, with a large trapezoidal grille, new headlights with daytime running LED's, smaller front air dam and wheel sizes ranging from 17 to 19-inches.
At the back, the taillights have been redesigned while the innovative hands-free tailgate, which can be opened and closed by swiping your foot underneath the rear bumper, has been retained along with a new power operated tow-bar.
Available for the first time, the Kuga will be also offered in a choice of two styling packs aimed at providing a sporty or luxury feel. To this end, the ST-Line option includes unique alloy wheels, sport seats, optimised suspension and steering for reduced body roll and sharper response, while the Vignale boasts an exclusive pearlescent Milano Grigio exterior finish, bespoke hexagonal quilted Windsor leather and tuxedo-like stitching on the seats and door cards.
In-car connectively has also been sharpened up with the highlight being Ford's SYNC3 infotainment system which features not only Voice Recognition, but faster performance, simplified commands, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Wi-Fi and access to apps such as Spotify, MyBoxMan and AccuWeather.
Along with an enhanced version of its predecessor's Active City Stop collision avoidance system and Perpendicular Parking now with semi-autonomous Active Park Assist, new safety items include Adaptive Front Lighting System which adjust the lighting beam depending ambient light and prevailing weather conditions, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, Park-Out Assist, Curve Control, Torque Vectoring and Intelligent All-Wheel Drive.
Up front, the Kuga will be offered with a choice of two TDCi engines and a single EcoBoost petrol, with two transmission options and drive either going to the front or all four wheels.
Available in three states of tune, petrol power comes from a 1.5-litre EcoBoost developing either 88 kW and 240 N.m of torque, or 110 kW with torque remaining unchanged at 240 N.m. A six-speed manual drive is the only transmission offered with drive going to the front wheels. Rounding the range off, the flagship 1.5 EcoBoost makes 134 kW and 240 N.m with a six-speed Powershift dual-clutch box sending the grunt to all four wheels.
On the diesel front, a 1.5 TDCi replaces the low-output 2.0-litre unit as the base engine, with power being rated at 88 kW and 270 N.m of torque, and drive restricted to the front wheels via the manual or Powershift box.
Carried over from the current Kuga, the mid-range 2.0 TDCi punches out 110 kW and 370 N.m of torque with front and all-wheel drive offered in conjunction with the manual box, while the Powershift is AWD only. Completing the range, the high output AWD only 2.0 TDCi churns out 132 kW and 400 N.m with transmissions mirroring that of its lesser powerful sibling.
South African pricing and spec is expected to be announced closer to launch next year.