THIS IS the all-new Kuga, a car Ford hopes will change the understanding the South African population have of the acronym ‘SUV.’ As we all know, SUV currently stands for ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’, but Ford hopes to exchange the ‘Sports’ for ‘Smart.’
That’s right, the new Kuga is a Smart Utility Vehicle - the first of its kind. If Ford is to be believed, it’s quite simply the smartest way of getting from point A to point B.
I only spent a few minutes behind the wheel of the new Kuga, but I can see what Ford is on about. On the outside it may look like a muscular SUV competing with the likes of the all-new Rav4 and Hyundai iX35, but underneath it’s undoubtedly the class nerd.
You see, the previous-generation Kuga featured an old-school turbocharged five-cylinder petrol powertrain. It was a powerhouse, but it had an insane appetite for unleaded. With petrol costing as much as it does these days, it wasn’t really the best choice for those with a limited fuel budget.
The new Kuga has done a complete 180. It’s gone from the destroyer of unleaded to the saviour of the environment, all thanks to Ford’s EcoBoost technology.
The 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is available with two power outputs. The 110kW/240Nm is only available in front-wheel-drive and is paired to a six-speed manual gearbox. Ford claims a fuel consumption of 6.6 litres/100km and Co2 emissions of 154g/km.
The 134kW/240Nm derivative is available in all-wheel-drive and is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox with manual override. This version sips fuel at a rate of 7.7 litres/100km and emits only 179g/km of Co2.
I only had the opportunity to drive the basic model and it exceeded expectations.
Ford made headlines a few weeks ago with the introduction of its brilliant 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine in the Fiesta and this 1.6-litre powertrain will continue to enhance the reputation of this new engine technology.
Turbo lag is virtually non-existent and power delivery is seamless and smooth. In my humble opinion, the 110kW petrol is by far the pick of the litter.
That’s no mean feat considering the all-wheel-drive diesel option. It’s a 2.0-litre TDCi Duratorq unit producing 120kW and 340Nm of torque. It features Ford’s six-speed Powershift automatic with SelectShift override and is claimed to consume only 6.2 litres/100km.
The interior more than matches the highly educated powertrain options. Three spec levels are on offer, but even the basic Ambiente specification offers everything a modern SUV owner could possibly want. This includes steering-wheel audio controls, cruise control, keyless push-button start, and eco mode that help you get closer to the claimed fuel-consumption figures and the magnificent SYNC with Bluetooth and voice control.
Trend specification adds auto-folding mirrors with puddle lamps, rear parking sensors, leather seats, a high-end Sony sound system, four-inch colour display and climate control.
The top-of-the-range Titanium models are lavishly equipped with beautiful 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps with auto high-beam function and cornering ability, LED tail lamps, rain-sensing wipers and smart keyless entry. This model also features an “open sesame” tailgate. This allows the driver to open the tailgate without using his hands. You merely stand behind the vehicle and wave your foot underneath the car. It’s fun and practical feature that will make a huge difference to those of us who don’t know the limits of our own personal loading capacity.
As it’s a family vehicle, Ford has spent a lot of time ensuring that it’s smart where it matters most - safety. The Kuga was awarded a maximum five-star rating by Euro NCAP and achieved an overall protection score higher than any other mid-sized SUV before it. All models in the line-up feature seven airbags, Isofix child anchors and the usual host of electronic nannies.
At this point you’d expect the sophistication to stop, but Ford also gives you the option of specifying a Titanium Option pack which takes the Kuga to new levels of safety and sophistication. The safety technology included in this pack, among a few other things, include Active City Stop (avoids collisions when driving slowly in queues), adaptive cruise control (maintains a set speed and detects moving vehicles in front of the car), lane-departure warning, a lane-keeping aid and a system that parallel parks the car for you. All of this for the lowly price of R35 000.
The all-new Kuga comes with a 4-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, 4-year/80 000km service plan on petrol derivatives and a 5-year/90 000km service plan on diesel models.