By Breda Corrigan
The original Ford Kuga SUV graced our shores in 2008 and went on to become a great sales success for the blue oval brand. Although it was regarded as being little more than a high-driving Ford Focus at the time, owners loved the way the Kuga served up hatchback-style handling, while benefiting from the extra space and practicality of the larger five-door family SUV. To help the Kuga stay fresh in the face of increasing competition from the likes of the Peugeot 3008, Renault Kadjar and Kia Sportage, Ford launched the second-generation Kuga in 2013 with a new design language, cleaner and more efficient engines, and improved infotainment technology.
However, for the all-new third-generation Kuga, Ford has concentrated its attention in all the key areas, providing the Kuga with eye-catching good looks, excellent levels of standard equipment, an efficient range of engines, and solid safety credentials. In fact, the all-new Kuga has been awarded the highest-possible 5-star safety rating by the Euro NCAP independent crash test authority, scoring 92 per cent for adult protection and receiving full points in both the side barrier and the more severe side pole impact tests. The Kuga’s structure utilises high-strength steel throughout the skeleton and intelligent designs to improve impact protection, including ultra-high-strength 3D-rolled steel tubes incorporated into each A-pillar and along the rooflines. The all-new Kuga is based on Ford’s highly-acclaimed C2 platform, so it shares its underpinnings with the latest Focus hatchback – leading to sharp driving dynamics and excellent body control through corners.
The new Ford Kuga Diesel is available in a choice of four variants – Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale – with power supplied by a 1.5-litre EcoBlue Turbo-Diesel engine. For buyers looking for alternative engine options, the new Kuga is also available in plug-in hybrid (PHEV), mild hybrid and full hybrid versions.
My test car was a Kuga ST-Line X 1.5 EcoBlue Diesel 6 Speed Manual FWD, which attracts annual road tax of just €200. Standard features include 18” Rock metallic alloy wheels, full LED headlamps, front LED fog lights with front cornering, black roof rails, large rear spoiler, red brake calipers, auto high/low beam headlamp control, partial premium-touch Sensico sports seats with red stitching, B&O premium sound system, driver impairment monitor, alloy foot pedals, ST-Line front & rear floor mats and front scuff plates, along with an ST-Line full body kit comprising of unique front & rear fascia and bumper design, rear painted diffuser, front painted skid plate and a dark mesh upper grille. Producing 118bhp (120PS) and 270Nm of torque, the refined 4-cylinder turbo-diesel Kuga can sprint from 0-100km/h in 12.7-seconds and can reach a top speed of 173km/h (where permitted). The Kuga’s slick manual transmission is a joy to use, and it feels well weighted at all times. With a delightful balance of comfort and handling, and the finest driving dynamics in its class, the new Kuga Diesel provides a grown-up driving experience on every journey, while a strong brake pedal feel ensures driver confidence behind the leather-clad, multi-function steering wheel.
Rewarding Occupant Experience.
Comfort, spaciousness, flexibility and connectivity are key to the more rewarding Kuga occupant experience. The new Kuga is 44mm wider and 89mm longer than the previous model, while the wheelbase has increased by 20mm. Inside the cabin, that translates to increases in shoulder room, hip room and headroom for front and rear seat passengers, despite an overall height that is 6mm lower than before. For rear seat passengers, heated outer seats are available for the first time, and the entire second row of seats can be moved backwards for best-in-class rear legroom (1,035mm) or forwards to increase boot space to best-in-class 645-litres. A remote release function enables the second row to be folded flat with ease. The boot also has a reversable luggage compartment mat with a high-quality velour on one side for a premium look and feel, and a durable and robust rubber surface on the other side to prevent wet or muddy items from soiling the interior.
For the first time, the new Kuga is offered with FordPass Connect modem technology that allows customers to remotely control a selection of vehicle features from any location with a mobile data signal. In addition to helping drivers plan faster, less stressful journeys with Live Traffic updates for the navigation system, FordPass Connect allows a range of features to be accessed for a more convenient ownership experience via the FordPass mobile app.
Verdict & Pricing.
By injecting some of the original Kuga’s dynamic appeal into the new Kuga, it is safe to say that Ford’s latest mid-size SUV is on target to reclaim its crown as one of the best SUV’s on the market. If you are looking for a practical family SUV that combines driving thrills with excellent fuel efficiency and brisk performance, then the new Ford Kuga Diesel is certainly worthy of serious consideration. The all-new Ford Kuga (Titanium model) is priced from €33,358 (ex-works), with the Kuga ST-Line X Diesel priced from €38,320 (ex-works).