- We like...Involving drive; sharp looks
- We don't...Small boot; stiff price
If you want an off-roader that's really, really sharp to drive, the Kuga's for you. It's a touch too pricey for us, thoughFord makes the world’s best-selling car, the F-series, and it’s a four-wheel drive. But, despite this, Ford hasn’t had the best of times selling 4x4 vehicles in the UK. Until a few months back, Ford owned Land Rover and that removed the need for Ford to build its own.
But now that Land Rover has been sold, the challenge of building a successful Ford-badged 4x4 is back. So here’s the Kuga: marketed squarely at drivers who like the idea of an off-roader, but who’ll rarely if ever muddy its flanks.
And on the road, the Kuga is a terrific car to drive. Smooth-riding, refined, responsive, it’ll feel familiar to anyone who’s spent time in the latest- generation Ford Mondeo – one of the best drives at its price. And while it’s some achievement to make the Mondeo drive as it ds, it’s even harder to get an off-roader to do that well.
So it’s off to a good start. But it competes against a clutch of talented rivals including Land Rover’s Freelander, Honda’s CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. Each draws in a band of fiercely loyal owners which the Kuga must lure away, if it is to succeed.
Ford’s designers have triumphed with this car. Looks are subjective but most agree that the Kuga is handsome and individual. But it also gives its drivers all that’s good about an off-roader: high driving position, good visibility, and an increased sense of security over a ‘conventional’ car.
The cabin is pleasant to sit in, sharing much in its looks with current other Fords: the S-Max, C-Max and Mondeo. Its instrument dials are finely designed and look almost out-of-place classy in Ford. The centre console is expensively finished and clearly laid out, underlining an impression that it’s an expensive car.
But in the cabin’s lower half, the plastics used are cheaper than what’s at eye level. Space for five adults is good enough and the two-tone seat fabrics are eye-catching, while the rearmost seats tip easily to create an enlarged and flat-floored loading bay. Unless you do this, though, the boot is small for the car. A two-piece tailgate is a bonus, although the button to operate the top half is hidden and fiddly.
The 2.0 turbodiesel engine that’s currently the only available is smooth, muted and hard-working, although it achieved a disappointing 35.3mpg as we took it over 300-plus miles of mixed driving. You should achieve up to 44.1mpg overall. CO2 emissions are low at 169g/km, though, keeping road tax and company car levies sensible.
Its newness means that second-hand Kugas are, for the moment, relatively scarce and high-priced but, wait six months and more should be for sale, and at more realistic prices. If you’re buying new, the asking price for our Titanium-spec test car is at £22,500 a high one, although you could opt for a Zetec model and save £2000. As it is, the higher price puts it on par for a Honda CR-V, while a Land Rover Freelander is also within reach.
The Kuga’s a good car. But for us, it’s not the one we’d grab over a Freelander or CR-V. If it were a touch cheaper, though, the story might be a different one.
- Engines2.0 TDCi
- 0-60 mph10.7sec
- Insurance groups10
Motors.co.uk value verdict: