Road Test

Ford Kuga 2.0

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Finally, a 4x4 that might just win you over: The Ford Kuga has all the things you want in an off-roader but few of things that make many people dismiss them as gas-guzzling leviathans

We on this newspaper are not known for our love of 4x4s. But neither should we allow prejudice and gut feeling to obscure the facts.

As a motoring writer, I am not keen on the 4x4 genre outside its proper area of use (on tough terrain). But this new Ford Kuga opens the mind. First, it has a CO2 emissions rating of 169g/km, lower than that of any comparable car including the Honda CR-V. Second, being based on Ford's so-called C-car underpinnings, on which the best-driving family hatchback on the planet is also based (the Ford Focus), suggests the promise of decent dynamic abilities.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi

Prices: £20,500 (Zetec), £22,500 (Titanium). On sale June

Engine: 1,997cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbodiesel, 136bhp at 4,000rpm, 236lb ft at 2,000rpm

Transmission: six-speed gearbox, four-wheel drive

Performance: 112mph, 0-62 in 10.7 seconds, 44.1mpg official average,

CO2: 169g/km

There has been a similar-sounding Ford before – in name, anyway. A decade ago Ford's US arm launched the Cougar coupé, which was sold here with little success despite being a fully formed example of Ford's European-inspired "edge design" canon. This time, the etymologically different but phonetically familiar Ford comes from the "kinetic design" school which ousted edginess via an interregnum of rather dull sobriety.

Yes, the Kuga is Kinetic. Its design is meant to suggest motion, to make you want to drive the car. Buyers of cars like this, who often buy them for show as much as for usefulness, like a bit of visual bling and the Kuga obliges. There's almost a taste of 1950s automotive Americana in the fake air vents under the headlights and just ahead of the doors, set into the bash-proof plastic front wings. The other plastic body panel, this one thicker and stiffer, is the upper tailgate surround which can be opened separately from the main tailgate and gives a bigger loading hole than opening the window alone, as found in some estate cars, would provide.

Ford has obvious connections with Volvo and Land Rover, both experienced in four-wheel drive systems, even if the British brand now belongs to Tata. But that doesn't mean the Kuga shares technology with the bigger Freelander and Volvo XC60, although it does have a stability system designed to stop it rolling over. Not that such a disaster is remotely likely, as you can sense within yards of driving the Kuga.

It feels like the taller, wider, longer-wheelbase Focus it effectively is, which means no other compact 4x4 comes near the Kuga's kinetic prowess. Just one engine will be available when sales start in June, the 2.0-litre, 136bhp turbodiesel, but it's an engine well suited to the Kuga. Ford's 200bhp, 2.5-litre, five-cylinder petrol turbo joins the diesel later in the year. It will be faster but a lot thirstier.

The diesel has the crisp-edged, punchy power delivery typical of today's better diesels, which sets the tone for the driving experience. When you set off in a 4x4, you're normally prepared for two possible outcomes. Either the machine will feel top-heavy and threaten to trip over its outside front wheel if you turn too enthusiastically, or its suspension will feel hard and fidgety because it's designed to stop the car leaning too much, too soon. A Honda CR-V is a 4x4 which manages to avoid these extremes, feeling instead much like a normal car, but the Kuga takes things a stage further.

Its steering is terrific: crisp and consistent. I can't think of a 4x4 that steers better. The Kuga stays level in the corners yet it soaks up bumps with surprising serenity. It feels alert and agile yet it keeps its passengers comfortable. Truly, I have not before encountered a 4x4 as adept at eating the cake it possesses. Ford's slogan is "Feel the Difference", and you absolutely can.

Provided, that is, you don't try to mess things up by playing with the gimmick that can make the steering "sportier" by adding resistance and therefore weighting, or more "comfortable" by increasing the power assistance. Neither feels natural.

Some markets will have front-drive-only Kugas at the bottom of their ranges, but for the UK all will have four-wheel drive with power sent to the rear wheels when needed. There's no need for any driver intervention, even when off-roading, which is something the Kuga does quite competently.

The UK also gets upmarket trim levels, called Zetec and Titanium in usual Ford fashion. The first of these can be had with an interesting finish on the interior trim garnishes, a soft-looking, semi-matt sheen either in blue or orange. The seats are mono-striped to match. If your choice of exterior colour clashes with these hues, though, you can instead have something which looks like aluminium. In the grander Titanium there's shiny blackness and half-leather seating, with full leather optional.

Common to all Kugas, though, is a feeling of quality and solidity, and an interior ambience more car-like than 4x4-like. The dashboard is shared with the Focus C-Max, for example.

If you like 4x4s, you'll love this one. If you don't, it's the one most likely to change your mind.

THE RIVALS

Honda CR-V 2.2 i-CDTi: from £18,990

Looks like an estate car plonked on top of a truck, but is roomy, well finished and feels good to drive. Excellent diesel engine, passable off-road ability.

Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0 D-iD: from £19,449

Another gentle off-roader; this one lets you turn off 4WD. Has seven seats and a VW engine. Mitsubishi-made Peugeot 4007/Citroë*C-Crosser very similar.

Vauxhall Antara 2.0 CDTi: from £21,105

Korean-built and good-looking, shares Chevy Captiva underpinnings. Petrol version slow and thirsty, manual diesel clumsy to drive, auto version worth a look.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
people

Far-right organisation has defended its actions on Facebook

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    English Teacher

    £4848 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Outstanding...

    Cover Supervisors/Teaching Assistants Secondary Schools in York

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Cover Supervisors/Long Term Teaching Ass...

    Science Teacher

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher...

    Cover Supervisor

    £55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Cover Supervisors needed for seco...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker