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Driven: Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.

Driven: Ford Kuga Vignale
Can the upmarket Vignale Kuga convince us of its merits with more time in its company?


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Ford Kuga Vignale

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Good points: it's a Ford Kuga, so it's a fine crossover...

Not so good: ...but we still can't fathom where the extra expense of the Vignale truly comes from, compared to a Titanium model

Key Facts

Model tested: Ford Kuga Vignale 2.0 TDCi PowerShift AWD
Price: Kuga starts from 22,595; Vignale 2.0 TDCi PowerShift AWD from 35,345; car as tested 36,795
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 135g/km (200 VED first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 54.3mpg
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 180hp at 3,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000-2,500rpm

Our view:

The problem with this car, the Ford Kuga Vignale, is the entire Vignale issue and whether you buy into it or not. Many critics before ourselves have gone on at length about whether some quilted leather seats within, extra chrome without and a VIP area within a Ford showroom is enough of a set of extras to merit calling Vignale a 'brand', and the general consensus appears to be... no. No, it isn't.

Which brings us to this particular Kuga. Not, in itself, a bad machine. It's feeling a little bit dated having launched five years ago and while a trapezoidal-grille facelift in time for the 2017 model year refreshed things a little, the Ford C-segment crossover-SUV doesn't exactly feel like a class-leading machine. But it's by no means poor. The ride quality is decent, the interior is spacious and well finished, the equipment levels are good and the engine - in this case a 2.0-litre turbodiesel delivering fulsome outputs of 180hp and 400Nm - is cultured and muscular. The chassis is no great shakes, certainly not by Ford's own standards, but the Kuga is in essence a perfectly agreeable mid-sized crossover.

But we cannot fathom why on Earth you splash out more than 35,000 for the Vignale. It might look a bit different on the outside (although we'd argue we prefer the regular Kuga's horizontal-bars nose and less chintzy detailing) and have a plush cabin that's very pleasant, but the end product doesn't feel anything like special enough to justify that inflated price tag and it certainly isn't a match for truly premium fodder from German, Swedish and Japanese marques that offer bigger machines in this sort of price range.

Furthermore, don't think we dismissed the Kuga Vignale without giving ourselves plenty of time to be won over by whatever charms it might possess: we did 916 miles and more than 20 hours in the Ford, ploughing up and down motorways, wending our way through open countryside on flowing A-roads and chugging around in the throttled traffic that represents urban driving in the 21st-century UK, and while it never once did anything that made us angry or ready to utterly ridicule the Vignale notion (it even returned a highly credible 40.5mpg average over that distance), by the same token it also failed to convince us why you'd have this 180hp, AWD automatic model that, with options, was scandalously close to 37 grand, over and above a Kuga 2.0 TDCi 150hp Titanium manual, which rocks in at less than 28,000 normally. And which could even, at the time of writing, be purchased for 24,995 as part of a promotion.

No, it's going to take more than a special cup of coffee and some notion of customer concierge services to make a vehicle like the Kuga Vignale feel anything like a cut above its regular brethren. There are better C-segment SUVs than the Ford Kuga anyway, as the Blue Oval is almost certainly working on the all-new MkIII model for 2019, but if you do want to stick with the brand and you really want this size of crossover, then confine yourself to the lower end of the Kuga's price bracket and give this Vignale a swerve. It's a strangely confused machine, all told.


Honda CR-V: works better if you keep the costs down, as the ageing CR-V can get pricey in more desirable specification. It's due for replacement soon, probably much like the Kuga itself.

Skoda Karoq: the sort of all-round quietly talented machine that makes the Kuga Vignale look preposterously overpriced. The Skoda does everything you could want of it in tidy style.

Vauxhall Grandland X: Vauxhall took its sweet time to get into the C-segment SUV class, but the Grandland is a reasonably proficient machine, if not as nice as the Peugeot 3008 on which it is based.

Matt Robinson - 7 May 2018    - Ford road tests
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2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.

2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.2018 Ford Kuga Vignale. Image by Ford.


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