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Crossing the divide. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Crossing the divide
Ford finally adds a crossover to its range, and it's been well worth the wait.

 



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| First Drive | Jerez, Spain | Ford Kuga |

If the devil is in the detail then the person at Ford who dished out the top of the door trim and fitted a shaped fabric section is on first name terms with Beelzebub. My arm fits perfectly, allowing me to use the door-top as an armrest and hold the wheel comfortably when cruising on the motorway. It's just one of a number of neat touches on Ford's new Kuga.

In the Metal

A 'crossover', the Kuga is a sort of genetic mutation of a hatchback and a 4x4. With a bit of estate thrown in, too. A compact SUV then? Absolutely, but Ford prefers the less negatively-burdened crossover tag. Like every manufacturer talking of its new product Ford likes to describe the Kuga as coupé-like in profile. That's really stretching it, though it is admirable just how faithful the Kuga is to the iosis X concept that announced to the world Ford had a new four-wheel drive coming soon. Big headlamps dominate the Kuga's face, the upper section of the nose being very similar to the Focus, the large lower grille clearly influenced by the Mondeo.

In profile, the Kuga's flanks share the bold feature line and window shape of its S-Max MPV relative, that familial resemblance with the successful sporting MPV continuing around the rear. But the Kuga is more than merely a Ford design mash-up. There are unique touches that mark out the Kuga as a distinct offering from the rest of the Ford line-up. Faux skid plates feature under the front and rear bumpers - the rear one punctuated by twin tailpipes - while smart slashes under the headlamps and the blistered bonnet give it a unique look.

What you get for your Money

Ford is only offering the Kuga with one engine at launch, a 2.0-litre TDCi unit, and it's only available in two trim levels - Zetec and Titanium. It's clear that Ford is very confident in its new car as it is priced almost identically to Volkswagen's Tiguan. The Zetec costs £20,500, the Titanium £22,500. However you look at it, that's a lot of money, especially as Nissan offers its Qashqai for a great deal less. The Kuga does come well equipped though, and if people can see past the Ford badge - as they have done with the hugely popular S-Max - then Ford could well be onto a real sales winner.

Those wanting a petrol engine - or an automatic gearbox - will have to wait until Ford puts the 2.5-litre five-cylinder 197bhp petrol into the Kuga. That'll not happen until late in the year. It should give the Kuga the sort of performance to really exploit its excellent dynamic ability, but really what the Kuga needs is a larger output diesel, the 134bhp 2.0-litre TDCi offered at launch struggling a bit with the Kuga's bulk.

Driving it

Anything wearing a Ford badge in Europe comes with a degree of expectation regarding its driving experience. And the Kuga lives up to that promise, exhibiting its shared Focus DNA with sharp steering and excellent dynamic ability. There's a touch of body roll when first turning the steering wheel (hardly surprising in something so tall), but the body settles quickly and is neatly controlled even when pushing the Kuga hard. The steering offers various settings; Standard being the preferred option, the Sport option perhaps too sharp for something so tall.

Perhaps as a result of the Kuga's impressive dynamic ability the 2.0-litre TDCi sometimes feels a bit underwhelming. The 0-62mph time of 10.7 seconds is competitive with its direct rivals, but it never feels like it has got the sort of punch that the chassis could so easily cope with. Overtaking requires quick use of the slick, high-mounted six-speed manual gearbox, and plenty of revs, and hence refinement suffers. There's a bit of wind noise around the base of the windscreen at speed, too. Otherwise it's a comfortable driving environment, the high driving position feeling loftier than its rivals, yet you never feel like the drive is compromised as a result of it. The intelligent four-wheel drive only ever directs drive to the rear (as much as 50%) when it's needed, meaning it's effectively front-wheel drive the majority of the time.

Worth Noting

That intelligent four-wheel drive system enables the Kuga to return some very impressive CO2 and consumption figures. It'll return 44.1mpg on the official combined cycle, while its CO2 emissions are just 169g/km. That's less than its direct rivals and is not far off more conventional family cars. As an example, Ford's own C-Max 2.0 TDCi Titanium emits just 14g/km less. Inside, along with that excellent scalloped section in the top of the door there are many more neat touches. There's an optional three-pin plug in the rear, the glovebox is massive and the split rear seats fold away quickly and easily. It also comes with a start button as standard. We'd prefer a regular key - especially as the steering column still features the moulding with a blanking plate in it to go around an ignition barrel.

Summary

Ford's Kuga isn't the first 'crossover' to reach the market, but as ever Ford has delivered a very impressive contender in this growing marketplace. If sharp driving is your priority then the Kuga is the best in the class, while its standard specification and smart looks also appeal. There are some clever features inside too, which make it even more attractive as a family car. It's a shame the 2.0 TDCi doesn't deliver more grunt on the move, though the consumption and CO2 figures it returns are very impressive indeed.

Kyle Fortune - 10 Apr 2008









  www.ford.co.uk    - Ford road tests
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2008 Ford Kuga specifications: (Zetec/Titanium)
Price: £20,500/£22,500 on-the-road.
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Emissions: 169g/km
Kerb weight: 1613kg

Full technical specifications

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Ford.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Ford.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Ford.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Ford Kuga. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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