Why dating a Kuga makes sense at last

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Ford has made major gains in recent years its sports utility vehicles, and not before time.

Ford has made major gains in recent years its sports utility vehicles, and not before time.

It took the firm a little while to realise how important these cars are but now Kuga and its smaller sibling EcoSport are well-priced and well-equipped.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that sales are soaring. Kuga, especially, played a major part in Ford clocking up its 40th consecutive year as the UK’s biggest seller of cars.

Last year sales of this SUV (sports utility vehicle) topped 32,000, up 7.7 per cent on the previous year and three times the level of five years ago. EcoSport also recorded 15,000 sales, up 35 per cent on the previous year.

It shows that Kuga is thriving, despite some hot competition such as SEAT Ateca and Renault Kadjar to name but two.

So, how has Kuga improved. Well, it’s mainly down to styling and two new models, the sporty ST-Line tested here and the luxury Vignale which have broadened the appeal of this car into Range Rover Evoque territory.

But there is also a terrific new 1.5 litre engine on the way, too.

Tested here, however, is the £31,000 ST-Line. It sounds like a lot of money but you do get a polished car with style and good specification. If you want a humbler Kuga, they do cost as little as £20,845.

The ST-Line looks sportier than it really is. OK, it manages 60mph in 9.2 seconds and has a firmer than average ride but it actually feels more like a luxury model than a sporty one.

It looks the part, though. It’s less anonymous than earlier Kugas and won’t be out of place against more expensive BMWs, Audis and Jaguars.

This 2.0 litre engine is good but all eyes - and big sale hopes - are on the 1.5 litre petrol and diesel engines. The diesel especially sounds good with 64mpg on average and 115g/km emissions.

The Kuga cabin is a world away from Fords of old. Technicians have reduced the number of buttons but raised the number of functions. That makes for a sleeker, neater and easier to use car.

Ford is busy on the SUV market. Kuga will sit among five new or redesigned Ford SUVs due in the next three years. It joins the updated EcoSport and all-new Edge, with two more models yet to come.

You can step up to Titanium from £24,245, with the sporty ST-Line from £25,845.

A flagship Vignale model, with bespoke styling and a more upmarket interior, begins from £30,795 with the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine and front-wheel drive.

It can also be specified with a 178bhp version of that engine with all-wheel drive, as well with the 179bhp 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol with an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.

Kuga benefits from a new nose with redesigned grille and restyled LED daytime running lights.

All auto models feature steering wheel-mounted paddles. Ford’s Adaptive Front Lighting system is available. It reads the road ahead and can adapt the lighting style to match speed, steering angle and distance from the car in front. Helping safety credentials are Intelligent four-wheel drive, torque vectoring and ‘Curve Control’, as well as Cross Traffic Alert and Active City Stop auto braking.

The car also features some hi-tech devices such as Perpendicular Parking which helps you to park hands free; an advanced version of Active City Stop to prevent low-speed collisions; an electronic tailgate; and intelligent all-wheel-drive.

It also has SYNC 3 which enables drivers to communicate with their vehicles in a way which would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

SYNC 3 delivers faster performance, simplified commands, and supports five additional languages. Simply by pushing a button and saying “I need a coffee,” “I need petrol,” and “I need to park,” drivers can locate nearby cafés, petrol stations or car parks, and find train stations, airports, and hotels.

iPhone users can activate Apple CarPlay, a smart, safer way to use your iPhone in the car allowing drivers to make phone calls, access music, send and receive messages, get directions optimised for traffic conditions, and more while they stay focused on the road. Android users can activate Android Auto which makes apps and services accessible in safer and seamless ways.

Kuga spearheaded the company’s SUV expansion in the UK after first going on sale in 2008, and sales increased to 32,926 in 2015 – up by over 35 per cent compared with 2014. Kuga sales in 2016 hit 35,476, up eight per cent on 2015, making it the best year since launch.

In short, Kuga is Ford’s most impressive SUV or crossover and is a worthy option in a world full of creditable rivals.

Ford Kuga ST-Line 2.0 TDCi six-speed

THE CAR FACTS

Price: £30,145

Engine: 2.0 litre diesel

Power: 180ps

Torque: 400Nm

Transmission: Six-speed all-wheel-drive

Top speed: 126mph

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Economy: 54.3mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 135g/km

Warranty: Three years’ 60,000 miles

Summary: Unimpressive early models have now been given a fabulous makeover

Rivals:

Audi Q2: This is a cheaper and shorter model with tiny engines but it looks good and has plenty of class.

Peugeot 3008: Bigger than the Q2 but smaller than the Kuga. New model is a major improvement in style and specification.

Mazda CX-5: Similar in size to the Ford and has a sporty stance. List prices are similar to the Kuga.