EFTM REVIEW: Ford Kuga – almost a self-driving car

It’s interesting to look back a few years at the best technology in cars and realise that some of the coolest gear from back then is so very close to becoming standard fare in some popular vehicles on the market today.  EFTM has spent some time behind the wheel of the all-new Ford Kuga SUV recently and this is one tech packed car.

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Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga

The Kuga is a small SUV, sitting below the Territory in the Ford line-up in terms of size and has some strong competition in this compact SUV category.  The optional tech-pack is where the real value of the Kuga shines above its competitors.

The 10 minute test drive

Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga

The Kuga offers a smooth drive, very stable with minimal body roll through the obligatory city roundabouts and a good drive and performance in and out of traffic.

I doubt too many people shopping for a compact SUV who might be trailing competitors like the VW Tiguan or the Mazda CX5 – both very capable and quality vehicles – will be anything but impressed by the Kuga.

There is a distinct european feel about the design and build to the Kuga making whatever model you’re in the market for seem to justify the price tag.

The Kuga’s stance is high, but not overwhelming for those coming from a non-SUV class of vehicle which is not uncommon in these days when SUV’s seem to be all the rage.

Like many Fords today the dash and centre console on the Kuga are a little overwhelming with more buttons than it’s possible to count – in particular for the stereo which is probably the one place where the Kuga falls behind – you do expect a large touch-screen to control all those features, yet in the Kuga the screen is recessed in the upper dash with loads of buttons for stereo control within reach.

Overall though, you’ll come away from your test drive satisfied the Kuga lacks nothing if the size meets your needs.

In’s and out’s

The 1.6 litre petrol ecoboost 134kW/240Nm engine on the test vehicle was hardly a brisk performer.  Upgrading to Ford’s decent 2.0 litre Duratorq Diesel which produces 120kW / 340Nm of torque is probably worthwhile if you like more punch.

Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga

Let’s move past the engine options, the many and varied model types that Ford offer – you’ll read about those elsewhere and the dealer will walk you through the range right the way up to the Titanium model which will have you hitting close to $50,000.

Here’s where it gets very cool.  At that level you’re getting almost everything possible by way of technology.

  • Ford Kuga - Push button start

    Ford Kuga – Push button start

    Keyless entry and start – this is becoming more and more standard among new cars, and it’s on the Kuga – walk up to the car and simply pull the door handle to unlock and get right in.  Keep the key in your pocket and push the dashboard mounted button to fire up the engine.

  • Hands-free tailgate – you might have seen this in the ads.  Walk up to the back of the Kuga, wave your foot below the rear bumper bar and the tailgate door will click open and rise up to allow you to throw the shopping in the back without first putting it down.  A great feature no doubt, but in our testing it required the car to be unlocked.  With keyless entry available, you’d like to think that it would know you’re holding the key on your person, so why not let you wave the foot to open up?
  • Ford Sync – Fords fancy name for their infotainment system including voice controlled features and bluetooth connectivity for your phone.  It’s great – but like many voice systems they take some time to get used to – and determine what you’re going to use and not.
  • Auto parking – Ford may not have been the first to do automated parking, but they certainly did make a splash with it in the Focus in recent years.  It’s for the most part a real gimmick, but don’t doubt how well it works in the right circumstances.
Ford Kuga - interior

Ford Kuga – interior

Now, for the ultimate technology packed car – let’s add the Ford Kuga Tech pack ($2650):

  • Adaptive Cruise control – Setting your car at a specific speed so you can concentrate on the road and those around you has been a great feature – especially for decent length drives with some highway action in them.  Adaptive cruise control takes that one step further, and while common on some exotic cars it’s trickling into more and more vehicles, and the Ford Kuga implementation is excellent.  You set your desired speed, and the distance you’d like to maintain to the vehicle in front.  If a car pulls in front of you in highway traffic your Kuga will drop back and maintain the gap.  Likewise if you’re travelling below your set speed and pull out into an open lane your Kuga will accelerate up to your chosen speed.  It’s possibly the most useful tech feature of the Kuga, if your daily commute involves a little or a lot of freeway driving – you’ll love this.
  • Automatic city braking – just as well implemented but certainly harder to test and not something I’d encourage, the auto braking helps you when you get off the highway and into bumper to bumper traffic.  When you are plodding along at under 30kph the Kuga keeps an eye on the car in front and if they brake and you don’t slow up, the Kuga will not just warn you – it will brake for you.  It’s a real wake up moment.
  • Ford Kuga - Blind spot notification

    Ford Kuga – Blind spot notification

    Lane keeping assistance – Out on the highway it’s not uncommon to veer out of your lane either through poor attention or perhaps a tired moment.  The Kuga doesn’t just beep to warn you it’s happening, it actively steers you back into your lane.  Just subtle movements to correct your errors, it won’t swerve if you have swerved away, but for those moments where you glance over the lines the Kuga will push you back.

  • Blind spot alerts – you might think you’ve checked the lane beside you, but often there’s a car lurking right alongside you.  If there is, the Kuga will show a blinking orange light on your mirror – you’ll know it’s there!
  •  Auto high beam – This isn’t a feature I would have thought of, but it makes a real difference when you’re on a country road and have forgotten to flick the high beam off when a car comes the other way you’ll never have them flashing their lights at you again – the Kuga dims the lights for you.  Simple, but very effective.

That’s a pretty amazing list of items to have on a $50,000 vehicle.  You’ll struggle to understand them all on your first test drive

Bragging rights

Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga

The Kuga offers some great bragging rights – even if it’s the wife’s car.  Great design, good interior quality and all that tech.  This is as close as you can get to the “self-driving” car.  It’s a pretty amazing thing which your mates will struggle to not be impressed by.  Plus, it drives well, and has plenty of space.

The hip pocket

If you want all those bragging rights you aren’t getting away from the dealer for much less than $50,000.  Sure the Kuga starts at $28,000 but if all of the above appeals to you, you will drive away pretty unhappy.  Stump up the cash – you won’t regret it.

EFTM Rubber stamp

Ford Kuga - earns the CREDIT stamp from EFTM

Ford Kuga – earns the CREDIT stamp from EFTM

It’s hard to imagine a good old Ford could pack so much cool stuff in the dash.  For the Kuga itself this is a clear PASS, but if you option up and throw in the Tech-pack – a CREDIT is well deserved.




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