It’s been almost three years since I last gave the Ford Kuga a decent look – back then it was an impressive car without question – today, it stacks up as well if not better with refinements from top to bottom.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
This is a car you have to take for a test drive. But don’t just take it where the salesman tells you. Take it somewhere familiar – feel it around the roundabouts, see what it’s like in traffic – that’s the kind of experience that will make you smile once you hand back those dealer keys.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t just take it for a spin. Stop, pair your smartphone, get out of the car – test out a few of the features.
Keyless entry is something that someone who bought a car 5-8 years ago would have thought was just for the luxury cars. Likewise the crazy concept of opening the rear door without touching the car. Wave your foot under the rear bumper and up comes the door – fantastic for shopping or packing for a trip.
All in all, this is a car I’d have no hesitation in starting to talk deals with the salesman on after that test drive – and after spending a bit more time inside it only grew on me – that’s what you want from a $40,000+ purchase right?
Ins and Outs
The key change from the last time I drove this is not the ride, not the handling – though I’m sure there have been subtle tweaks. No regular family would have any complaints about the way this thing drives on the road.
For me, the difference is the inside – the dash in particular. The addition of the Sync 2 infotainment system means a less complex console full of buttons and that’s been a big win for the driver.
On the road though I’ve been driving the Diesel variant. This 2 litre power plant isn’t for speed off the line, but at no point was I left wanting. Enough grunt to get me round the odd vehicle on the motorway and no boring diesel drone. You’d barely know it was a Diesel until you pulled up at the pump.
I found the steering to be soft yet direct, good feedback through the wheel and enough weight to ensure you felt the control, but easy to guide with one hand while the kids were demanding this that or the other.
The bottom line – you’ll enjoy the drive. But that’s not what Ford is hoping to win you over with. It’s the tech inside they’re loving.
The Tech Inside
Ford’s own press release states that the “Ford Kuga offers 10 advanced technologies not found on the RAV4” – yep, they know what’s selling out there, and they want a slice of the action.
Here’s a long list of cool stuff that’s not just class leading – this is hard to find in many higher priced cars.
- Emergency Assistance – Crash your Kuga hard enough that airbags are deployed or the emergency fuel pump is shut off and the car itself calls for an emergency response – you’ve got 10 seconds to cancel it yourself if you’ve got things under control, but if you’ve been hurt – you can be sure help is coming.
- AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control – This monitors the roll and motion 100 times per second and works the brakes and engine to ensure all four wheels are firmly on the road.
- Wi-Fi hotspot – Yep, SYNC2 can turn use your smartphone to create a WiFi hotspot for passengers. I like the idea, but really – you can do it direct from your phone so not sure it’s a retired feature.
- Active City Stop – You know those annoying low-speed accidents? Well your Kuga will detect a collision and apply the brakes and reduce engine torque automatically. The same smarts are used to give you visual and audible alerts when at normal speeds. I got the alert a few times within the week, and while none were close calls for me, I don’t mind the extra set of eyes frankly.
- Hand-free Power Tailgate – I mentioned this earlier – wave your foot under the bumper and up comes the rear door – so easy, so cool.
- Active Grille Shutter – One of those things you’ll never know is there – behind the front grill there’s a shutter which opens to cool the engine, but closes at other times to reduce drag and potentially save fuel.
- Capless Refueling System – No need to unscrew the fuel cap and get your hands all dirty – no cap, just throw the nozzle in – easy.
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring System – Right out of high-end motorsport, the car is monitoring pressures to give you an early warning of any issues from the wheel sensors.
- Auto Start-Stop Engine – Ford (and every other company) tell us these auto-start & stop engines “Reduce fuel consumption and emissions” “by switching off the engine automatically when the car comes to a complete stop.” I’m sure they do – like whitening toothpaste makes your teeth whiter – by a thousandth of a percentage of change. I find these systems more annoying than anything else and on a Diesel you notice it.
- Adaptive Cruise Control – You don’t even get this on a Jaguar – without spending big bucks on the option. This is the best thing for anyone who does freeway driving – simple cruise control, but it knows the speed of the car in front so will slow down to sit behind them until you pull out and have a clear road. Very cool – should be in all cars.
At $47,190 you’re probably searching and comparing the Ford Kuga to things like the Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mitsubishi Outlander and Hyundai Tucson – among many others – in particular the Toyota RAV4. It’s a crowded price point and a crowded market.
For all the tech inside this Titanium variant, its money well spent. You can get a Kuga for $28,000 – but you’ll be left wanting on most of the best tech and features – well worth the extra if you can push it.
EFTM Rubber Stamp
Big fan of this car. Ticks the boxes for many looking for this “SUV” approach to the family car. While I mourn the loss of the family wagon, the mid-sized SUV blazes ahead. Kuga should be considered by anyone in the market.
I wish more of its features were able to be pushed down into the entry-level model, but perhaps that’s just something that will come with time – until then, when it comes to the $47,190 Titanium version – I award this the EFTM Credit Stamp of approval.