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Ford Kuga – Beating Spirit Road Test

At long last, Ford has a compact SUV soft-roader – and it’s claimed to be class-leading in terms of economy and emissions. Here Beating Spirit gives the Ford Kuga a quick review and road test. read on to get our thoughts.

Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI Zetec

Basic Specifications – Ford Kuga

Model/Engine size: 2.0 TDCI Zetec

Fuel: Diesel

Fuel economy combined: 44.1 mpg

Introducing the Kuga – Ford’s first proper foray into the SUV soft-roader segment

This is an important segment for any manufacturer. The company hasn’t had a contender in this category before – we’re obviously ignoring the Ford Maverick from a few years back, which was jointly badged with Mazda, and which was so completely unremarkable that very few people would have even been aware of it.

The striking looks were a key feature of Ford’s previews of the Kuga before launch. The production model is not quite as wild as some of the early concept cars, but nevertheless the looks of the Kuga remain one of its main selling points. It’s designed to have the Tonka Toy off-road appearance that will make owners of people carriers trade across to the 4×4 sector.

As well as its modern, chunky looks, the Kuga also has good economy and emissions. In fact Ford claims it has class-leading fuel consumption. The 44.1mpg is indeed marginally better than the 43.5mpg of the Honda CR-V, Jeep Compass and the BMW X3 2.0d. However if all four-wheel drive cars are looked at, it falls rather short of the 48.7mpg of the new Subaru Legacy Outback diesel, but Ford is adamant that the Kuga is in a different class than the Subaru. Whether Ford is right or wrong, one thing is sure – the company is likely to sell more Kugas in the UK than Subaru will sell Outbacks.

The Kuga, in common with the C-Max, also has a modern, well-designed, and quality interior, with all the gadgets that the family of today would expect in such a vehicle.

The Kuga is available in two specs, Zetec or the more expensive Titanium. The Zetec gets alloy wheels, air-conditioning, keyless start, a socket for an MP3 player and bright blue or orange interior trim. Titanium adds £2000 worth of more upmarket extras such as automatic lights and wipers, tinted glass, part-leather trim and cruise control.

Rear view of the Ford Kuga Zetec  Kuga 2.0 TDCI Zetec

A brief off-road test suggested that the Kuga is not a case of style over substance – the levels of grip seem respectable and the short front and rear overhangs are likely to be useful in the event of any moderately serious off-road encounter. As with most cars in this class, the Kuga’s 4×4 system will normally be predominantly front-wheel drive, with power being sent to the rear wheels when needed.

However the compact overhangs impact upon the space inside the Kuga, in particular the boot, which would result in any reasonable-sized dog occupying this space having its nose squashed against the rear window.

Ford has been keen to promote the Kuga’s car-like on-road driving dynamics. With its Focus-based suspension it drives well for a 4×4, and is less bouncy than a VW Tiguan, but it’s still a tall 4×4 with a high centre of gravity, so this will never handle like a Focus, which is 80mm closer to the ground. Along with the handling in general, the steering is not as sharp as that of a Focus.

The 136bhp 2 litre turbodiesel engine – the only choice at this time – is a good balance between performance and economy, however when under stress its tone has a definite resemblance to a Transit van. A 2.5 litre petrol engine will appear at the end of this year, however the demand for this will be very limited.

This car has everything that the Ford marketing department wants – good looks, respectable CO2 figures, a good on-road driving experience, and the promise of decent capability in the unlikely event of ever venturing off-road. It will undoubtedly do well in this market segment – in times when people want good image and maximum fuel economy it will be interesting to see how many people are prepared to sacrifice the better fuel consumption of a C-Max in favour of the more expensive 4×4 image of the Kuga.

Car facts and Figures

Fuel economy extra urban: 52.3 mpg

Fuel economy urban: 34.9 mpg

CO2 emissions: 169 g/km

Green rating: VED band E – £170

Weight: 1613 Kg

Company car tax liability (2007): 24%

Price: £20,500 (From £20,500 to £22,500)

Insurance group: 10

Safety: NCAP 5 stars

Max speed: 112 mph

0-62mph: 10.7 seconds

DPF: Yes

View of the Ford Kuga from teh side