2015 Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost driven

As Ford continues its product offensive and impressive sales performance in 2015 – in April the Blue Oval secured its highest ever market share of 16.6 per cent – the firm’s updated its popular Kuga SUV with new engines. The range now includes a powerful 177kW/340Nm flagship model using the Focus ST’s 2.0-litre turbo and we drove the downsized 1.5 EcoBoost petrol which replaces the 1.6, claiming to be kinder to the environment and more frugal, but before we get into all of that, more about the updated range.

The 2.0-litre TDCi AWD PowerShift gains an extra 12kW and 60Nm, boosting peak power and torque to 132kW/400Nm with a fuel consumption drop of 12 per cent to 5.4l/100km. The 1.5-litre EcoBoost that replaces the previous 1.6 is offered in two states of tune and four derivatives. Two front-wheel drive models make 110kW and are driven with the help of a six-speed manual. Two automatic versions make 132kW/240Nm and the downsizing means CO2 is reduced from 154g/km to 143g/km and the claimed/combined fuel consumption figure drops from 6.6 to 6.2l/100km.

That’s the claim at least, although we found the consumption lingered in the 10l/100km range during our stint with the FWD auto. In most respects the Kuga performs similarly to the old 1.6 EcoBoost. The turbo engine delivers plenty of pull in-gear but the six-speed auto does like to hunt up and down the box a little too eagerly for our liking. The front wheels can squabble for grip off the line with a hint of tyre squeal and torque steer through the steering wheel even under conservative amounts of throttle. And the gearing feels a little at odds with the EcoBoost’s torque delivery in the middle gears – giving an almost CVT feel as speeds rise but the revs and engine-note linger.

Nevertheless, the chassis feels rigid, pitch and roll is well tamed, and the body reacts quickly to steering input, which encourages you to pin its ears back and find a bendy road to drive with vigour (no wonder the fuel consumption’s prone to spiking). We felt our (R371 900) Trend test unit could’ve had a sunroof or brighter interior to break up its austere blackness, and we’d be lying if we said we got along brilliantly with Ford’s Sync multimedia system. A memory stick with music worked on some occasions but refused to work on others. Pairing a model phone was easy enough but using Sync’s voice activation was a similar hit-and-miss affair.

All in all the 2015 Ford Kuga is as impressive and sporty an offering as it’s always been but we’d stretch the budget for the R424 900 TDCi AWD Powershift for the improved traction and fuel economy.

2015 Ford Kuga pricing:

1.5 Ambiente m/t – R321 900

1.5 Trend m/t – R357 900

1.5 Trend auto – R371 900

1.5 Trend AWD auto – R398 900

2.0 Titanium AWD Powershift – R439 900

2.0 TDCi Trend AWD Powershift – R424 900

2.0 TDCi Titanium AWD Powershift – R459 900