FORD KUGA DRIVEN

If you felt cheated by Ford’s decision to introduce the first generation Kuga in South Africa five years after the rest of the world, you can finally sleep easy. The all-new Kuga has arrived in South Africa packed with clever features and safety equipment and at prices that might surprise.

South Africa’s pool of compact SUV segment is positively full to bursting. The new Subaru Forester was launched in February and Toyota’s RAV4 followed in April with the Kuga now hot on its heels;  Topcar magazine will feature a bumper mini SUV comparison, including the newcomers, in the June 2013 issue.

Back to the Kuga, Ford labels this a Smart (rather than Sports) Utility Vehicle and, as Ford SA vice president for sales, marketing and servicing Dean Stoneley said at the launch event to the local media, ‘we (Ford) want it to be the absolute safest in this market’. To that end, the new Kuga boasts top scores in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests and prospective South African owners needn’t be too alarmed by the safety prospects. Even entry-level Trend models come standard with seven airbags, ABS, EBA, EBD, ESP with traction control, a trailer stability control system, hill launch assist and Isofix child seat anchors.

Apart from the two models at the ‘lower’ end of the Kuga range, all cars are fitted with all-wheel drive and automatic or dual-clutch transmissions. Ford’s ‘Intelligent’ AWD system regularly operates with a front-wheel bias although, in extreme situations, can channel up to 100% of torque to the rear wheels. Some might lament the phasing out of the ST-sourced 2.5-litre five-cylinder for the previous Kuga, the engine range this time around is no less entertaining. A 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine with two power outputs (110kW and 134kW) is on offer, as well as the first introduction of turbodiesel power to the range in the shape of a 2.0 TDCI model.

I had the chance to drive both the mid-spec 1.6 EcoBoost in the 110kW Trend spec and the top-spec Titanium diesel, with both proving to be comfortable and capable performers. The route incorporated a stunning dirt track outside Grabouw and while practically everything can drive on gravel, the lack of dust ingress and the Kuga’s quiet cabin over the corrugations and on the driftworthy bends were noteable. On the blacktop and the dirt, the Kuga impressed with its generously weighted steering. The cabin appeared slightly futuristic with a massive step across the dash, but it does house a fair bit of tech in the form of Ford’s Sync with voice control. The clever system doesn’t require voice coaching, will take up to 150 command relating to your cell phone or media players and, for those with higher-end smartphones, will even read your texts.

Other clever yet functional elements include the new Kuga’s aerodynamic design that instantly reduces drag by six percent, and actively shutting grille to further increase the SUV’s wind-cheating coefficient, regenerative charging and, on the manual versions, auto start/stop and gearshift indicators.

On higher-spec models (or upon checking the Titanium option pack on your order form) cool tools include the active city stop system that works at speeds up to 30kph to help avoid bumper bashings, active park assist, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning and blind spot information systems. And, of course, the clever ‘open sesame’ function that allows you to open the tailgate (with the key fob on your person or in your handbag) with a mere wave of the foot beneath the rear bumper. A true thrill for modern pack horses…

In an increasingly crowded pool of soft roaders, the new Kuga is a breath of fresh air. There’s a comprehensive line-up that packs enough modern equipment to keep family members of all ages entertained and is priced to give those shopping in competitor forecourts serious pause for thought.

 

Prices:

1.6 EcoBoost Ambiente FWD – R289 900

1.6 EcoBoost Trend FWD – R324 900

1.6 EcoBoost Trend auto AWD – R364 900

1.6 EcoBoost Titanium auto AWD – R398 900

2.0 TDCI Trend Powershift AWD – R384 900

2.0 TDCI Titanium Powershift AWD – R418 900

Options:

Metallic paint – R750

Titanium option pack – R35 000