Ford South Africa is reinventing its fleet quite steadily, adding model after model at an easy pace. The latest to join them is the Kuga, a car that’s been on the European market since 2008, making it four years old or so. It’s relatively new, but still not brand new. Nevertheless, it’s Ford’s local flagship model in the absence of something like a Mondeo.
Ford calls it its halo car and it should hold that title for only a few months until the feverish Focus ST arrives on the scene. A few years ago Ford created a new language called “kinetic design”, first seen on the kinetic design concept and Iosis X concept car in 2005 and 2006 respectively, and later on the current Fiesta. Characteristics include muscular bonnet lines, a trapezoidal front grille and sculpted lines. One might even call it chiselled. And yes, there is a Bangle-era smell about it all, but who can blame Ford? Everyone is doing it!
Kuga comes stretched at 4.4 metres long, making it 40cm longer than a MINI Countryman, and also 2.1m wide including side mirrors, and featuring a wheelbase of 2.7m. It’s obviously a direct rival of vehicles like the Chevrolet Captiva and Kia Sportage. But its maker decided only the highest-spec model will be made available here, and it’s that same one that I drove along some scenic Cape Town roads.
Although fitted with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, Kuga errs on the softer side of earth, rather than the beaten track. That makes it feel more at home in places like Eastgate Mall than in St Lucia beach. The system is designed to transfer as much torque to the rear wheels as is needed, ensuring quite a dynamic and satisfying ride. Tackling sharp curves along the famous Franschoek Pass exposed the fact that the car is 1.7m high and doesn’t exactly have a low centre of gravity. Steering feedback – courtesy of power assisted rack and pinion – proved more accurate than I had anticipated, although obviously not as sharp as the Focus. The two cars do share an engine, or at least, it shares it with the old Focus ST.
The Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre petrol turbo unit in question that had been used to spitting out 166kW at every cycle, is now castrated to a more SUV-like 147kW at the same 6000rpm, while torque remains at 320Nm between a wide range of 1600rpm and 4000rpm. To emphasise its age, the Kuga comes fitted with a 5-speed automatic gearbox, contrary to some fresher rivals. Feels it too, as it hops from cog to cog, with quick change-downs becoming neck-jerk issues. Ford says it will run from standstill to 100km/h in 8.8 seconds and stop accelerating at 205km/h. Average C02 emissions are claimed at 244 g/km from a combined fuel consumption of 10.3 litres per 100km. Surprisingly through our drive down the Cape side, we managed to match this figure, despite some fuel-busting enthusiastic outbursts along the way.
Life inside the Kuga is quite similar to life inside a Focus. If you’ve driven the previous-gen Focus, as well as the current one, you’ll have no trouble adjusting to things. The steering wheel is a little thicker than similar cars, and features Ford’s behind-the-scenes satellite controls for things like the radio, sound system volume, cruise control and the like. Within the two models on offer, the Trend and Titanium, a raft of features either come standard or will be paid for from the back pocket. These include a keyless power start system, dual air conditioning, a rear parking sensor and panoramic sunroof.
Something of a selling point for Kuga is the split tailgate. Not a new feature in the segment, but nevertheless quite useful. It’s basically a boot that opens two ways, one is when the only upper section opens. The other opens the entire boot, top to bottom. Unfortunately there is no full-sized spare wheel here, only the space saver. Definitely not a car for the off-road guy.
The Trend has 17-inch alloy wheels with 235/ 55 R17 tyres, while the Titanium boasts 18-inches and matching 235/ 50 R18 tyres. Both have ventilated disc brakes up front, solid discs at the rear and ABS with EBD and EBA.
As I said earlier, there’s a very familiar ambiance in this car, purely from a Focus point of view. At the same time it is a “new” car for our market, offering something different and a new range-topper for the brand. For the guy who wants his compact SUV with a little fire under that belly, the Kuga is the car to go for.
Ford Kuga Pricing
Trend AWD auto (R375 000)
Titanium AWD auto (R395 000)