The new, facelifted Ford Kuga builds on the success of the existing model with a gentle refresh and a couple of new trim levels.
The first is the new ST-Line trim level, which adds a sporting element to what has traditionally been a resolutely non-sporting car courtesy of stiffer suspension, a body styling kit, some black trim and 18-inch alloy wheels. Prices start at £25,845 for the ST-Line, while the Kuga range itself starts at £20,845 for the base model Zetec trim level.
The second new trim level is the top-of-the-range Vignale, previously seen on other Ford models including the Mondeo, Edge and S-Max. The Vignale offers an even higher level of luxury than the best-selling Titanium by using better quality leather (and more of it) and some other stylistic quirks like quilted seats to help lift an already high-end cabin into something even better.
I drove both, and while I did like the Vignale, I’m not convinced it’s worth the asking price of £34,445.
A brisk performance
I spent the majority of my time driving the range-topping 178bhp 2-litre TDCi diesel mated to a Powershift automatic gearbox, although a lower-powered 148bhp version and a new 1.5-litre diesel with 118bhp are also on offer.
If you don’t fancy a diesel then you can also choose from 118bhp, 148bhp or 180bhp versions of the EcoBoost 1.5-litre petrol engine.
Petrol vs diesel
Performance from the most powerful turbocharged diesel engine was brisk when conditions allowed and the engine itself was remarkably quiet for an oil-burner. It’s by no means the cheapest option, or the most economical to run, but it suited the car very well indeed, so if you can afford it, then it’s probably worth treating yourself.
A car fit for an adventure
As you can see from the photographs, the Kuga’s launch was no ordinary affair. Ford bravely chose to let a bunch of journalists drive a fleet of Kugas from Greece through Europe into the Arctic Circle.
I was lucky enough to be on the Ivalo to Alta leg, driving from Finland across Lapland and into Norway before flying home from what must be one of the most picturesque airports in the world.
That the extent of the Kuga’s modifications for genuine Arctic-condition driving were limited to fitting winter tyres is a validation of the integrity of the car’s basic design. Not once did I ever worry that I was in danger of losing grip, much less that I would actually arrive safely at my destination.
A large part of that was the winter tyres (regular readers will know that I am a huge advocate of winter, or at least all-season, tyres) but some must be attributed to the all-wheel-drive system.
Power is normally sent to the front wheels but if the on-board computer detects any loss of traction, the Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system diverts some to the rear wheels too in order to maintain traction and prevent any loss of control.
Winter tyres for bad weather
High praise for the Kuga
I was skeptical until I watched the power shifting around courtesy of a mildly addictive dashboard display. I was astonished to see how often I was driving with four-wheel-drive as power was shuffled to the rear wheels in addition to the front – and it was absolutely undetectable, which is about as high as praise can be, when you think about it.
Which sums up the entire vehicle. I drove the Kuga for hours at a time, on the wrong side of the road and in appalling conditions and not once did I find it wanting. SUVs are not my natural habitat but I can see the attraction of the multi-purpose Kuga.
No, it’s not especially rewarding to drive, and no, it’s not especially interesting. But as a family car that quietly gets on with the job of shifting your most precious possessions from one place to another in complete safety and comfort, it takes some beating.
That it looks terrific is the icing on this particular cake.
Power – 178bhp
Torque – 295lb ft
0-62mph – 10 seconds
Top speed – 124mph
Kerb weight – 1,702kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 54.3mpg
Honest John real world fuel consumption – 38.1mpg
CO2 emissions – 134g/km
VED class – Band E
Towing capacity (braked) – 2,100kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £31,195 (in ST-Line trim)
Price as tested - £31,195
The SEAT Ateca is the newest addition to the class and a mighty fine one it is too.
The best of the rest
The Ford Kuga is all the car any family really needs.
The Volvo XC60 is still a very nice place to be and is decently good to drive too.
Next car review: Honda Jazz >>>
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