Kuga’s bigger and better

Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga

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Few markets evolve as rapidly as the compact SUV and you only need look at this second generation Ford Kuga to realise what it takes to keep pace.

It’s bigger, more economical and better equipped and will appeal to a different crowd than its predecessor.

There’s no seven-seat version and it’s still no great shakes off road but giving a car of this kind some serious off-road capability usually compromises it on road. I think this is one of those vehicles that would work really well as a long term ownership proposition, especially in 2.0 TDCi diesel form.

Most UK buyers will probably choose one of the two diesel engines on offer. Here you choose between a 140PS 2.0-litre TDCi unit, which is expected to be the volume seller, or a range-topping 163PS version of this engine, also a 2.0-litre. The 140PS unit is available in manual front wheel drive guise too, which is the most economical model in the range, or you can buy a four-wheel drive version and specify it with the Powershift transmission if you fancy. The 163PS engine’s only available as a four-wheel drive chassis, again with the option of Powershift. I think the front-wheel drive 140PS unit might be the bargain of the range, as there’s very little difference in torque between these two engines and when the more powerful model is loaded up with all-wheel drive, Powershift and a few options, there’s relatively little difference in their sprinting ability. With a manual gearbox and AWD, the top diesel takes 9.9 seconds to 62mph, while the entry-level car in the same spec manages 10.7s.

Although Ford’s engineers deny it, the chassis of this model feels a good deal softer than the first generation car so the ride is better, but there’s not that same up-and-at-’em attitude as before. The four-wheel drive system lends the Kuga a bit of off-road ability but it’s probably more useful on road when conditions are slippy or if you’re driving the car quite hard.

If this car arrived on your drive with the badges taped over, chances are you wouldn’t take much more than a second to guess it was a Ford Kuga. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The old model’s styling was always one of its best features and Ford has accommodated this latest car’s additional size without losing its predecessor’s charm.

Look at it superficially and it’s fairly easy to find rivals with more space, that drive a bit more sharply, that offer better fuel economy, wear a more prestigious badge or feel posher inside. But when you try to find the car that combines all of these qualities into one, it becomes a bit more difficult and gradually the Ford emerges as a real contender.