Historically Ford is rarely first to market with a segment-busting model, but when it does make the leap the results are often enough to silence even the harshest of critics.
The Blue Oval’s first generation Kuga ‘soft roader’ was a good example of this working practice. It wasn’t the first out of the traps but it was a cracking effort.
With this second generation Kuga, Ford hopes it can maintain its high profile presence in what’s rapidly become a fiercely competitive market. For many the SUV has become the preferred choice over more traditional large family saloons and estate cars, and as engine technology has improved so running costs have tumbled to best those of more conventional alternatives.
Visually an evolution over its predecessor, this Kuga mirrors many of Ford’s current range-wide design themes. Certainly, it delivers a sharper-suited and more upmarket ‘look’, which is Ford’s plan. The same is true inside, with dark materials and glossy trim helping to promote a premium ambience that’s noticeably above its price point. Factor in the Focus-like cabin design and switchgear and it doesn’t take long to feel at home.
As a crossover vehicle, it’s not just about styling but capability too. While there’s no high-low range transmission or hill descent control to save your blushes on tricky terrain, a part-time all-wheel drive system is offered alongside a front-wheel drive option.
A lot of the praise for the Kuga’s performance can be directed at the engine line-up. Diesel dominates this market, and Ford’s 2.0-litre unit is available in two different states of tune: 140bhp and 163bhp. Smooth, refined and potent, this family of engines gives a good blend of performance and refinement. A 180 horsepower version complete with auto gearbox gets the full all-wheel drive treatment.
Elsewhere, the Kuga can be had with varying levels of active safety kit that mirrors what’s already been seen in the Focus such as intelligent cruise control and lane-keep assist. On the fun side, the likes of high end audio, sat-nav, Ford’s SYNC multitasking mobile phone interface make life easier, as do the standard fit clever fold-flat rear seats and adjustable boot floor.
Despite the increased competition in the soft-roader sector, the Kuga has the engineering strength and visual appeal to succeed.