Looks - 8/10
I am in no doubt that the new Kuga looks better than the old one. Truthfully I wasn't overly keen on the previous model, but I really like what Ford has done with the new one. It definitely looks more muscular, but also more executive at the same time. Almost like it could rock up at the office car park, and when you've done with the important meetings you could drive home via a field. I did think that my Titanium test model was under-wheeled with the standard 17-inch rims not quite fitting in with the size of the car. Fear not though, because 18 and 19-inch options are available, and if you plan to venture into any fields then you won't want the lower profile wheels anyway. The exterior of the Kuga is very chunky, from the door handles to the mirrors, and this helps with its tough image.
On the inside things are as you would expect from a Ford. The
Titanium gets half leather seats, piano black and titanium trim, and various other gadgets. I thought the interior was nice, but it didn't have the same chunkiness as the outside. It just feels like most other Ford interiors. There are no buttons or switches to control the 4WD system at all, and I felt like the dashboard and centre console took up much more room than was necessary. The Kuga looks vast from the outside, but doesn't feel it on the inside. I do like the finish and the materials, and everything is laid out as you would expect it to be. It's definitely all business on the inside, and that's hardly a bad thing.
My test car was fitted with the 2.0-litre diesel engine, and offered up 163PS and 340Nm of torque. This was sent to all four wheels via the clever 'Powershift' automatic gearbox. Because it is based on a manual box, you get the convenience of an automatic without the decrease in fuel economy which often lets automatics down. The Kuga gets from 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, and will go on to a top speed of 122mph. The powershift box means that power delivery is smooth, but it is somewhat stuck between a manual and an automatic. It's not quite as smooth and predictable as a 'proper' auto, and occasionally I just couldn't fathom why it wouldn't change up, but generally it was very pleasant.
The Kuga does handle well for a car of its size and height. There is torque vectoring control, and the Enhanced Dynamic Cornering Control (eDCC) system which help the Kuga through the corners. It doesn't lean like you'd expect from a car this tall, and nor does it understeer at every opportunity. Don't get me wrong, you can tell you're in a big car if you throw it into a corner, but is doesn't feel like its in any grave danger of not making it out to the other side. The steering is nice too; it's relatively sharp and nicely weighted. The ride is comfortable whatever the surface, and the Kuga handles bumps nicely too. It doesn't wallow but doesn't break your back either; a fine balance which is hard to achieve.
Economy - 8/10
As I mentioned earlier, thanks to the Powershift auto the Kuga doesn't lose much economy if you opt for the auto. CO2 emissions are 162g/km- the manual is 154g/km- putting them both in VED band G. This means road tax of £175 (first year rate £175) and considering the 4WD system and size of the Kuga it isn't too bad at all. The diesel will also offer combined fuel economy of 45.6mpg and you can more than live with that for a 4WD car. If you could switch to 2WD only you would be able to see better figures, and start/stop technology is not available on the diesel either, which is a shame. In the real world you don't miss start/stop, but it does help to lower the road tax band, and that's always a positive.
Practicality - 10/10
I could not fault the Kuga for its practicality. I shall start with the boot. It's rather deep, and plenty big. We have two dogs in our house- albeit small ones- but they simply loved the boot in the Kuga. They must have found it comfortable too, because more often than not we would arrive at our destination and find them both asleep- a pleasant rarity. Moving on to the rest of the cabin, there's plenty of room for all passengers. Tall folk won't struggle for headroom in either the front or back, and the Kuga will sit 5 adults comfortably. There are vast door pockets, and a deep hole underneath the front armrest where your iPod can live.
To live with the Kuga is a blessing. My test car had the driver assistance pack, which consists of Blind Spot Information System, Lane Keeping Aid and Active City Stop. It also had the City Pack which meant Park Assist and power-folding door mirrors. I really like the blind spot system- it seems to work perfectly without being intrusive, and is of invaluable use on the motorway. There's also cruise control and bluetooth, which make life on the road a whole lot easier, and with such a comfortable ride the Kuga can drive for miles without tiring you out. Top marks.
Fun - 8/10
I really enjoyed my week with the Ford Kuga. In particular, I loved being able to load up the dogs, the family and head out for the day, knowing there was plenty of room and we would arrive there in great comfort. Driving was a pleasure, and I always found myself grabbing the Kuga keys from the selection I had on offer at the time. I think the Kuga deserves some positive recognition for that. However it is a practical car, and that's why I chose it. It never lest a lasting impression on me for how it drove, I just liked how usable it was.
So the Kuga Titanium then. A great car for the family- pets included- and very usable in everyday life. Prices for the Titanium TDCi 163PS Auto start at £27,045 and as tested my car was £29,240. It is a lot of money, but you are getting a lot of car too. I never really got to use the AWD system off the road, but I imagine in tricky road conditions it would serve you well. So what the Kuga is then, in summary, is an executive-looking, rugged crossover. It can get you out of trouble when the going gets tough, but it is a great long-distance cruiser too. It is large and practical, but it won't cost you the earth to run. What it is, then, is a rather good car.
Total Score - 42/50