BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN I first saw the new Ford Kuga rolled out during a special ‘Go Electric’ event in Amsterdam last year, I liked what they’d done. Still an SUV in format, but among other good things they had gotten to was dropping those ersatz ‘skid plates’ that suggested it was a car for the wild outdoors.
The old one did have some off-road capability in the right model, but there’s no longer a 4x4 option with the new one.
Without the plastic pieces, and with some good new overall styling, the Kuga now is a really good looker in the family car stakes. Because it is lower than its predecessor, a first view might make it seem smaller. But it is both longer and wider than the last Kuga.
It is well placed against its key competitors, Honda’s CR-V and Toyota’s latest RAV-4, in size. Sleeker than both, which might be a help when they are in choice contention.
There are two powertrain options, a diesel and a plug-in hybrid. When the motor trade here reopened in July there was a pent-up Kuga order book, and 600 units were delivered during the month. It’s really interesting that 75pc of these were diesels, showing that the engines are a long way from being out of favour amongst customers.
I got the chance to drive both last week, in a first drive event which is worth writing from. Fear not, I’ll give a more considered review in due course, but with this new version of Ford’s third biggest selling model, it’s worth a preview column.
The interior style and finish is unmistakably current Ford, the instrumentation similar to what we’ve lately seen in the smaller Puma. Materials quality is high, and there’s a sense of it also being well able for the wear that five years of transporting a family’s needs could inflict.
It’s roomy in the back seats too, and with teenagers of today being as big as the adults of yesteryear, that’s important. Ford is claiming best in class here. Plenty of space for their accoutrements too, with nearly 50L more capacity that the outgoing car.
The diesel is a 1.5 with a gutsy 120hp available. It felt very refined and was very quiet on my run. The car had Ford’s 6-speed manual here, smooth and well matched.
But when I switched to the PHEV variant, I was reminded what real smooth is. This is a sweet mover, the 2.5 petrol engine and electric motor delivering 225hp total output. Properly, the PHEV battery can also be topped up by the engine while driving on motorways.
Fully charged overnight at home, the battery gives an EV-only rated range of 56kms, more than enough for the ordinary commute and a very efficient way of tipping around town.
There are four grades available with each powertrain, Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale, in all of which there’s a strong base of standard safety and comfort technologies to be built on.
The new Kuga is big on economy too, and across the range Ford claims an average 28pc improvement in efficiency.
It’s no secret that my favourite Ford for a long time has been the Mondeo. Though technically in a segment lower, I won’t be surprised if a longer session with the new Kuga will cause a shift in my allegiance.