Gareth Butterfield ponders whether there’s life left in the Ford Kug
OH, look there’s a new mid-size, compact, SUV, crossover, soft-roader thingymajig on the market. Yawn.
This is the new Ford Kuga, an evolution from its very popular mid-sized crossover-that’s-really-a-small-SUV and, to be honest, it’s not that new.
It’s an overhaul, albeit a fairly hefty one, of the last Ford Kuga and perhaps more of a facelift than a new car. But don’t let Ford know I told you that.
To make it look and feel fresher they’ve fitted it with the new family nose, the trapezoidal grille, making it look more like its bigger sibling the Ford Edge.
To my mind, it hasn’t worked. The last Kuga looked well-proportioned and quite pretty whereas this one looks a little more utilitarian and disappointingly American. There’s nothing sculpted about that front end, it’s just a bit dull.
They’ve also remodelled the back end, too. And I’m not keen on the changes there, either. The new angular lights look a bit out of place on what was once a pretty bodyshell and do nothing to make the car feel modern.
To be fair, Ford’s done more to its “new” Kuga’s looks than just a nip and a tuck but, sadly, they’ve not done enough inside to freshen up what is quickly becoming a dated interior.
Thankfully, they have binned the low-res screen and mass of fiddly buttons and they’ve popped in the latest SYNC 3 set-up.
The quality of the plastics is a bit of a mixed bag, but the improvements, while few and far between, are all welcome. There’s something about a Ford dashboard that feels warm and welcoming and this one is no exception. Perhaps it’s best that they didn’t mess around too much.
As you’d expect, the space inside is the same as it was before; it has a decent rear seat layout and, although its boot is smaller than some rivals, it’s all quite respectable.
The “old” Kuga’s trump card was its competence on the road. And, surprisingly enough, that’s not been diminished in the newcomer. Worryingly, it does now have an electric steering setup now but it’s actually pretty good and, though it does take away a little of the old-fashioned feedback, it’s well weighted.
The biggest problem is that other rivals which have sprung up in the last year or so now drive as well as or better than the Kuga does. In its day it was a bit of a ground-breaker, but the market’s learned from it that a keen driver still wants to buy an SUV and the Kuga is being out-competed. That’s not to say it’s a bad car to drive though, far from it in fact. It’s still quite fun.
Thankfully Ford’s engine line-up is still excellent. The Kuga can be had with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TDCi engine in two states of tune, 148bhp or 178bhp, with the lower output version offered in either front and four-wheel drive and the more powerful unit served up in four-wheel drive only.
There’s also a 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel, as well as a 118bhp petrol EcoBoost engine of the same displacement, with 148bhp and 180bhp petrol options also available.
Of course, no new car would be complete without a smattering of gadgets and, along with that clever infotainment system, you’ll find self-parking on the top models, Apple Car Play is an option as is adaptive cruise while daytime running lights, cruise control and keyless go are standard.
The trouble is, all this new tech, the new lights and grille and the changes under the skin have not really done enough to sharpen up the ageing Kuga. It’s still a very good car but it’s being quickly overtaken by newcomers such as the Peugeot 3008 and Seat Ateca.
Don’t get me wrong if you like your car badges to be blue and oval you’ll find much to like in the Kuga but, if you want something trendier, more modern, more premium or just a bit different, you’d need to look elsewhere.
I can’t help feeling the Kuga should have gone to seed and waited for a worthy replacement. I’m sure there’s one on its way but if Ford is hoping for continued dominance in this tough market sector, it’ll need to get a wriggle on.