Few, if any, cars on sale in the South African market face similar scrutiny to Ford’s new Kuga.
After the unhappy self-immolation issues of high mileage first-generation cars, which matured into crisis last year, the brand’s mid-sized SUV has been a car in crisis. Owner confidence collapsed, residual values eroded and Ford’s deal network has been forced to execute an excruciating recall.
You’d hate to be the product planner launched facelifted second-generation Ford Kuga. That trapezoidal grille, clever LEDs, optional 19-inch imitation ST alloy wheels and Sync3 infotainment capability are all laudable features, but are they sufficient to convince South Africans that Ford has a credible vehicle on offer with new Kuga. A revised range now features 1.5 and 2-litre EcoBoost, with 2-litre turbodiesel power, notably in its absence is the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine which caused all the issues.
The range has altered slightly, with and six-speed transmissions, either manual, traditional auto or dual-clutch self-shifters. Ford’s championing new Kuga’s ample equipment levels and its seven standard airbags, not to mention a potent range of engines, but for many the clincher will inarguably be price.
Officially the new range retails at a discount of approximately 7% and thought Ford claims this is due to exchange range robustness, you can draw your own conclusions. What you get are a range of an attractively styled SUVs, with impressive levels of standard equipment, tidy engines and a gravel travel friendly interpretation of the renowned Ford Focus multi-link rear suspension chassis.
Rewarding to drive, if missing a seventh gear, Kuga 2017 is what it has always been: a Ford Focus with all-wheel drive traction and off-road lite ground clearance. Keenly priced, it will be fascinating to monitor sales volumes and see if customers return to a nameplate which carries such an unenviable burden of notoriety.
Of all the Kugas the 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium is perhaps the most interesting option. Power by a detuned Focus ST engine, it’s good for 177kW and 340Nm, which makes it more powerful than VW’s Tiguan ‘GTI’, the 2.0 FSi. Both are built on proven hatchback platforms and feature sophisticated all-wheel drive systems appropriating torque to drive wheels as required. Whereas the Kuga has superior power, Tiguan features an additional gear and the genius that is VW’s DSG, as opposed to Ford’s less urgent torque-converting auto.
If your idea of a family SUV is one evolved from an established hot hatch, Kuga 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium is in principle an AWD ST. There must remain some latent appeal in that, surely?
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Ambiente 6MT FWD R368 800
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Ambiente 6AT FWD R381 900
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Trend 6MT FWD R406 400
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Trend 6AT FWD R427 900
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Trend 6AT AWD R483 900
Ford Kuga 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT AWD R497 900
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium 6AT AWD R506 900