Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 163PS
by David Finlay (9 August 2012)
As we lost no opportunity to mention at the time, Ford came very late to the compact SUV market, waiting until spring 2008 before finally launching the Kuga into a sector that was already well stuffed - and has since become more so - with rival products.
It seemed like an impressive enough newcomer at the time. However, a replacement is due in early 2013, and having spent a week with one of the last first-generation models I don't think the change will come a day too soon.
It's not that I want to see it burned at the stake or anything, but there are enough small matters in its disfavour to make me believe that if I were searching for an SUV of this size I would probably buy something else.
The fact that I happen not to think the design has aged well in less than five years is entirely a personal matter. The lack of luggage space compared with the most popular of the Kuga's rivals is, by contrast, measurable. Even the Range Rover Evoque - a style-over-substance car if ever there was one - has much greater carrying capacity, despite being nearly two inches shorter.
I'm also slightly concerned about the Kuga's dynamics on the road. It handles quite well, and although the ride quality of the test car wasn't up to much it would be safe to blame that on the optional fitment of 19" wheels rather than the standard 18s. It also felt stable enough when the steering inputs were gentle.
When they weren't gentle, however, the Kuga very quickly took on an angle of lean which most small SUVs rarely achieve (even though many of them look as if they should) and made me wonder just how likely it might be that it would fall over if I had to turn the wheel sharply in an emergency situation. It may not be likely at all, but the fact that it seemed to be wasn't encouraging.
You might not think that these are major problems, but to me they don't sit well with the fact that in basic form the test car would have cost just £45 short of £30,000, and with a few extras (including, among other items, those 19" wheels and rear parking sensors which are very necessary given the Kuga's substantial visibility problems) had an actual list price on the high side of £32,000.
I'm aware that you could probably buy the car for quite a lot less if you were wearing your best pair of haggling trousers, especially given the short period left before it becomes an out-of-date model, but it's still difficult to think of the Kuga as being worth this much - or to imagine that someone with the finance to buy a rival with an Audi, BMW, Range Rover or Volkswagen badge would be willing to associate themselves with the Ford one.
On the other hand, that money does get you an impressive drivetrain, with a sturdy 161bhp two-litre turbo diesel engine, the Powershift twin-clutch semi-automatic gearbox (itself worth £1555) and four-wheel drive. In Titanium X form it's well-equipped, too, with full leather upholstery, DAB digital radio, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone air-conditioning, automatic bi-xenon headlights, an auto-dimming interior mirror and the Quickclear heated windscreen which not many manufacturers seem prepared to follow Ford in offering.
Still, if I were sitting in a Ford dealership right now I'd be expecting a heavy discount, and would be prepared to walk away if I didn't get it.