Ford’s new Kuga hits all the right notes

The blue oval that graces the grille of all Ford products has a proud pedigree. Sometimes, however, something happens to tarnish that image.

Brian Joss – The Ford Kugas which caught fire last year and which allegedly caused the death of a KwaZulu-Natal resident was that something. The fires were reportedly caused by cooling system components and during the recall dealers also checked engine software and oil leaks on the cylinder head The stories made headlines for weeks, and sadly, Ford South Africa, to their discredit, really didn’t handle the situation well. But they seem to have made amends under the new managing director, Dr Casper Kruger, by treating customers with kid gloves. Owners who were affected by the recall were given
facelifted Kugas as courtesy vehicles while their own SUVs were being given the once-over.

The Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Trend: a classy package. Picture: Quickpic

Ford is not the only company to recall cars: Toyota is checking hundreds of their vehicles because of a faulty airbag.

Last year, according to one website, 1 266 Kia Rios were recalled in South Africa because of faulty rear child locks; in China, VW had to recall more than one million vehicles, including Passats, produced between 2007 and 2014, because of fuel pump failures which caused the engines to stall; Mercedes recalled one million C-class, E-class, CLA, GLA and GLC SUV models including 5 100 in South Africa because of overheating and the risk of fire.

So it doesn’t only happen to Ford. South Africans are usually loyal and I doubt very much if the “fire-prone” Kugas had much effect on the brand.  However, I digress.

Ford launched its new Kuga in South Africa late last year and I had one to play with. There are seven derivatives including the turbocharged 1.5 EcoBoost Trend mated to a six-speed auto transmission, the test car; a 2-litre petrol engine and a 2-litre TDCi turbodiesel, while the 1.6 that caused all the trouble has been dumped. The Trend had all the bells and whistles and featured Ford’s new Sync3 infotainment system which includes smartphone technology and there’s an option for Satnav. Sync3 features an elevated map view, enhanced full colour graphics and point of interest (POI) building images. The navmap displays plenty of information: speed limit; GPS speed; as well as highway information  including rest stops and garages.

Standard is a reverse camera with sensors. 

I piloted the Trend all over the Peninsula after the December holidays so the traffic had eased up considerably, except where the roads are being reconstructed and which appears to be taking forever. In March 2015, I tested the new Ford Kuga 2 litre TDCi Titanium AWD with Powershift, and I was impressed. Back then it was a good product and today it’s even better. 

I prefer the new Trend, however, and the auto gearbox is one of the smoothest I’ve experienced.

The changes to the SUV design are clearly evident, inside and out. It has a large upper trapezoidal grille and a smaller lower one with new headlamps and fog lights. The light clusters have been redesigned as has the hands-free power tailgate. Inside, there are some convenient features:

better storage in the centre console, rear tray tables and rear air vents, available only on the Trend and Titanium models. There is also an electronic brake and the auto models are also equipped with paddle-shift controls so that you can manually select gears. It’s something I’ve often wondered about: if you have automatic transmission why would you want to change gears manually? It’s the same answer you get when you ask how long is a piece of string.

The interior smacks of quality. The cabin is neat and all controls are close at hand while the aircon works a treat. All this and leather upholstery too, covering the front seats which are electronically adjustable. The back seats are also leather. Rear passengers have space to stretch their legs. And there’s more than enough headroom.

Other interesting features are adaptive cruise control, a blind spot information system, and advanced active park assist, all available with the optional driver assistance pack. Keyless starting is also standard.

The front-wheel drive Trend puts out 132 kW at 6 000 rpm and 240 N.m of torque between 1 600 and 4 000 rpm So you can cruise quite comfortably knowing there’s enough power to indulge in some theatrics, when the light turns green. There is also more than enough grunt to overtake safely when you need to. Just a prod on the accelerator send the SUV surging forward, unwittingly exceeding the speed limit. The Kuga sticks to the tar like Velcro, and one patch of pot-holed gravelly road at the entrance to a wine farm wasn’t a problem. Going round the bends was no hassle either, and body roll was minimal if any. Ford claims a fuel consumption figure of 6.9litres/100 km and CO2 emissions are 159g/km, under laboratory conditions.

My figures were nearer 8 litres/100km. But it all depends on how you drive.  

The boot offers a cavernous 1 653 litres with the usual 60-40 seating split. 

More than enough for a monthly shop or holiday luggage. Everything about the new Kuga says quality, even the doors, although a bit heavy for my taste, close with a solid thunk.

Summing up, the Kuga, despite the glitches with the 1.6, has always been a good product and the turbocharged 1.5 EcoBoost Trend AT is no exception. It’s the right choice for the daily commute or the long and winding road.

It’s comfortable, handles well and is reasonably economical and if you drive judiciously you could travel 1 000 km on a tank. It is a tough market segment that the Kuga is in and bar any unforeseen hiccups Ford has redeemed itself. The Trend is good value for money with a price tag of R427 900.

Check with your dealer.

All models come standard with Ford Protect, including a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. The petrol Kuga models have 20 000km service intervals, and include a four-year/80 000km service plan.

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