Well aware its elderly Escape SUV wasn’t doing well in the booming medium SUV market, Ford Australia has launched the European Kuga – which is almost in run-out mode overseas.
An all-new Ford Kuga is scheduled to reach Australia early in 2013, this time only a matter of months after its debut in Europe.
The Ford Kuga comes down under in two specification levels: the midrange Kuga Trend and topline Kuga Titanium. An entry level variant may be added to the range with the all-new model 2013 model, but Ford Australia executives won’t be drawn on discussing future plans.
Starting at $38,990 the midrange model comes with your expected tech and design features. There’s Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, a Sony CD 8-speaker system, keyless start/stop, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel, front foglamps, roof rails, follow-me-home lighting and capless refuelling.
Ford Kuga Titanium adds 18-inch alloys, a fixed panoramic glass sunroof, dual-zone climate control, leather trimmed seats (the fronts are heated), leather trimmed gear shift, six-way powered driver’s seat, rear privacy glass, rear parking sensors, automatic headlamps and wipers.
As a special treat, the Australian Kugas are powered by Ford’s five-cylinder Duratec 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine. Though not a new powerplant it produces up to 147 kW of power, and 320 Nm of torque. The large capacity of the turbo engine means that top torque comes in at a mere 1600 rpm, and the graph shows it stays at that high level until the engine is revving at 4000 rpm.
Fuel consumption during our test period was typically in the nine to eleven litres per hundred kilometres range in town driving, falling to seven to eight litres in the bush. Not a bad number for a big petrol engine in an SUV.
Many owners will therefore enjoy the efficiency of full torque almost all of the time. Aussie drivers traditionally like grunt and this engine supplies it in spades. Better still, it can be left in high gears and still pulls willingly.
The big five-cylinder engine sits beside a five-speed automatic transmission. It runs through an AWD (All Wheel Drive) system. The sophisticated Haldex clutch system in the transmission means you can take the Kuga on only reasonably serious unsealed surfaces. It isn’t really aimed at the serious 4WD buyer, but will work fine for weekend and holiday excursions in the Australian bush.
The Ford Kuga Trend is well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels and a two-part rear tailgate that can be opened in its upper section only, or like a full conventional hatch.
Kuga has been on sale in several countries for up to four years, but it received a major facelift in 2011 so the styling looks bang up to date. In particular it bears a strong resemblance to big brother Ford Territory, as well as to the Ford Focus and Mondeo, as part of Ford’s global styling strategy.
Ford Kuga comes with a five-star NCAP safety rating and has six airbags. To avoid the need for the airbags there are ABS brakes with emergency brake assist, stability control and traction control with roll-over mitigation, the latter handy in a relatively high-riding SUV.
Ride comfort is generally good and, again, the Kuga has a sophisticated feel. It’s way ahead of the somewhat outdated Ford Escape that it replaces in the overall stability and refinement stakes.
Other than the tyre noise on coarse-chip surfaces, the Kuga is quiet and relaxing to ride in. And it’s certainly not alone in suffering from tyre noise when treated to a stretch of Australian backroad running. It’s a pity Ford Australia can’t lend some of its suspension engineers to the European design centre to show them what can be done. Just look (and hear) the way Ford’s Aussie Territory and Falcon deal with these surfaces to see what we mean.
Ride and handling give Kuga a Euro feel that will appeal to keen drivers. The way it grips the road makes it feel a lot better than the typical Asian sourced SUV. No longer does the driving enthusiast have to sacrifice driving pleasure just because the family is at the stage where it needs a station wagon.
Not only is it strong, we were also impressed by the smoothness of the engine. It really does feel as though it’s from an expensive upmarket Euro car, not an affordable Ford. Perhaps the fact that the engine is also used by Volvo explains this feeling.
We anticipate that the next generation Kuga may come with other engine and transmission options, including a turbo-diesel engine and manual gearbox.
Kuga Trend 2.5-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $38,990 (automatic)
Kuga Titanium 2.5-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $44,990 (automatic)
2012 Ford Kuga
Price: From $38,990
Warranty: Three years/100,000km:
Safety rating: 5-star ANCAP
Spare: Space saver
Engine: 2.5-litre 5-cyl turbo petrol, 147kW/320Nm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic AWD
Body: 4443mm (L), 1842 (W), 1710 (H)
Thirst: 10.6/100km, 249g/km CO2