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Ford Kuga first drive review

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    Two versions of the Ford Kuga will be initially available in Trend and Titanium grades Photo Gallery

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Chris Riley road tests and reviews the new Ford Kuga at its Australian and NZ launch

Ford's cute compact four-wheel drive Kuga finally goes on sale here next month. We've been asking about this car for years, ever since laying eyes on it for the first time in Europe.

But, as pleased as we are to see Kuga, there's a catch because we'll be getting the old one first, not the new one that has just been unveiled in the US - even though it's only 12 months away. 

It's a strange decision by Ford, to introduce a car so near the end of its life cycle, but perhaps understandable in the current economic climate, with those questions that just won't go away over the future of Falcon and car manufacturing as a whole in this country.

Ford, for its part, says it wants to get the Kuga name and product out there in preparation for arrival of the new model. Besides, it adds, it's still a very good car and a very good looking one that has earned plenty of accolades.

Kuga replaces the long serving Mazda-based Escape which has been hanging on since launch way back in 2001 (in the States it will still be called Escape). We suspect the decision to launch now has got more to do with the money. Ford reckons it can get only 200 of these cars a month and that it will have no trouble selling all it can get its hand on.

As good as it may be, however, Kuga will have a big job ahead of it, entering an extremely competitive segment, with plenty of quality rivals - some of them cheaper. Time will tell . . .


Kuga sits on the same platform as Focus, but it's the previous one. It will be available in two models, Trend and Titanium, neither of them cheaper entry models. Both are powered by the same 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. There's no diesel at this stage. There's no manual either. Prices start at $38,990 for Trend and $44,990 for Titanium.


2.5-litre five cylinder Duratec turbo. It's the same engine as that in the previous Ford Focus XR5 but with the wick turned down. Power output is 147kW instead of the XR5's 166kW. Both engine however produce the same torque figure of 320Nm at 1600 revs.


Both versions of the Kuga are fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to all four wheels through an ``intelligent'' all-wheel drive system, giving the car sure-footed handling and some off-road ability. It's a traditional auto, not the Powershift twin clutch unit. You can change gears manually via the shifter, but there's no change paddles.


Takes premium unleaded. Claimed fuel economy is 10.3 litres/100km. We suspect it is going to use a little more than this. During the course of the drive program we saw between 9.4 and 12.4 litres/100km. The Escape had a reputation for being thirsty and this could be the case again. A 2.0-litre turbo diesel is offered overseas. Focus is available with a diesel, so we look forward to the arrival of a more economical diesel soon - but it probably won't be until the replacement model arrives (early next year)


Gets a full five stars for safety. Six airbags are standard along with ABS with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), DSC (with Anti-Rollover Mitigation), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Traction control, Driver and front passenger beltminder and Immobiliser (EPATS – Encrypted Passive Anti-Theft System)


It's inside where the Kuga is starting to show its age. None of the snazzy layout from Fiesta or Focus, but the stodgy old grey plastic setup you may have seen in Mondeo. The vinyl trim is soft to the touch where it counts, but decidedly cheaper and harder elsewhere. There's also  a lack of storage receptacles in the the cabin.


Trend has 17 inch wheels while Titanium scores 18s. Standard equipment includes aircon, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth with voice control, Sony 8-speaker audio with USB port for iPods, rear tailgate with flip glass, leather wrapped wheel, cruise control, fog lights, roof rails and capless fuel filler. Titanium adds leather, panoramic sunroof, climate air, auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors and power operated driver's seat.


No satnav, nor any mention of a rear reversing camera. No full size spare either, only a space saver.


It's no Focus. Being heavier with less power it is less responsive to the throttle. Being taller there is inevitably some body roll too - but not enough to be annoying. Other than that it sits reasonably flat in corners and has plenty in reserve for overtaking, although the transmission has a `think' before it kicks down. For the average driver it will be fine, but the more demanding driver could find it a little unexciting.


We like it. Looks good and goes well, but so do a lot of its competitors. The question that must ultimately be addressed however is why buy this Kuga when there's a new one just around the corner?


Price: from $38,990-$44,990
Warranty: 3 year/100,000km
Resale:  N/A
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Engine: 2.5-litre 5-cyl turbo petrol, 147kW/320Nm
Body: five-door, five-seat
Dimensions: 4443mm (L), 1842 (W), 1710mm (H), 2690mm (WB)
Transmission: 5-speed auto, AWD
Thirst: 10.6L/100km, 244g/km CO2.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 27 comments

  • My xr6 turbo’s average is 10.2 over 45,000 kms, better than any v8 commodore, but that isn’t the comparison here. This is a competitor to other small SUVs.

    Wayne of Brissy Posted on 19 September 2012 7:13pm
  • Ford Kuga with 11L / per 100 km premium unleaded thirst is hardly competitive. It may appeal to buyers of turbo charged Forrester or RAV4 which are selling in very small numbers.

    Daniel of Burswood, WA Posted on 02 May 2012 2:51pm
  • If its a European car, I wouldn’t compare it to a Kia. The car I’d use would be - Volkswagen Tiguan. Tiguan is STILL cheaper, better economy, petrol AND diesel, manual AND auto. Won COTY in its class according to RAA mag.

    Alan of Adelaide Posted on 12 April 2012 12:46pm
  • far to heavy on petrol and price i have holden calais sports wagon average over 6000 km is 10.6 liters 100 km on regular fuel also has 6lt v8 lot more comfort and room

    ian irvin of amphitheatre Posted on 11 April 2012 5:58pm
  • Pretty Good Car smile

    EMILY CONTALA of Brisbane Posted on 27 March 2012 1:24pm
  • You pay for what you get , friends of ours own a stortage and a Sorento Kia , They both agree they made a big mistake , German made Kuga , pricey yes , Old to europe new to us , I think looking around for a while this car is exciting , stylish , plenty of grunt for around town , Remembering so what if everywere else got it first its new here , its German made , doors close with a thud not the Kia / mazda/rav4/  tinny hollow sound , even the Captiva and im a holden man has alot to answer for , the Territory is a fantastic australian made car , I’ve looked and this Kuga is a i think a good small solid car , My wifes going for it and to be honest i cant fault it , Time will tell , also in two years she will upgrade as she does

    Joey Stivaletta of WA Perth Posted on 20 March 2012 3:08pm
  • Can’t go past the kia sportage for absolute value for money I’ve done the sums nothing comes close.

    David McKee of toowoomba Posted on 29 February 2012 8:44pm
  • The Great Wall X200 2.0 TDi runs rings around every one with its economy,comfort, finish,drive and all the extras as standard at a bargain price of $26000 on road.

    David Windsor of Maryborough,QLD Posted on 24 February 2012 7:49pm
  • I did the sums and compare a lot of SUV’s and for the money it is hard pressed to go past the Kia Sportage Platinum (Diesel for the same money also).  Have had my wife’s Kia for 7 years with no issues and I was eagerly awaiting to trade my Ford XR6 on a smaller ford SUV. Doesn’t look that way any more.

    Johnny of SA Posted on 23 February 2012 10:46am
  • Agree with Mike from Qld. Way to pricey. Also who needs a thirsty turbo petrol when the SUV market is being swallowed up by turbo diesel economy/torque. Clearly its arch-rival will be the Holden Captiva which offers more engine choices, a manual gearbox option and a fwd option. Ford’s offering looks ok but too limited in appeal because of drivetrain.

    Max W. of Aldinga Beach SA 5173 Posted on 21 February 2012 5:58pm
  • @Mike, I think you’ll find the driving experience in a Kuga to be worth the extra you might pay over a Sportage. It’s well known that, with the exception of the new Rio, Kia’s are dreadful to drive - from suspension, to steering feel (or lack thereof), to the smoothness of engines (let alone the feel of cabins), Kia has been thoroughly outclassed by rivals. To me, it’d be worth every cent more.

    ED of WA Posted on 21 February 2012 5:56pm
  • My guess is that Ford Taiwan which makes our Escape has finished production of the old model, and under the One Ford Plan the only import avaialble would be the Euro old model Kuga, as the old one may be stockpiled runnout stock., got cheap. Better to keep a foot in the marketplace, than nothing.

    Freddy Nerks of Brisbane Posted on 21 February 2012 5:17pm
  • Way too pricey, just compare to the top of the range KIA Sportage for performance, economy, safety and all the goodies you can poke a stick at.

    Mike from Qld of Bushland Beach QLD Posted on 21 February 2012 5:12pm
  • The fuel economy is not great and on par with other SUV’s. However people still seem to snap these up when you can get better with the Falcon.

    Woodpecker of Northern Beaches Posted on 21 February 2012 4:51pm
  • I’m keen - if only because it’s the last opportunity, probably ever, to grab that wondrous 5-cylinder Volvo engine. It really is one of the greatest pieces of engineering, especially in an XR5 or, even better, RS. A go-fast ‘toy’ 4WD vehicle? Love it! Also, yes it’s older, but being based on the ‘old’ Focus is certainly no bad thing; many reports say the LS-LV series still drive better than the new one…

    Daniel of Brisbane, QLD Posted on 21 February 2012 4:50pm
  • Ugly as a dogs bum I say.

    Robert Baker Posted on 20 February 2012 7:59pm
  • Very disapointing. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this release after seeing pictures of the Kuga in your “Kuga may replace Escape” article. Staring from $38K for that? No Sale!

    Kuga Escaped of Melbourne Posted on 20 February 2012 1:06pm
  • @ ozedude
    Its not old car… and the replacement is still over 12 months away… so rather than continuing to sell the escape… which is not competitive in this segment, Ford is bringing out this euro sourced kuga so ford can have a quality car in this segment as well… Ford has more award winning cars than any other manufacturer in australia… It will be expensive caus its coming from europe and has world class safety and driving dynamics… remember , Ford dont have a company like Daewoo to build cheap & nasty cars at budget prices.

    nik Posted on 19 February 2012 8:53pm
  • Sorry but didn’t Holden do the same thing with the original Astra? They brought in the old UK versions for about 12 months and then switched to the Euro version. The thinking behind Ford’s decision with the Kuga isn’t new. It helps establish a new model name, relatively cheaply rather than spend millions launching a completely new nameplate from zero.

    Craig of St Kilda Posted on 18 February 2012 9:50pm
  • “some off road abilty” you say!! With that stupid space-saver spare wheel?? When will manufacturers make vehicles for Australian conditions?

    Mal of Hillbank Posted on 18 February 2012 5:34pm
  • Was reasonably excited about the Kuga until the pricing cam out. For those looking for a bang for their buck, this definately aint the car. I am curious now as to the pricing for the new yet to be released Focus Turbo. I have a 3 year old XR5 I want to move on, am now very concerned that Ford will be pricing me out.

    Col Posted on 18 February 2012 11:05am
  • Three years old and still better than any offering from Toyota, Subaru, Nissan and the korean junk…

    The Truth Posted on 18 February 2012 8:59am
  • I am betting it is probably better than most of the other stuff in its class, especially whatever has a Holden badge on it. They have been selling on price not quality and vehicle dynamics for a long time now. good luck to them, but I wish, for their own sakes, that some of these Holden wannabes would look further afield because most manufacturers have a better range than they do.

    Richard. of Adelaide Posted on 18 February 2012 12:27am
  • I totally agree with ozedude. In my opinion, it is not just an old car but a very expensive old car too—$38,999 + ORC for a Ford SUV. Get real! I don’t see why anyone would put Kuga in front of the European and Japanese varieties at this price.

    Ford has done it again of Melbourne Posted on 17 February 2012 10:23pm
  • Funny Toyota brings cars here and say they are new, but has been run ning around in America, Japan for up to 3 years before coming here to Australia. Should get your facts staright, and stop picking on FORD, you are very BIAS I am afraid to say.

    ADRIAN SMALL of geelong Posted on 17 February 2012 7:04pm
  • Sounds a little deflating. However, the car looks quite good and the engine outputs are still excellent.

    MikiG Posted on 17 February 2012 6:20pm
  • Trust Ford Australia to bring an old car and call it new (see Escape). One of the many reasons I wouldn't buy a Ford in Australia. Hopeless.

    ozedude of sydney Posted on 20 January 2012 9:48am
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