With excellent off-roading capabilities, the stylish Ford Kuga offers the best of both worlds. It boasts great fuel economy, outstanding handling, first class technology and is offered in a premium Vignale grade too.
The goodNice looking crossover vehicle
The badWouldn't want to get it too dirty
Ford Kuga Vignale 2.0 TDCi Powershift AWD
We Brits tend to find something we like and then stick with it and that’s a fact proven by our a long-standing love affair with Ford. Need more proof? Then check out the car sales figures of recent years with the Fiesta always topping the UK charts and the Focus never far behind.
And ever since its launch, the rugged five-door Kuga has made its mark on the highly popular SUV scene too. Now Ford has introduced a range-topping Vignale model in a deliberate attempt to lure customers away from the premium marques such as of Audi, BMW and Land Rover.
Admittedly, the rather hefty £36,095 asking price (£38,695 with options fitted) may scare away some potential buyers – after all, this a vehicle carrying the blue oval badge and that generally equates to reasonably priced cars that are great value for money.
But, in fairness, the Kuga Vignale is no ordinary car. It offers distinctive Vignale styling inside and out, is packed with first rate infotainment technology and the cabin oozes sophisticated elegance and boasts a range of premium quality materials along with soft touch surfaces.
At a glance, the athletically-styled Kuga looks impressive thanks to its upright stance, Vignale-specific bumpers, rear privacy glass, LED daytime running lights, silver roof rails and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Step inside and this is where the car really starts to shine as a move towards premium branding. For example, you will find quilted leather seats that can be heated and the driver’s seat offers 10-way power adjustment with memory settings. There is a powered panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, front scuff plates, adjustable ambient lighting and premium floor mats with double stitching.
Connecting smartphones is a vital necessity these days and that’s a simple, efficient process in the Kuga thanks to the Ford SYNC 3 with navigation system that also features a nine-speaker Sony sound system. SYNC 3 allows you to control the likes of sat nav, music, phone calls and text messaging through voice commands. The eight-inch touchscreen can be configured to suit your requirements and smartphones are connected in matter of seconds via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All occupants are treated to a high standard of comfort with plenty of light flooding through the panoramic sunroof. And a trio of back seat passengers benefit from ample leg, head and shoulder space. Another plus factor is the elevated driving position which results in excellent all-round visibility.
For easy access, the tailgate can be opened and closed automatically and the boot capacity ranges from 406 to 1,603 litres with the rear seats dropped flat. Elsewhere there are convenient storage options scattered throughout the cabin, including a good-sized glovebox, cup holders, door pockets and a central bin where there are USB connection points.
The Kuga Vignale also features Active Park Assist which will identify a suitable space and park the car while the driver controls the gear changes, brakes and throttle. This system will even help to manoeuvre the vehicle away from a parking space if an inconsiderate motorist blocks you in.
Driven by a 2.0-litre 180PS diesel engine mated to a six-speed Powershift automatic gearbox, the all-wheel-drive Kuga Vignale can reach from 0-62mph in 10.0 seconds, tops out at 124mph and, according to official figures, can deliver combined fuel economy of 54.3mpg with carbon emissions of 134g/km.
When it comes to ride and handling, the Kuga Vignale is a very easy car to settle into and drive. All the instrumentation is modern in its layout and the displays can be adjusted to show different information and driving data. I particularly liked the little car graphic that showed if the lights were on and the neon blue needles on the speedo, rev counter, fuel and temperature gauges.
In and around town, the Kuga proved smooth through the gears and deceptively agile for its size. Then out on the open road the acceleration is good, although not blisteringly fast. The road-holding is assured and there is little sign of body sway into bends. The highly-efficient suspension helps iron out any road surface creases and the engine, wind and road surface noise only becomes noticeable at higher speeds, which is generally the norm for SUVs.
The car can also be driven in a Sport mode which sharpens up responses considerably and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles if you fancy taking a little more control.
The Kuga was awarded the maximum five stars for safety when it was Euro NCAP tested and there is a raft of features and driver’s aids, including the likes of active city stop, lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, driver alert, auto high beam and blind spot monitoring.
All in all, the Kuga Vignale is a beautifully crafted piece of kit. It looks fabulous, is packed with technology, is comfortable and practical, oozes sophistication and handles well when put through its paces. Yes, it is pricey for a Ford, but compare it to the cost of some premium models and it will soon become quite a reasonable and viable option.
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 163PS AWD manual and automatic
Imagine you’re laden down with shopping bags and approaching your car weighing up your options.
Fumbling for the car keys can be a real nuisance so Ford has come up with the perfect solution – a hands-free automatic tailgate which allows owners to open or close the boot by simply kicking their foot under the rear bumper – provided they are carrying the keys.
This is just one of the innovative features that are available on the all-new Ford Kuga.
The versatile SUV first featured in showrooms back in 2008 and since then more than 45,000 have been sold in the UK.
But the new generation model has excellent all-round appeal especially as it’s better equipped, more economical to run and is even cheaper than the outgoing model with starting prices from £20,895.
Buyers can choose from three trim levels – Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X and there is a choice of diesel or petrol engines. The diesel models offer fuel savings of up to 10 per cent compared to previous models and petrol Kugas can save up to 25 per cent.
The vehicle boasts eye-catching good looks with a rugged, ready-for-action stance including bold body lines, thinner light clusters, roof rails, twin exhausts, 17-inch alloys, a deep tail plate, body-coloured door mirrors and handles, plus a rippled bonnet design.
It seems a lot more refined than the outgoing model although that seemed very distinctive in its own right.
Ford believes the mid-trim Titanium model is expected to be the biggest seller so we tested the manual and automatic models fitted with a 2.0-litre TDCi engine and all-wheel drive.
The interior is certainly feature rich and both test cars came complete with a Sony DAB radio/CD, part leather seats, automatic headlights and wipers, dual-zone electric climate control, plus Ford’s smart all-wheel-drive system that continually assesses the driving conditions and then adjusts the car’s torque split to ensure the driver benefits from the best possible handling.
First up was the manual model priced at £25,545. This can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and tops out at 123mph. It has combined fuel efficiency of 47.9mpg and carbon emissions of 154g/km.
This particular Kuga was an absolute pleasure to drive.
Road-holding was excellent and it is much quieter than its predecessor thanks to improved insulation.
Acceleration through the six-speed manual transmission is smooth and responsive and the general handling was impressive.
Visibility is excellent and there is easily enough room for five occupants with ample luggage space too.
In fact, the Kuga now boasts 442 litres of storage space – an increase of 82 litres – and also has rear seats that can be folded flat at the touch of a button.
My only gripe after a lengthy run was the occasional reflective glare from the shiny central console.
Next up was the automatic Kuga priced at £27,045. This particular model can reach 62mph from a standing start in 10.4 seconds and has a top speed of 122mph. It can deliver combined fuel efficiency of 45.6mpg and carbon emissions of 162g/km.
Once again, the Kuga was an excellent drive and I actually preferred the handling of the automatic model. It seemed a little more polished in its performance.
As all-wheel-drive vehicles it is nice to see if they can cope away from the comforts of the Tarmac and the Kuga was certainly put through its paces on an off-road course where it dealt quite capably with deep muddy ruts, steep ascents and boggy fields. Not bad for a vehicle that sits comfortably in the soft-roader category.
Both test models featured Ford’s SYNC system which includes Emergency Assistance. Upon detecting that an airbag has been deployed, the fuel system is automatically shut down, and the system uses the on-board GPS locator along with Bluetooth-paired devices to set up an emergency call-out to the exact location. This is carried out in the local language where the accident occurs.
There are a number of additional safety specifications that can be added to the standard model include active park assist, blind spot information system and Active City Stop.
The Kuga achieved the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety tests.
All in all, the new Ford Kuga is a very accomplished all-rounder. Ford is calling it a smart utility vehicle and it’s hard to disagree with that statement.