A Wheel Thing was penciled in to drive the petrol version however a slight scheduling rearrangement had us in the diesel instead. A long country drive to the mid south coast of NSW proved an ideal test.
There’s a range of engines available for the small midsizer SUV, including 1.5L EcoBoost engines. The diesel fitted to the Titanium is a 2.0L unit, with a redline starting at 4500 revs, max torque of 400 Nm from 2000 rpm through to 2500 and maximum kilowattage of 132 at 3500 revs.
The transmission is a simple to use auto, with six forward ratios and a lever seen in other brands. It’s slick, smooth and the Sports mode is redundant, as the torque available is more than enough for any style of driving.
The manual change is done via a rocker switch on the top right of the lever, with the lever itself (too easily) pushed into the final slot rearward, leaving the driver somewhat nonplussed as to why revs have climbed but the gear change hasn’t happened. The now more user friendly sideways motion to select Sports should be employed here.
Based, as it is, on Ford’s massively successful Focus range, there’s a clear resemblance to the donor design. Naturally there’s extra ride height atop the 19 inch alloys and Continental tyres, with front and rear designs inspired by the Focus sheetmetal. It’s not hugely different to the preceding model but enough to look newer.
The front bumper has two deeply inset sheets of plastic, almost looking like radiators, with a V creaseline starting low down before running full length and taking the eye to the jewel style tail light set.
The electronic tailgate has a false bottom, with a plastic attachment that appears as if it’s meant to stay attached when the tailgate lifts up. The rear is tidy, overall, the front is a bit “busy” with the amount of visual interference there.
In profile, the Kuga has a pronounced wedge shape, with that crease line from the front running parallel to one on the lower doors, with both flanked by broad shouldered wheel arches and the windows terminating in a definite triangle piece atop the rear lights. It’s got a measure of masculinity about it and is appealing to both men and women.
Rubber is Euro spec Continentals, 235/45 on a 19 inch alloy.
On The Inside.
It’s a virtual carbon copy of the Focus, bar the airline style tray tables on the rear of the driver and passenger front seats. There’s comfortable seating for five, a reasonable 406L of cargo space with the seats up (a lick over 1600L with rear seats folded), the deplorable console layout for the radio etc (the Titanium does come with, joy of joys, a DAB tuner!) and some easy to read selectable info on both the driver’s and console screens.
Interior room is well used: a considerable 1421 mm of shoulder room for the front seat passengers, 1398 mm for the rear and with leg room at 934 mm for the rear seat, there’s certainly no feeling of being hemmed in. Fabrics and plastics are of a high quality, with a soft touch feel to the trim. Safety is taken care of via airbags aplenty, including thorax and pelvis, there’s Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control, 3 12V sockets and more.
For those that like a bit of space, there’s a glass roof as well.
On The Road.
The “Control Blade” rear suspension, along with the McPherson strut front provides superlative handling across almost all road surfaces, with minimal noise intrusion. It’s got a quick steering rack which makes parking a doddle, as are lane changes. Suspension setup is firm to start, with just enough initial give to not allow too many bumps in.
Acceleration is responsive to the lightest touch when on boost, but is a touch toey from idle to “on”, where it’s like a lightswitch, with something….something….then BANG! as the torque suddenly manifests. Although the spec sheet says the Titanium is an all wheel drive car, there’s moments of very noticeable torque steer as the gears change under heavy acceleration.
Braking is beautifully balanced, with a wonderfully modulated pressure point as you squeeze down and there’s a hint of touch; down further and there’s a linear expression of slowing as you do. It’s confident and confidence inspiring.
The Kuga Titanium also has radar assisted crash avoidance technology, which also doubles as a cruise control activated system; it reads the car in front and will slow or accelerate as required, with a preset speed logged in to the cruise control system. That same radar setup will alert you to a vehicle slowing suddenly in front and will flash lights and sound an alarm.
The Kuga Titanium has a kerb weight of 1782 kilograms, it’s noticeable in the fuel economy. Drinking from a 60 litre tank, Ford quotes 5.6L per 100 kilometres (combined); on a trip to Bega, the famed cheesemaking area of NSW, the dial barely moved from 7.7L per 100 km. Admittedly that was with a bit of luggage and two adults plus two kids, but it was somewhat disconcerting to see the dial sitting a just a quarter full at Cooma.
The distance from home to there? Just 404 kilometres…The return journey saw cruise control used from the southern end of Lake George, just north of Canberra to Campbelltown; economy improved marginally, to 6.6L/100 kms. It’s some way off, on a highway cycle, the claimed combined cycle from Ford. Towing is 1500 kg, braked.
Although, ostensibly, an all wheel drive capable vehicle, it wasn’t taken off road during the week as tarmac is where 99.999 ad infinitum % of these kind of vehicle will live. It’s roomy enough for a family, comfortable enough, user friendly enough bar the centre console layout and it’s certainly a handsome enough looker.
It rides and handles and goes well enough, however the diesel engine economy seemed to be the sticking point.
The range starts from $31K, with the Titanium a not inconsiderable price of near as dammit $51500 without options and metallic paint…it’s a fair ask, compared to its competitors.
For details and pricing, head to http://www.ford.com.au/suv/2015-kuga/specifications/spec-options
For A Wheel Thing TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pVVo3c4tHY&feature=em-upload_owner