Ford Kuga is the only affordable small SUV imported from Europe. As such it has the sort of handling dynamics and solid feel that appeals to keen Australian drivers. Also, this revamp of Ford Kuga uses the European design philosophy in that all the budget has gone to the engineers and there are no appearance changes.
The biggest news is that the lowest cost model, the two-wheel-drive Kuga Ambiente, is now available with an automatic transmission. At $28,990 it’s a very reasonable $1500 more than manual.
It’s not just the new transmission that’s appealing, the Kuga Ambiente also has a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine replacing the now superseded 1.6-litre.
At the other end of the scale the midrange Kuga Trend and topline Titanium have had their previous 1.6-litre turbo-petrol EcoBoost engines replaced by big 2.0-litre EcoBoost units. These lift power and torque to V8-like figures, 178 kilowatts and 345 Newton metres respectively.
And if you think that 345 Nm is impressive, how about the 400 Nm of sheer grunt put out by the upgraded 2.0-litre turbo-diesel? That’s the sort of torque that usually requires a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder or V8.
Well aware that Australia is rapidly becoming an auto-only market, Ford supplies a six-speed manual gearbox only in the entry level Ambiente 2WD, everything else gets a six-speed automatic transmission.
We drove a variety of Kugas over a route set by Ford Australia for the media launch. It covered an excellent range of roads, everything from motorways to gravel roads, with boring suburban streets and winding country roads to round things out. It came as no surprise that the very European Kuga was impressively smooth and quiet on smooth roads, being particularly at home on motorways, though you could tell it was hankering for 130 km/h, the normal rate of travel on Euro roads.
It surprised us by being very smooth, quiet and comfortable on Aussie dirts tracks, at the same time being controllable when driven hard, seldom bringing in the electronic aids to pull everything back into shape when we became over enthusiastic.
The only drawback in handling and comfort was relatively short suspension travel that saw it bottom out at times. Perhaps the Australian Ford engineers can have a chat to their colleagues in Europe about this.
We like the interior styling of the Kuga, it’s very modern and an excellent home for the infotainment system that uses Ford’s Sync setup. Amongst other safety features this can automatically call for help if you’re in a crash, and even pinpoints the exact latitude and longitude of the car – extremely important if you’ve managed to leave the road and are out of sight in a culvert or the like.
This revised Ford Kuga is only the start of a smorgasbord of new and updated Fords promised for Australia in the next five years. There will be no fewer than 20 new model launches by 2020.
Ford Kuga won’t be on sale downunder until January 1, 2015 – though we doubt that there will be many dealers open that day. Nevertheless, it’s worth a phone call to your favourite dealer before then.
It’s no secret that Ford is pulling up stumps in Australia manufacturing late in 2015. Keen to promote the fact that it will remain as a full importer Ford Australia is taking the American marketing route and challenging the market leader, Toyota, on many fronts. A little bird tells us you may be able to squeeze special deals on Kuga, indeed on many other Fords.
Keeping in mind there are no styling changes, prices only see minor revisions; some a little down, others unchanged, some slightly up. The complete range, with the outgoing models prices in brackets, is:
Ambiente FWD manual: $27,490 ($27,990)
Ambiente FWD automatic: $28,990 (not applicable)
Ambiente AWD automatic: $31,490 ($31,490)
Trend AWD automatic: $36,490 ($36,240)
Trend AWD diesel automatic: $38,490 ($39,240)
Titanium AWD automatic: $44,990 ($44,740)
Titanium AWD diesel automatic: $46,990 ($47,470)
Prices of options are:
Prestige paint: $385 (all models)
Technology Pack (Trend and Titanium only): $1600
Hands-Free Power Tailgate (Trend only – standard on Titanium): $1200
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Ford dealer for driveaway prices.