Good: feels more spacious inside than before, refinement on the road improved
Not so good: interior design may not appeal to all
Despite having a familiar appearance the latest Ford Kuga is a new design from the ground up. Ford will be offering two variants of its 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine the more powerful of which will only be available with four-wheel drive, but given that the lower powered front-wheel drive Kuga falls into tax Band B, this is the car most people will buy.
A strong indicator of just how on top of its game Ford is is best demonstrated with the base model 140hp Kuga Zetec. The engine performed well along the back roads of the test route while through bends the chassis remained surefooted even on poorer surfaces. The suspension is well set up and strikes a good balance between soaking up the bumps while keeping body roll in corners under control.
On the inside Ford has employed a similar dashboard and centre console design layout to that seen in the Focus and Fiesta but it does still present a 'busy' look that may put some people off. The keyless start is convenient and the optional 'hands-free tailgate' allows the owner to open the boot by simply waving their foot beneath the rear bumper without the need to reach for the key - very useful when returning to the car with hands full of shopping bags. That boot has also grown by 46 litres and the rear seats fold flat in one movement.
The Kuga will be offered in two versions in Ireland: Zetec and Titanium. The Zetec trim level includes 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, body colour mirrors, door handles and rear spoiler as well as cruise control and a leather multi-function steering wheel. The higher Titanium trim level gains upgraded alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, dual-zone air conditioning, a Sony stereo system, Ford's SYNC system, which includes Bluetooth connectivity, and partial leather seats. Both Kuga Zetec and Titanium also come with heated windscreens, trip computers and Thatcham security alarms. A commercial variant is also planned for later in the year.
Mazda CX-5: hard to say which is the better looking of the two; the Mazda does come in cheaper though.
Kia Sportage: much lower starting price and not as big, but good alternative.
Volkswagen Tiguan: feels every bit as solid as the new Kuga but doesn't seem as spacious inside.