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Driving impression: Ford Kuga

14 February 2014

I attended the launch of the Ford Kuga last year, but it was impossible to make a proper verdict after driving a mere 90km in two different models.

It’s a pity, because I really thought the Kuga had potential. I was a big fan of the previous model’s style, handling, space and pace and the new one appeared to a massive improvement on it.

I’ve now lived with the new Kuga for two days and I can finally deliver a proper verdict; it’s a great car and should definitely be near, or at the top of your shopping list if you’re in the market for a medium-size SUV.

There are many reasons for my positive assessment, but there are two things I appreciate more than anything else on this car.

The first is the perfect mix between ride comfort and dynamic ability. Thanks to a brilliant suspension setup, it’s comfortable and cosseting at all times. This comfort normally comes at the expense of decent handling characteristics, but not so in the Ford. It’s a highly entertaining and engaging SUV. In this respect, it’s right up there with the Subaru Forester.

The second thing I like is the amount of standard specification. Our test unit came with every imaginable optional extra fitted, but even if you take these features out of the equation, it’s still a luxurious and exceptionally safe vehicle.

As standard you get all the obligatory safety equipment (airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP, etc) as standard. Ford then takes it a step further by adding roll stability control, a trailer stability system and Isofix child seat anchors. If you want something even safer, you can always specify the blind-spot monitoring system, lane keep assist, or the active city stop function, which will brake the car when you’re not paying attention. I also have to say that it’s worth ticking the box for the radar-guided cruise control. It’s one of the best systems of its kind in the industry.

On the inside you get a lot of luxury, but the part I want to focus on is Ford’s SYNC system. In my humble opinion, it’s the best infotainment system currently available in a passenger vehicle. It’s so set up and use on a day-to-day basis. It’s also the only system I’ve experienced which completely understands all my verbal instructions. You see, I’m an Afrikaans boy and sometimes my accent sneaks through, which makes it hard for certain, way more expensive cars to understand me.

Ford’s SYNC always understood me, even when it had to search around for toughest Afrikaans titles I could think of. I even loaded my phone with some of the worst old-school Afrikaans music I could find, but I wasn’t able to catch SYNC out.

Throw in a responsive diesel engine and a smooth shifting six-speed automatic gearbox and you have a winning recipe.

My only real problem with the Kuga is how it looks. The first Kuga was a beautiful machine, but the new one is a generic SUV with a Ford face.

I’m not going to deduct any marks for that, however, because styling is a subjective thing, which means it’s not really up to me to decide whether it’s ugly or not.

I’d advise anyone shopping around in this segment to head to their nearest Ford dealership. The Kuga is a very good car and deserves serious consideration from prospective customers.