More than 27,000 units were sold in the first half of this year, putting the compact SUV within the top 20 most popular cars in Britain. Before the launch of this particular trim level, almost 80 per cent of Kugas sold were Titanium or above, so it’s understandable that Ford felt there was a market for a version with a little extra swagger.
And swagger it does – like a premiership footballer walking into nightclub – thanks to the body roll from the soft SUV suspension which is definitely geared more toward comfort than sporty handling dynamics. With a sports bodykit, spoiler, 19-inch alloy wheels, tinted windows and twin chrome tailpipes to the rear, our test car also looks striking indeed, the ‘Tiger Eye Metallic Orange’ paint a welcome contrast to the dull winter weather.
Inside you get heated leather seats – a fantastic surprise as the weather turns colder – a panoramic sunroof and the robust build quality consumers have come to recognise in this most recent generation of cars with blue ovals on the front.
The car we’re driving doesn’t have the touchscreen interface we’ve enjoyed in some recent Ford models, so the dash has a slightly dated, cluttered look to it with an over abundance of buttons making the otherwise sharp styling a little messy.
This is clearly a car aimed at families and there are lots of practical touches which will appeal to that market. There’s a 442-litre boot with an automatic tailgate, lots of little cubby holes around the cabin and even aeroplane-style flip-up tables on the rear of the driver and front passenger seats.
The Kuga comes with a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating – something else that ought to please family buyers – and consequently has a lengthy list of driver aids and safety features, from the mundane – ABS, front airbags – to the more advanced, such as blind spot monitors in the wing mirrors and adaptive cruise control.
The 2.0-litre TDCi engine puts out 178bhp, and 295lb/ft of torque. It’s not the smoothest-feeling diesel I’ve driven, but it has plenty of grunt on the motorway and is sprightly-enough off the mark for its class, with 0 to 60 coming in at 8.9 seconds.
While the suspension is soft, giving a comfortable, rather than sporty ride, the fully electric power steering is sharp and responsive, with a lightness that could lull a driver into forgetting the Kuga’s heft.
All in, the Kuga is a fun to drive, very well equipped and practical compact SUV. It’s big enough to be a family workhorse, but not so large as to cause you problems around town. Unlike many in the sector tarred with the crossover brush, there are a variety of 4x4 options in the lineup and with a braked towing weight of 2100kg it could be on the radar of anyone looking for a tow car that’s also enjoyable to drive in everyday situations.
Ford’s recently-announced Edge SUV – set to launch in the UK next year – puts the Kuga in the middle of the firm’s SUV lineup above the smaller Ecosport. If the Edge is as good as its little brother, then Ford should be confident of annexing a sizable chunk of the UK’s booming SUV market.