By Nick Hodgson
It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing this year for Ford from a PR perspective. However not only have they had time to implement a full blown recall plan, complete with complementary vehicle for customers, but they’ve also had time to bring out this brand new Kuga facelift. I’m going to do you, me and the rest of the country a favour and ignore all the obvious jokes, memes and band-wagon-hopping. For I would never presume to insult yours or my intelligence by assuming the same issues remain in this new Kuga.
The SUV market is massive right now as to many an SUV not only represents the solution to life’s everyday practicalities, but also wets the appetite for adventure and gives that sense of freedom we so crave while stuck behind a desk at 9am on a dreary Tuesday morning. So it makes sense then that Ford would choose the Eastern Cape in which to launch the new model as it boasts hidden treasures for which potential SUV owners yearn. Treasures in this instance came in the form of Hogsback, a gorgeous bit of mountain region and a place that always surprises me as it’s just so juxtaposed to the surrounding countryside. The roads leading there are of course the standard Eastern Cape affair, either smooth and delightful, or rough, rundown and peppered with potholes. The perfect terrain you might say for a soft-roading SUV and a wonderful spot to put the new Kuga through its paces.
The first thing you notice when driving the new Kuga is how much more refined it feels over the previous model. Road noise is barely noticeable, seat adjustability and comfort is excellent and the ride is great, all of which makes the Kuga excel on the open road for long periods of time. Despite our hectic schedule for the day and the rush to the airport the following morning I always found myself arriving with little to no fatigue and ready for more. Hit some twisty roads and the Kuga is competent, but doesn’t inspire confidence in the driver. I never really had a sense through the mountain roads how much grip was actually available to me and no feel is communicated to the driver. This isn’t really a slight on the Kuga though as every car in this sector suffers the same problem. So rather than push on as though you’re Michael Schumacher you may as well relax, take things easy and enjoy the scenery.
Speaking of scenery, the new Kuga has been through a number of cosmetic changes, with a completely redesigned front end, rear light cluster and a few other bits and bobs to make the new package stand out quite nicely from its predecessor. It’s safe to say that this new car is a bit of a looker and should help Ford recapture a significant market share within the segment. More so when you see all the technology that’s been crammed inside. Lane assist, blind spot indicators, park distance control and even self-parking technology are all things you can have in your Kuga. While they aren’t standard features you can bundle this, and more, together for a relatively low additional cost making it a relatively easy purchase decision.
As you may have guessed, the Kuga comes in multiple flavours made up of a combination of trim levels and engines. In Ambiente form you can fit yourself with a choice of either a 1.5 turbo petrol or 2.0 turbo diesel. Should you wish to go for the range topping Titanium trim you can add a 2.0 turbo petrol into the mix. Also available at various levels is the option of all wheel drive over the standard front wheel drive, however I’m sure for most the standard option will go down a treat.
Ford has worked hard over the past 6 months or so to really make sure its existing customers are put top priority and certainly from the data collected during the recall this seems to be the case. Now they’re back with a highly compelling offering to reinvigorate the brand and re-establish trust amongst the South African public.
This is a tough segment of the market to be in and undoubtedly Ford has its work cut out where lines between models are blurred. Everyone is now offering a great product and customer perception is everything. Having driven the new Ford Kuga I can honestly say that this is a highly compelling package and with such a focus put on technology I’m sure it’ll carve out a strong niche. Below is the model pricing, which aside from being competitive in its own right, is lower than the old Kuga. That says it all.