* Prices may differ from that shown
In November 2009 I decided that it was time time to exchange the family MPV and go for a more individual model of car. After test driving approximately 15 different brands and models, I decided to plump for a brand new Ford Kuga Titanium in black. The Kuga is basically a bigger, wider and taller Ford Focus but that is where the comparison stops. The driving position is superb. For anyone with back problems, the Kuga is a godsend because you literally slide onto and off of the seat, without having to bend or stretch. The seats have various driving positions and can be altered quickly and easily. The instruments panel is well laid out but nothing too exciting. In the front cabin there is loads of space and it is virtually impossible for the driver to stretch over and touch the passengers door. In the rear, 3 adults can be seated quite comfortably with no headroom issues for taller people. The rear legroom is reasonable but I have seen better on similar type SUV's.
The main thing when seated in a Kuga, is the feeling of safety. From the minute that I got into the car, I felt totally safe and secure. The Kuga felt as if it was indestructible and maintains a great presence on the road.
For those wishing an economical car to run, then the Kuga may not be for you. The advertised MPG is way off the mark and I found that around town I recorded about 30mpg and in a longer journey about 40mpg. These are better than other SUV's in the class but by no means are they exceptional.
The boot space in the Kuga is about average but can be extended by folding the rear seats. The rear tailgate does have an innovative idea where it is possible to open a "hatch", which is basically the rear windscreen, instead of the whole tailgate. This is good concept if you just want to throw a couple of smaller items in the boot.
My husband and I are currently deciding which car to buy to replace his beloved Mini Cooper as we are planning to start a family soon and need a car which is better suited to a family's needs. We have test-driven numerous cars and I have a lot to say about all of them. I will be focussing mainly on telling you about the features and specifications that I am looking for in a family car i.e. space, comfort and the little added luxuries which make life a bit easier.
Both my husband and I have been very impressed with both the exterior design and comfortable drive of the Ford Kuga. The build quality is great and is good value for its price. The added advantage is that you have the option of buying a 2WD instead of 4WD, which makes sense to those who live in a city and don't need much off-road capability. The Kuga's MPG is an impressive 46.3 combined and carbon emissions of 159. The Kuga seems to be one of the most economical SUV's available with the added benefit of feeling like a car when you are driving. The engine is also very quiet.
The model I chose is the Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium 2WD with the following features:
* Flat loading bay for boot (easy to get a push chair in and out!) with luggage capacity of 360 Litres
* Plenty of legroom in the rear
* High driving position
* Half-leather seats
* Automatic temperature control
* Push-button start
* Plenty of airbags for driver and passenger safety
Unfortunately some features that I require come as optional extras:
* Advanced navigation system + Bluetooth + rear parking camera at a cost of £1 200 (which is not very expensive when compared to other car manufacturers)
The price of my configured Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium 2WD with the navigation system is £23 645
In setting out to write a car review, indeed, ANY consumer review, I attempt to do it in the most independent and dispassionate way that I can. To this end, all of my car reviews follow the format laid out below. Why this unusual preamble you may ask? Well, in the case of this particular car, a slightly unusual situation arose around the time that I drove it.
Any of you who read the motoring press, as well as any of my reviews, may be aware that my opinions often vary substantially from those expressed by popular magazines - or indeed "celebrity car personalities" - you know who you are!
Having read an absolutely glowing Autocar magazine road test of the Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium, in which this very car wiped the floor with its competitors, I then read a completely contrary readers letter, from a potential Kuga owner, questioning their verdict when other magazines, comparative, road tests rated the Kuga as an also-ran. The letter writer had also test driven the Kuga and its immediate competitors.
Bearing in mind that the Autocar test had been carried out in isolation, I found their high and mighty response to the letter i.e. "We are right and they are all wrong", rather thought provoking. Both views could not be correct, for my own interest and satisfaction I needed to try a Kuga in order to discover where the truth lay - and indeed set the record straight. My findings were to prove surprising indeed.
The motoring press like to categorise certain marques as "Premium Brands", however hard the likes of Ford and Vauxhall try, their models will never qualify for "Premium" status. Some may know the history of Lexus, a brand born to parent company Toyota with the sole intention of attaining instant "Premium" status.
Readers new to my car reviews will not be familiar with my total disregard to badge snobbery. During the 1980's I ran a series of Fords, in the 90's a series of Vauxhalls and currently, a Subaru, in between there was a Honda.
I choose a car that I find good to drive, offers good all round value and reasonable running costs. Never have I purchased a car, either personally, or for the Company, based purely on the badge on the bonnet.
Here in a Richada review all makes have equal status, whatever the badge, the car is judged on individual merit.
That is a statement that really should not need making, but I feel sure that there are some reading this, who would never consider purchasing a Kuga, merely because it IS a Ford branded product.
WHAT IS IT?
The Kuga, being a compact "lifestyle" 4x4, or "soft roader" and therefore a niche model, is a slightly unusual offering from mass marketeers Ford, and enters a market that they have not so far been present in.
Ford themselves incidentally refer to this car as a "crossover vehicle", the terms for ever more niche marketed cars seem to become ever more meaningless as far as I am concerned.
There have been 4 x 4 Fords in the past - slightly less than successful joint efforts with Nissan and latterly Mazda, the Kuga however is a Ford through and through.
In terms of size, the Kuga at 4440mm long is rather more compact, inside and out, than its most obvious competitors, certainly those at a similar price level, which include the smallest four cylinder diesel Land Rover Feelanders, Honda CR-V and Subaru Outback.
More directly comparable are the Volkswagen Tiguan which bears a similar relationship to the Golf, as that of the Kuga to the Focus and the rather less obvious Renault Koleos.
In practical terms it is a mid-size, family five door hatchback with a part time four wheel drive system and a command (i.e. high up) driving position. A would be school run status symbol car then, but is it?
WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL?
Here I am reviewing a 2.0 TDCi Titanium model, which was simply groaning with optional equipment.
Currently there are only two Kuga models available, both with the 134bhp diesel engine, the standard Zetec retailing at £20,495 and this much plusher version for another £2000. A much more powerful 5 cylinder petrol version just joining the range makes do with drive to the front wheels only.
Ford have now also signalled their imminent intention to sell a less polluting two wheel drive version too, purely a re-bodied Focus then in that case.
IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR?
The reason for actually choosing to test this car has already been discussed, but I am also reviewing this car with my fleet manager's hat on. Thanks to my invitation to the Millbrook Testing Ground from Fleet News Magazine to their Company Car In Action event, I have been able to compare many cars back to back, using two test tracks that simulate driving conditions that you would be hard pressed to encounter during many thousands of miles of ordinary motoring.
Millbrook is a venue, that having attended for years, I am thoroughly familiar with. It allows direct comparison between various models. Being "closed circuits", the facilities there also allow you to drive at speeds which would, on public roads, be highly irresponsible. The importance of testing cars in this way is to find out just how a car behaves in extreme conditions i.e. on the limit, for instance in an emergency braking situation on the road, or perhaps a rapid and not anticipated lane changing manoeuvre.
Maybe I am growing old, maybe I am expecting too much for the money these days, but what would once upon a time been seen as ordinary working class peoples cars are now becoming way beyond the pockets of such customers.
The Kuga is not going to be a cheap car to run.
Insurance at group 10 is hardly going to break the bank, however a CO2 figure of 169g/kg is far from impressive from a 2.0 diesel powered car in this day and age. That figure will put off many company car drivers as benefit in kind tax is based on the CO2 level output.
PURCHASE COST 5 / 10
We were frankly surprised to discover, after driving it, that the Kuga was £22,500. Nothing whatsoever to do with the Ford badge, it just does not have the feel of a car of that price to me.
One also has to bear in mind around £6000 of optional equipment fitted to the car that I drove, if it did not feel £22.5K good, it most certainly did not feel like a £28,500 car!
Ford appear to have aimed this car at the relatively well off family looking for a second, distinctive, school run car. The trouble is here that, like it or not, such a family with between £22,000 and £30,000 to spend are far more likely to go for something with a prestige badge on it, although, fair to say, Fords ascendant is currently rising thanks to the economic gloom.
Those that have the cash do not want to be seen spending it, so maybe there will be a few less Land Rovers on the road and a few more Kugas......but that will not always remain the case.
For my money, a £2000 less expensive Zetec Kuga makes more sense - after all you have the same body, same soft road capability and even the same engine under the bonnet.
THE OPTIONS GAME: 5 / 10 or "How much do I need to spend to make it habitable?"
The Ford demonstrator that we tried was equipped with almost £6000 worth of options, and on first site, without resorting to their excellent on-line car configurator, they were mighty difficult to spot. Things like leather upholstery and xenon headlights which one tends to expect as standard in a top of the range car like this were part of very expensive option packs fitted to this car.
I can only therefore comment here that, top of the range Titanium status or not, this is not a terribly well equipped car - especially bearing in mind its' list price in standard form.
DEPRECIATION 7 / 10 - Always the biggest running cost.
Lavish thousands on options at your peril - when you come to re-sell your Kuga in two or three years time they will have depreciated totally.
Assuming that you have taken my advice and been sensible with the options - maybe just spent around £500 extra on metallic paint, then the Kuga should prove a reasonable motoring investment. I say should, much depends on how many Ford build, if the market is flooded with them, taking into account the new price, then hefty depreciation will be the order of the day.
FUEL ECONOMY 7 / 10
In judging the Kuga's fuel economy one has to be very careful to compare it to its' almost universally more thirsty competitors, rather than any ordinary 2.0 litre turbo-diesel powered car. The only trouble there, is that its competitors tend to be not only larger and more spacious, but quicker and more relaxed to drive too.
The claimed average consumption is a respectable 44.1mpg. Trouble is that in my own experience with any diesel car you can pretty much knock 20% off of the claimed figure in every day driving conditions. Regard 35mpg as a likely average and that is still acceptable though for a four wheel drive 1613kg family car.
The 58 litre (12.75 gallon) fuel tank on the other hand is a trifle mean - and will severely hamper the range on the five cylinder petrol model.
This translates to an operating range of less than 450 miles between fuel stops. Personally I see no need to buy any car that will not travel at least 500 miles on a single fill of fuel. Many school run mums (who will see very poor consumption figures in stop-start driving) will not appreciate the number of trips that they have to make to the smelly diesel pump in this car.
SERVICE & MAINTENANCE COSTS 9 / 10: are you going to make the dealer rich?
The Kuga should prove more than class competitive on this score, indeed it should lead the class. Ford dealers are not as plentiful as they used to be, which has hiked the price of servicing a little, but all in all spare parts and service costs will be less for this than any other similar car.
Let the "fun" begin! You want to know what this car is like to live with and to drive and be driven in.......
STYLING 8 /10: A very subjective category here.
Approaching "our" particular Kuga - finished in black, this was actually the first one that I had seen in "the metal" - I was struck by just what a handsome car this is. This was not really a surprise as it had been widely previewed in the press by the time I got to drive this one. However this is a very colour sensitive car, looking good in black, white, light or dark silvers, in the red or blue colours it is far more flashy due to the rather overdone combination of black, grey and silver detailing, which tend to blend in better with black or shades of grey.
Like many other people that I know, I am no fan of "butched-up" off roaders and would not buy such a car for this very reason. It appears that Ford's stylists took the likes of me into account when designing this car. It looks neither over bodied, nor (on £350 extra optional 18" wheels) under tyred, both common faults amongst many of the less expensive i.e. non-Land Rover 4x4's.
OVERALL BUILD QUALITY AND FINISH 9 / 10 Does it look as though it was slung together?
No modern Ford is, or looks to have been, slung together and the Kuga is a good example of a thoroughly well assembled and finished modern car. It may lack the final 10% of Audi or Skoda build quality, but certainly all the panel gaps were tight and even, the paint finish, on this Ford demonstrator at least, was deep, glossy and perfectly applied.
SAFETY 6 / 10 If it comes to the worst, how well are you and your family going to come out of it?
This is a modern, well built car, based on a chassis (from the Focus) which has impeccable credentials. Add to that very good starting point a higher than usual driving position, and all the modern safety aids in the business and at least in passive terms you have a very safe car indeed.
Dynamically, in isolation, there is nothing inherently "unsafe" feeling about the way that the Kuga drives. However, on the same day that I drove the four wheel drive Ford I also drove many other cars on the same courses and I have to say here that this particular car made me feel the most "nervy" driving it. The Focus, also driven on the same day under identical circumstances, is a car in which you have total dynamic confidence; in layman's terms it behaves exactly the way that you expect it to in any given situation. Put it on stilts, add drive to the rear wheel and you have a car that, to me at least, fails to feel "right".
Possibly four wheel drive requires a longer wheelbase, maybe the centre of gravity is too high, but under heavy braking, and in tight turns, I had the genuine feeling that this car was more likely to topple over than any car that I have driven in a very long time. I simply lacked the confidence in the Kuga that I had in maybe three or four dozen cars previously driven at Millbrook. Purely as a school run only car it would be adequately safe, we, and many others, though require an "all purpose" car in this role I feel unable to recommend it, not something that I ever thought I would find myself saying about any Ford.
ERGONOMICS 4 / 10 Before I can start the engine and drive away I need to feel at home in the "working environment". The relationship between the controls and how I, the driver, am able to instinctively operate those controls is, all important. This for me is make or break, before I drive a car, if it does not instinctively "feel" right in this department then I will never like it or ultimately buy it.
For several decades Ford have been the masters of ergonomics, you simply get into one, adjust the seat and all the controls, switches and dials just fall into place where you naturally expect to find them. The Kuga is no exception to this and indeed builds to an extent upon it.
"Our" car had the expensive (£750) convenience option of keyless entry. If you have not come across this before, it means that you can walk up to the car with the key fob in your pocket or hand bag, it will unlock the doors automatically. You sit behind the wheel, press a button marked "POWER" on the dashboard centre and drive away.
Convenient yes, not sure quite how secure though.
Whilst the driving position is excellent, the seats in the non-leather (£2000) trimmed Kuga's would I feel be better. The seats are rather flat; the leather surface slippery, which when combined with the high centre of gravity gives you a real sense of being thrown about inside the car. I am just over eleven stone; probably someone far better built than I would be more comfortably located. Regrettably I have not driven a cloth trimmed Kuga, but am pretty sure that I would find it a much more comfortable car to drive as a result.
Those who remember Fords sweet gearboxes of old will be in for a shock here too. The gearlever may be handily placed, but it is also stiff and at the same time imprecise to operate.
However, for me, that is not what I really disliked about this car. Having driven dozens of Fords over the years - and owned six of them - what really shocked me was how inconsistent a feel there was between the foot pedals. The accelerator was fine, diesel norm, the brake pedal wooden and a little stiff, but this car had quite the worst clutch action that I have ever experienced.
Maybe there was something wrong with this particular car - but being a hand picked Ford fleet demonstrator I am unable to give it the benefit of the doubt. The first half of the clutch travel was conventional enough; it then travelled beyond the conventional arc, heading UP towards the steering column, accompanying this unusual travel was a nasty squeak too - that on a car barely run in! Difficult to describe the feeling of that clutch movement here, but it was certainly very unnatural and very uncomfortable to operate.
VISIBILITY: 8 / 10
Providing the rear parking sensor option is fitted (only available as part of the £750 keyless entry system - it should be standard) then visibility is as good as in any car that I have ever driven. Both interior and door mirrors offer a fine rearward view, whilst the "command driving position" offers you an every day advantage over less tall cars. Children will also appreciate the view from the rear seats.
Directly to the rear this is a difficult car to park - unless the parking sensors are fitted. The rear window is shallow and high off the ground, posts, other cars and children below about 4ft tall are all invisible from the drivers seat when reversing.
SPACE: 4 / 10:
With a car that is in every dimension larger than the spacious Focus on which it is based; it is very disappointing to report a shortage of space, particularly in the rear seats. Both head and leg room are restricted for anyone of average height or more.
Whilst space in the front is plentiful for the tallest driver and passenger, the amount of oddments space provided is woefully inadequate for what is after all intended to be a family car.
The boot on the other hand is large and square, pity that just a little of its volume could not have been given over to passenger space.
STYLE 7 / 10:
In truth there is little to like or dislike about the interior design of this car. I actually found the black leather seats unattractive; the standard cloth seats appear both better looking and more comfortable. Apart from that the interior is modern Eurobland, take off the Ford badges and you could be in one of any number of £16,000 hatchbacks......
......just to remind you this one starts at £22,500.
MATERIALS, FIT & FINISH 7 / 10: Aspreys or Ratners?
Adding leather upholstery really does not add to the quality ambiance inside the Kuga at all. However, build quality, fit and finish is very good indeed. For my money I would prefer to see fewer materials used, the interior echoes the exterior where different grades of both metal and plastic materials have been tacked on in order to 'decorate' the car unnecessarily. My wife thought that it simply looked "cheap".
In all probability less is more - the cheaper Zetec model providing a better interior.
AUDIO & CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS 9 / 10: Strange grouping?
Here the old Ford magic returns. Big, bold and simple to use controls operate efficient heating and strong audio systems.
ON THE ROAD........
......Time to start it up and to offer you a driving assessment.
NOISE, VIBRATION & HARSHNESS 6 / 10 Silk purse or sow's ear?
Ford still have a way to go to catch up with the best four cylinder diesel engines on the market. This is not a car that a passenger is going to get into and ask you which fuel it takes, you never loose the sense of travelling in a diesel.
Added to that is the weight of the car, requiring higher revs and more noise for any given speed than you may otherwise be used to. Indeed Ford have been forced to lower the gearing, merely to make the performance acceptable. This certainly hurts refinement at all speeds.
On the whole though, this is an acceptable car in which to travel on this score, although, especially at the price, I would not recommend it as the ideal long distance cruiser.
PERFORMANCE 3 / 10 Sh*t off a shovel or a constipated tortoise?
One of the main reasons that I found the clutch so very dislikeable was that in this car you have to use it and the gearbox far more than should be necessary. Not to drive fast, but merely to keep up with other traffic.
Unless cruising on a motorway in top (6th) gear, in ordinary driving the Kuga simply feels under powered, forcing you to be in a gear, if not two lower than you would expect to be.
RIDE & HANDLING 6 / 10
If you appreciate a very firm, yet well damped ride, then this car will suit you. It soaks up the big bumps and undulations well, but never really offers true comfort the way a four wheel drive Subaru Legacy Outback can for example.
I have already covered the handling aspect in the safety section, there is a lot that Fords very highly skilled chassis engineers could do to improve the Kuga here.
CONCLUSION - Would I buy one myself and would we want to drive it to Poland in a day?
Sorry Ford, an emphatic no and no again here - not if someone paid me to do it!
It is a very long time since I drove any car that I disliked as much as this one. Thanks to my review "formula" the Kuga has scored highly where it deserved to, but has also fallen miserably on some of the most important aspects of car ownership - at least as far as I am concerned.
I was left with the rather sad, yet very strong impression that this car had been rushed far too soon to the market. In so many ways, compared to any other car driven over the last ten years, it felt un-developed, not properly "finished".
Adding insult to injury, the Kuga is, as far as I am concerned also, inescapably, over-priced.
FINAL SCORE: 110 / 170
Different people undoubtedly have different priorities in their daily personal transport; regrettably the Kuga fails to make the grade in so many areas that I could never recommend one to anybody.
Putting that score into perspective are the following cars based on identical scoring criteria:
ALFA ROMEO 147 1.9JTD Lusso (5 Dr) - 67.8%
FIAT PUNTO GRANDE SPORTING 130 Mjet - 75.9%
FORD KUGA 2.0 TDCi TITANIUM - 64.7%
HONDA ACCORD i-DECT EX GT (2008 Model) Saloon - 69.4%
HONDA ACCORD i-CTDi Saloon - 80.0%
HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC SE - 78.2%
HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC S i-SHIFT - 68.8%
HONDA CIVIC IMA SE - 73.5%
HONDA JAZZ 1.4 SE CVT-7 (Automatic) - 74.7%
SUBARU OUTBACK 2.0D RE - 85.3%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Vector - 68.2%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Linear CONVERTIBLE (2007 Mondel) - 74.1%
VAUXHALL ASTRA TWINTOP 1.9 CDTi DESIGN - 78.8%
VAUXHALL VXR8 - 84.1 %
VAUXHALL MONARO VXR - 71.1%
VW PASSAT TDi 140 S ESTATE - 71.7%
VOLVO S60 D5 SE - 70.6%
Richada / Dooyoo © March 2009.