4×4 reviews: Ford Kuga

You either wanted an RS 2000 or a Manta, and various relatives either drove Escorts and Fiestas or Vivas and Cavaliers.

I was squarely in the Ford camp.

My first car was an Escort estate called Colin.

The marketplace is all a bit more complicated today, and Ford and I have rather lost touch over the ensuing years.

Successive governments have scored a massive own goal with their company car tax rules, knocking the fleet market, and user choosers have developed the awkward habit of buying German premium brands.

Now there are all sorts of other competitors out there too, so it’s starting to get difficult to work out where Ford and Vauxhall’s position in the marketplace is.

However, Ford knows exactly where it wants to be.

If Hyundai and Kia are the mainstream, Ford wants to sit slightly above them, roughly where Volkswagen now is, but with a little more emphasis on driving enjoyment.

As a result, when it launched a new version of their 4×4, the Kuga, I was surprised to find myself pulling strings to get one delivered early.

A SOPHISTICATED LOOK

The old one was a nice looking car but always struck me, possibly unfairly, as being one of the softer of the soft roaders; I’m not sure I ever saw one at a shoot.

However, the new one has a much more sophisticated four-wheel drive system, is quite a bit bigger and looks a little more utilitarian, so perhaps we’ve been overlooking it unfairly.

The one I borrowed was a 2.0 litre diesel in high, but not top spec.

In old Ford nomenclature, it would have been a GL rather than a Ghia.

As standard it would be £27,045, but by the time the options list had been given a bit of a seeing to it was more than £29,000.

At that point you might as well be done with it, have the leather and satnav and make it over £30,000, which makes it a pretty expensive piece of kit by anyone’s standards.

However, quality, fit and finish make it more than worth the asking price.

It’s beautifully put together, and the materials used in the cabin are top-notch.

Although I’d be a bit worried about some of the glossy piano black finishes near where one’s welly buckles would be.

IT JUST GETS BETTER

And it’s a very entertaining car to drive indeed.

Ever since Welshman Richard Parry-Jones became Global head of development at Ford, their ride/handling compromise has been getting better and better and, although he’s retired now, it’s clear that his influence is felt strongly there still.

The car rides beautifully and corners even better and is probably the first car in this segment to offer any sort of attraction for the more enthusiastic driver.

It’s certainly a much more enjoyable on-road drive than the Freelander, which would probably be its closest competition for the shooting fraternity.

However, it isn’t nearly as good off-road, even with its tricky torque vectoring four-wheel drive system.

Ground clearance and approach angles are okay but not as good as the Freelander (ironically built in what used to be one of Ford’s UK factories) and the stiff suspension that makes it so good in the corners hampers its traction a bit on the rough stuff.

So it all depends on what you want the car for.

It’s a great family car, especially if you quite like giving it the beans when the kids aren’t on board, but also want the added security of four wheel drive.

It’s not a full on off-roader like a Land Rover, but then it doesn’t really pretend to be one either.

INSIDER DEALING

Just as we went to press, Range Rover was launching the new Range Rover Sport in New York.

The key elements are:

– Looks are a cross between an Evoque and the new Range Rover.

– Priced from £59,995 at launch, from £51,550 when the lower output V6 diesel comes out next year – and even cheaper when the 2.0 4 cylinder version comes out.

– Company car tax friendly hybrid version also on the way.

– 7-seat option available for the first time.