Kuga shows the good place Ford are in right now

FORD are in a good place these times, or at least as good as any manufacturer can be in what are very difficult and trying trading circumstances for all businesses.

FORD are in a good place these times, or at least as good as any manufacturer can be in what are very difficult and trying trading circumstances for all businesses.

The motor industry has shivered in the deepening cold of the recession, but it is a resilient sector and the manufacturers, distributors, dealers and workers are battling on all fronts to get through things.

It is not easy, but with the stark choice between lying down, whinging about the ills in the world and losing focus or being inventive and battling for survival, the motor people have chosen the latter route.

You see, being innovative and belligerent even is part of the gene pool in an industry that is forever reinventing, be itself or its product range.

In that regard Ford are in a good place, with an ‘of the moment’ range of vehicles, packed with ‘of the moment’ features presented in a ‘of the minute ‘stylish and attractive package in terms of shapes and designs.

Last year the ‘of the moment’ range of Ford Focus was launched. Ford appeared to be of the thinking that a car that was/is the benchmark for superior driving and handling didn’t need much tweaking in that area, so it travelled another route….namely working on making the cars more economical, safer, user friendly and comfortable and so on.

Basically it loaded up Focus with ‘goodies’, or helpful driving aids.

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Gets the treatment

The Focus, the Mondeo, the Fiesta and so on all got the treatment in different forms in recent times. Innovation is THE thing in the industry, and Ford are in the vanguard.

The Kuga was Ford’s first foray into what would be classed as the soft-roader mini-SUV/Crossover (4x2 and 4x4 variants). While it hasn’t the climbing tenacity of a mountain goat or anything like that, Kuga is well capable of tackling any other challenges most owners would expect of such vehicles.

The entry model price of Kuga is 30,631 euro (ex-works). Kuga is available with 2.0 TDCi engine (138bhp or 161bhp) mated to a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.

And again Kuga gets the treatment from the Ford innovation team. Earlier in the year, for example, Ford announced a first in segment hands free kick activated automatic tailgate system for Kuga.

If owners arrive at the car with keys in their pocket or handbag (the ladies, of course) all they have to do is wave a foot beneath the rear bumper and the tailgate pops open. Big deal, some might suggest, but hand-in-hand with a separate opening screen on the tailgate – the window section operates separate to the full tailgate – for ease of putting bags and parcels into the boot, it is a simple way of gearing things towards improving the customer experience with Ford vehicles.

It all helps! The Kuga’s strongest rival would be the immensely popular Nissan Qashqai. How does Kuga measure up? Very well, actually!

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Sure and agile

The drive of the 138bhp diesel version tested was smooth and flexible, and economical too. The Kuga has the top notch Focus based suspension with a ride that is 80mm higher from the ground; the offshoot is that the handling is sure and agile. Lovely!

The engine was very refined, with noise and vibration at a minimum. Inside the front seat occupants have plenty of space while the space for the rest is a bit more restricted. You will get the best from the load carrying area (smallish at 360 litres) by folding the split rear seats, with that multi-functioning tailgate to help with loading.

The steering column is adjustable for reach and rake and there is multiple adjustment on the seat, so drivers of all heights should have little problem finding that optimum position.

Safety items include Intelligent Protection System, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability programme with traction control and airbags front, side and curtain. Standard equipment on Kuga includes 17” wheels, manual air con, keyless start with ‘Ford Power’ starter button, power heated door mirrors with built in indicator, remote door entry and Isofix provision, so the base line is set high.

The Titanium version driven came with Park Assist incorporating front and rear sensors which is an added cost at 653 euro.

The car you drive is said to make a statement about you. If that be the case, then Kuga drivers could be said to be with it and a very stylish lot!

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The car

Ford Kuga Titanium from 32,881 euro (ex-works).

Engine: max power 139bhp; torque 320Nm (with overboost).

Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox.

Top speed: 186kph; 0 to 100kph in 10.1 seconds.

Consumption: 7.7 l/100km 7.4 (urban); 5.0 (extra urban); 5.9 (combined).

C02 emissions: 160g/km.

Annual road tax: Band D (481 euro).