Kuga Coupé on the prowl

12 Jun, 2009 6:01pm Sam Hardy

Ford raises the stakes and expands the Kuga range, including a sporty two-door 4x4 that’s going to be in a class of its own

TAKE a look at the new 4x4 that’s going to turn heads on and off-road! This striking machine is a coupé version of Ford’s popular Kuga, and it’s set to take style to the top of the agenda in the SUV sector.

Now that the Kuga is firmly established in the off-road market, Ford has decided it’s time to expand the range. With plans to grow the five-door version, there’s room for a sporty little brother that puts the brand in a class of its own.

As BMW demonstrated with the X6, there is a demand for cars that combine the raised seating position SUV buyers love with coupé looks and a sporty driving experience. And as you can see in our exclusive images, the new Ford certainly has style on its side. Pivotal to the remarkable shape is the dramatically sloping roofline, while the distinctive C-pillar takes some of its inspiration from the three-door Fiesta.

The muscular yet athletic proportions are reminiscent of the original Iosis X, which previewed the Kuga. A neatly curved rear window, classy roof spoiler and sleek tail-lights complete the look. At the front is an evolution of the new design language seen on the Iosis MAX concept. Huge alloys fill chunky arches, the ride height has been raised, and off-road cues include front and rear skid plates.

The Kuga Coupé won’t command an X6-style price tag or cost a lot to run, though. While the current five-door model is a 4x4, most versions of the three-door are likely to be sold with two-wheel drive for better fuel economy and emissions figures.

Under the bonnet, the newcomer will benefit from the same range of EcoBoost direct-injection turbocharged petrol engines as the upcoming third-generation Focus. These are set to include a new 1.6-litre turbo, available with 148bhp or 178bhp outputs, which will combine storming pace with excellent consumption. Diesel options for the Kuga Coupé are going to include a new 128bhp 1.6 TDCi and a flagship 2.0-litre, available with 168bhp or 197bhp options.

As for transmissions, a Powershift twin-clutch auto is to be available for the first time on the Kuga. It will an optional alternativve to the standard six-speed manual gearbox. Expect the new model to get stop-start from the factory, too. Sitting on a modified platform from the next-generation Focus, the Kuga Coupé is to have class-leading driving dynamics with sharp steering, well controlled body roll and plenty of cornering grip.

It will be the sportiest car in its class and while most sales are likely to be front-wheel drive, an all-wheel-drive variant will also be offered. Options such as a panoramic glass roof, the latest hi-tech integrated sat-nav and Bluetooth compatibility, along with a reversing camera, are going to help make the Ford feel every inch the mini X6.

Production is still some way off, though, because Ford’s immediate priority is the launch of the new Focus and C-MAX next year. Those are set to be followed by a Vauxhall Meriva-rivalling, Fiesta-based MPV. So we will see the new model, along with its five-door brother, at a major motor show in 2011.

Wait is nearly over

A late arrival to the SUV party, Ford’s Kuga is strong seller. Buyers love its mix of good looks, practicality and impressive driving dynamics on and off road. In fact, according to insiders, the only gripe from current owners is a shortage of passenger and luggage space. So the next generation will be bigger.

It will still be based on the Focus, so it won’t be vastly larger, although it’s likely to be even more practical with possibly a sliding rear seat bench and variable-height boot floor. That leaves a handy gap in the line-up to be filled with a smart, youthful and even more fun-to-drive three-door model – enter the Kuga Coupé!

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