Ford revealed its US-spec Escape SUV at the LA Motor Show in November, and three months later the car has appeared in Europe with Kuga badges on the back. The car was unveiled at the 2016 Mobile World Congress, with the brand releasing a suite of pictures – along with official engine and spec details – at the same time. The new SUV will also be shown at this year's Geneva Motor Show in a week's time.
Headline news is that there’s a new SYNC 3 infotainment system, as well as updated styling and a new 1.5-litre diesel designed for improved efficiency. The interior has had a nip and tuck, too, to help the Kuga rival premium SUVs such as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
The newcomer gets a bold two-bar grille, tweaked LED daytime running lights and all-new front bumpers, complete with repositioned foglamps. At the rear it benefits from new tail-lights and a revised bootlid. The top-spec model’s twin exhausts and fake diffuser remain, as do the bumper-mounted rear lamps.
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Buyers get a choice of 17, 18 or 19-inch wheels, plus a new Copper Pulse colour option. Overall, it’s a better resolved design, reminiscent of 2008’s original.
Inside, Ford says the dashboard has been crafted to offer a more ergonomic design, although it doesn’t look that different from what has gone before. The screen is bigger and there are fewer buttons for the air-con and audio system, while the centre console has been cleared up with an electronic parking brake.
All auto models now also feature steering wheel-mounted paddles for improved driver enjoyment. Ford’s Adaptive Front Lighting system will be available on the Kuga, too. This reads the road ahead and can adapt the lighting style to match speed, steering angle and distance from the car in front. Boosting the SUV’s safety credentials are Intelligent four-wheel drive, torque vectoring and ‘Curve Control’, as well as Cross Traffic Alert and Active City Stop auto braking.
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Under the bonnet, the big news is the introduction of a more efficient 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel, which Ford says delivers 64.2mpg and 115g/km CO2 emissions. While it doesn’t replace any other engine, it should prove a fleet favourite, sitting under the 148bhp and 178bhp 2.0 TDCi units. Two 1.5-litre turbo petrols will also be offered.
The new Kuga will sit among five new or redesigned Ford SUVs due in the next three years. It joins the updated EcoSport and all-new Edge, and will go on sale by the end of 2016, priced from around £20,000.
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Ford says the set-up lets drivers control their connected devices “with more conversational voice commands”. Owners can simply tell their car “I need a coffee” or “I need petrol”, and the navigation system will direct them to the nearest and most appropriate facilities.
SYNC 3 is compatible with apps including Spotify and AccuWeather for local forecasts, and it can even install updates via your home WiFi. The user experience is simplified, with fewer steps required for the system to function, plus processing power is increased. Ford has also added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All SYNC 3 systems get an eight-inch touchscreen, with familiar pinch-to-zoom functionality. It launches here in the summer.
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