Ford Kuga TDCi Titanium

Classy-looking off-roader balances performance with comfort

Right now, Ford can do no wrong. After the success of the S-MAX and Mondeo, executives from Honda and Toyota must have feared the worst when the firm launched this small off-roader.

Japanese brands have dominated the sector in recent years, but the Kuga has changed the compact SUV landscape. Its excellent handling and sporty lines setnew benchmarks in the category.

The Kuga is the best-looking small off-roader around, and the bloated Koleos simply can’t match its visual appeal. With its bonnet ribs, sleek headlamps and purposeful stance, there’s no contest.

At 4,443mm long, the Kuga is 77mm shorter than the Renault, and can’t quite match the Koleos for interior space, but its cabin feels polished and solid. The switchgear is also positioned within easier reach of the driver than in the Koleos. However, the ‘Power’ button, which starts the 2.0-litre TDCi engine, is hidden between the air vents on the dash, and looks like a bit of an afterthought. You get a conventional handbrake, though, which is more natural to use than the Koleos’ electronic version.

Rear space is on a par with the Renault, but the Ford misses out on some of its rival’s thoughtful touches. There are no door pockets for passengers and it does without the French car’s integrated window blinds in the back doors. Also, the Ford’s 360-litre boot is 90 litres smaller, although the two cars are much closer when ultimate carrying capacity is the name of the game and the rear seats are folded.

On the road, the Kuga excels. Ford has developed a reputation for handling and ride, and after a few miles behind the wheel you can see why. For a tall vehicle, it’s agile, with fantastic body control. And the precise steering is a revelation compared to the over-light Renault’s. The Kuga relishes bends that leave its rival struggling – yet there’s little compromise on comfort. Better still, both cars produce 320Nm of torque, so the Ford never gets left behind, despite its power deficit.

The raised gearlever adds to its car-like feel. It is mounted high on the centre console, and is much slicker than the Koleos’ manual.

At the pumps, the Ford has less of an appetite for diesel. In our hands it managed 31.5mpg and its CO2 emissions of 169g/km are significantly lower than the Koleos’. The latter achieved 29.5mpg and produces 197g/km, which places it in a less wallet-friendly road tax band. Is that enough to see off Renault’s first proper off-roader?

Details

Price: £22,500Model tested: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCiChart position: 1WHY: Hatchback-style performance sets the Kuga apart from its off-road rivals.

Economy

The Ford takes the lead on the road, and it widens the gap when you look at the finances. Not only is the Kuga cheaper than the Koleos, but after three years and 60,000 miles, it will be worth more, too. As if that wasn’t enough, it also trumps the Renault at the pumps and has a lower road tax banding, so you’ll pay less to run it. In fact, the only place where the Koleos is cheaper than its rival is for insurance, but the difference is a matter of pounds – and not enough to even the odds. Mind you, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you spec the Kuga to the same level as its rival, it will be more expensive than the Koleos.

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