Ford Kuga

Can front-wheel-drive SUV match prestige badge rivals?

Strong design is a key attribute of Ford’s latest model range, and there’s another styling success in the shape of the Kuga. This is the most sporty-looking compact SUV in our trio.

It sits much higher than the BMW and looks like a genuine off-roader, but the chunky proportions and neat touches set it apart in this company. Even in two-wheel-drive trim it features tough-looking silver skid plates front and rear, plus twin exhausts and chunky alloy wheels.

The gaping grille and Mondeo-style headlights also provide an aggressive edge. Compared with the conservative Tiguan and awkwardly shaped X1, the Ford is a triumph of style and quality detailing.

The cabin is the most adventurous here, too. It can’t match the quality of the Volkswagen or grown-up style of the BMW, but it has its own identity.

The driver’s seat is set higher than in the X1 or Tiguan, but it’s also very comfortable and supportive, and gives a commanding view over the Kuga’s heavily ribbed bonnet.

Standard equipment is generous, even if the two-lead iPod connector included is fiddly to use. It’s all too easy to unplug it when you’re rummaging around in the centre console.

For those in the back, the seats are comfortable and provide the greatest amount of room of the cars in this test. However, some passengers may find the steeply rising windowline and small rear windows claustrophobic.

While the Ford leads the way for rear legroom, it trails behind rivals on boot space. The load area is 110 litres down on the Tiguan, although its split-opening tailgate makes access easy.

If you’ve ever driven a Ford Focus, you’ll instantly feel at home behind the wheel of the Kuga. Body roll is exaggerated by its tall ride height and sizeable body, but there is plenty of grip, and the Ford is very agile. Steering feel is sharp and accurate, if not on a par with that of the BMW.

Engine and road noise are both well suppressed, and the Ford was quieter than either of its premium-badged rivals at the test track, where its TDCi diesel proved a willing and smooth performer.

Despite being the least powerful car, the responsive Kuga kept pace with rivals. Only a poor showing in our braking test let it down – it took 40.3 metres to stop from 60mph.

The Ford scores well on price. At £20,445, it’s £3,760 cheaper than the X1 and £2,300 less than the Tiguan. Emissions are competitive, too.

Striking looks, nimble handling, a willing engine and versatile cabin ensure the Kuga is a serious contender. The question is whether it can hold off the challenge of its premium competitors.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Entry-level Kuga offers great value, strong poise on the road and eye-catching style.

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