Ford Kuga TDCi

Practicality and muscular looks help SUV to stand out in this company

PITCHING a Ford Kuga against a Peugeot RCZ sounds a little unfair. But there’s no need to feel sorry for the off-roader – anybody who wants to make a style statement would do well to consider a compact SUV, and the Kuga is one of the best.

What makes it so good? For a start, you only have to look at it to see it’s no ordinary SUV. From the smooth styling and muscular stance to its tall ride height and the metal-effect underbody protection, the Kuga doesn’t hide its go-anywhere roots.

Admittedly, our example is only a two-wheel-drive model, so it’s not going to cope with really difficult terrain. But if you’re already considering a coupé or roadster, the chances are this won’t matter. And the absence of four-wheel drive helps to trim costs and highlight the car’s other major strength – performance on the road.

The Kuga is as capable and entertaining to drive as many conventional family hatchbacks. Ford’s famed chassis tuning expertise has been deployed to full effect, and the result is a tall-riding crossover that can put a smile on your face on a country road. Its agility and composure don’t come at the expense of comfort, either, because the Kuga offers the most cosseting ride of our quartet.

The 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine provides decent punch, too. And while the Ford is the slowest car in our line-up, it never feels short of pace, and the smooth oil-burner doesn’t detract from its engaging dynamics.

What’s more, it offers reasonable fuel consumption. The firm’s official combined claim of 46.3mpg is the most economical in our test.

Not only does the Kuga have eye-catching looks, it’s also extremely practical. The SUV is the only one of our test quartet capable of carrying four or five adults, plus their luggage, in relative comfort.

In contrast, the Peugeot RCZ’s rear bench is a token effort, and the Fiat 500 has a minuscule boot, plus a pair of cramped back seats. The Mazda is strictly a two-seater.

This all makes the Ford really easy to live with – something that you can’t necessarily say about its rivals, unless you’re willing to accept some serious compromises. A number of other neat touches adds to the Kuga’s appeal. An independently opening rear windscreen helps when loading small items into the boot in confined spaces, while increased ground clearance enhances the SUV’s ability to head away from the beaten track for light off-road duties – try packing a mountain bike into the back of the Abarth, Mazda or Peugeot in a rural car park!

Inside, the Kuga certainly ticks all the boxes for our X Factor judges. Its high-quality materials, neat design and generous kit tally are par for the course, but the commanding view of the road literally elevates it above the competition. If you love that high-riding feeling, the Ford Kuga is for you.

Details

Chart position: 4WHY: Kuga’s sporty looks are backed up by fun handling, plus the strongest practicality and economy here. Yet does the crossover have the X Factor?

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