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My week riding a Kuga

I’ve always been a sedan or sports car kind of guy. My car history includes a Mazda MX-5 two seater sports car and now and Audi A3 Sportback. I’ve never considered an SUV before, it’s always seemed the territory of people with a soccer team of kids or the type that desperately want to park on the pavements of the local mall parking. Driving an SUV always seemed like something you did in order to overcompensate or tell the world you’d reached middle management. In my opinion it’s never fit into my lifestyle.

I was completely wrong.

Besides for the jokes about riding a middle aged single woman this was a great week of driving.

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Colour aside, the first impression of the Kuga is how striking its lines are. Take a look at the power bulge on the bonnet, it signals power. The roof rails also give the car a great side profile and the little vents on the side of the car add to a sporty image. Seen upfront it’s unmistakably Ford although from the back it’s a little nondescript.

The interior is extremely upmarket and sitting inside in the driver position is a great place to be. Leather seats, a chunky but comfortable steering wheel and a very bright interior make for a great driving experience. I drove the automatic and the gear lever is placed higher up than in a car, closer to the dashboard. This is actually the perfect position for when you’re driving a car of this size. The design of the entertainment system is fairly polarising: there are a LOT of buttons on the Sony system and in a smaller car this would be overwhelming. However, in a car of this size it feels like you’re in an airplane cockpit leading you to feel like you’re in control. I have one gripe: this car would be amazing with a panoramic sunroof. Of course this would add substantially to the price but I hope Ford at least gives this option in future generations.

You also get some technological gimmicks such as heated seats and the Ford SYNC system that allows you to connect your phone via Bluetooth and also plug in a USB drive with music on. There are unfortunately no maps included but the voice dialling is a great feature. I’m a stickler for these sorts of things but upfront the car has two cup holders as well as a third in the glove box between the two front seats. Speaking of storage space: the cubbyhole is gigantic and there is even a cool space on the roof to put your sunglasses.

The back is setup for kids: there are trays that fold out of the back of the front seat for kids to put their food and drink. It’s like being on an airplane except you don’t get asked to put your tray tables up when you take off. Space is a little limited in the back and I wouldn’t recommend putting a large adult in for a long journey.

The boot is pretty big, I managed to fit two mountain bikes into the car with the seats down, an easy process that you can do with one lever on the side of the seats. The bikes fit in easily because of the width of the boot meaning you can get a lot in. The boot lid might require shorter buyers to have to jump and pull it down although almost 6 foot me had no issue. All in all, this is a great lifestyle vehicle.

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In terms of driving I had the 2.0 TDCI model which puts out 120KW of power and obviously has that diesel grunt when you take off. Push the accelerator down and the car really takes off and while this isn’t really important to a car of this size you’re looking at a 0-100KM/h of around 10 seconds. Interestingly the 1.6 liter 110KW petrol engine version (which is cheaper) gets you to 100km/h in about half a second less. This probably has more to do with the turbo lag of the diesel. Due to the fact that this was the four wheel drive version the ride was silky smooth and going over the typical Joburg triangular bumps there was absolutely no jarring, awkward moments. In terms of economy the Kuga is fairly heavy in town however on the highway I got the consumption down to about 4 liters per hundred kilometers.

So far, so loving this car.

Let’s jump straight into competitors: The Kia Sorento, Hyundai iX35 and the Nissan Qashqai. I’ve driven the Nissan and the Kia but only sat in the Hyundai and I can safely say that the Ford is the best drive of the three. In terms of pricing the Kuga ranges the version I drove (two liter diesel) comes in at R384,900. The equivalent Kia costs R10,000 less but doesn’t include the useful Ford Sync system and the heated seats. The entertainment system costs an extra R15,000 in the Kia making it more expensive than the Ford.

I’ve come to realise that an SUV isn’t just about being a poser, it’s an actually useful vehicle that fits into an active lifestyle. It would be a tough choice between the diesel and the petrol engine although the entry level Kuga (without the gimmicks) is only R289,900. The all wheel drive version is R364,900 but that version of the 1.6 liter engine pumps out 132KW which should make this a highly engaging drive.

I loved the Kuga, so much so that I’m even thinking of buying one myself.