In other words, if you’re shopping in this sector, here’s a car you have to consider.
Like many of Ford’s latest models, this one gets two clever systems - Torque Vectoring Control and Enhanced Dynamic Cornering Control - both designed to help get its power onto the tarmac more effectively, something you really notice when turning hard through a tight bend, a time when you also note the surprisingly feelsome nature of the electric power steering. And a time where, if you’ve specified it, you’ll also begin to appreciate the tarmac benefits of the ‘intelligent all-wheel-drive’ system that was freshly developed for this second generation Kuga.
Ford’s replacement in-house AWD set-up offers the added benefit of an AWD information screen showing you at any given time on a bar graph just how much torque is being sent to each wheel. As before, the power distribution is a process that’s completely seamless – so if you find yourself somewhere slippery and need a bit of extra traction, it’s all automatically done for you and there are no fiddly knobs, buttons or levers to manipulate.
There’s a choice of two diesel engines, so whichever one you select, there’s the option of either two or four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox or a twin-clutch Powershift auto transmission.
The alternative route is petrol power, something that was only available in the previous Kuga with a thirsty 200PS 2. 5-litre engine that almost nobody bought. That’s all changed now with the availability in this MK2 model of a couple of 1. 6-litre EcoBoost engines offering 150PS with manual transmission or 180PS as an automatic. And they really do make a lot of sense if your annual mileage isn’t high enough to justify the upfront price premium of a diesel.
Though this second generation Kuga design shares many of the aesthetic cues that characterised its predecessor – the headlights for example and the rising belt line – it’s also very much its own car – and very much larger too.
In the boot area you can choose to access with a hands-free tailgate system that can be opened or closed simply by a kicking motion beneath the bumper. Ideal if you’re approaching the car heavily laden with shopping bags.
Of course you can fold the seatbacks flat, a neat operation that needs just a pull on the seat-mounted lever that sees the rear backrests flip and fold forward. The result isn’t a totally flat load area but it is quite a large one, it all puts this MK2 model's growth into perspective.
At the wheel, the dashboard layout is likely to be familiar if you've driven one of Ford’s current models. As with those designs, there a winged dial pack and extensive use of brightwork finishes across the fascia. An infotainment system too, though this one doesn’t offer a touchscreen set-up, instead operated by a controller that’s a bit of a reach away. Still, it all feels of much higher quality than before and though the dash top feels a little scratchy, most of the rest of the fascia is built from lovely soft-touch materials.
So at last, Ford has got serious about SUVs, like its contemporaries, it’s aimed at the urban, rather than the Amazon jungle, but unlike rival contenders, it can reward on twisty tarmac as well as straight stuff, capability enhanced by some clever roll stability and curve technology on this MK2 model. In fact, there’s so much clever stuff here. Depending on how you specify it, this car can park itself, raise its tailgate for you, brake to avoid an accident and even automatically call for help after a crash.
The most important changes though, are fundamental ones. More frugal, cleaner powerplants. A proper petrol option for the first time and, most importantly, a cabin that now at last is properly big enough for family duties. In other words, Ford’s global mid-sized SUV has been as thoroughly thought through as you would expect it to have been.
True, there’s tough Crossover and SUV segment competition from contenders who, in the past, may have seen this Kuga as a minor player in this sector. But they can’t afford to make that mistake now. Ford means business when it comes to this class of car. And if you doubt that, then you need to try this one.