Ford has revealed its first-ever ‘unified’ SUV, to be known as the new Ford Kuga in Europe, at today’s Los Angeles motor show.
The compact five-seater is destined to replace the US’s best-selling Escape and will hit European showrooms next year as an all-new, considerably larger Kuga. It will also be launched in China later next year.
The new SUV’s styling closely follows the European-designed Vertrek concept unveiled in Detroit at the beginning of the year. It is the latest fruit of Ford chief Alan Mulally’s ‘One Ford’ philosophy, which has already made a success of European models such as the Fiesta and Focus in the US, and will bring even more unification to Ford’s world markets.
Product development boss Derek Kuzak claims fuel economy for the new Kuga/Escape will beat all comers in its class, reducing real-world consumption by 5-6mpg. He also claims the car has 11 convenience features not offered by any rival, including a hands-free powered tailgate that swings upwards if you aim a gentle kick at the underside of the rear bumper.
Among other refinements, the car comes with internet connectivity and improved aerodynamics, including grille slats that close when maximum cooling is not needed. This cuts aerodynamic drag and reduces fuel consumption.
US models will get a normally aspirated 2.5-litre engine, as well as Ford’s turbocharged 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrol Ecoboost units. European versions get Ecoboosts plus a diesel line-up already familiar in the third-generation Focus. There may also be small-capacity three-cylinder models within a year.
Compared with the outgoing model, the new Kuga is around 100mm longer, with most of the extra length concentrated in the wheelbase. Ford admits one current point of customer dislike is the current Kuga’s small boot and rear passenger accommodation.
Although a new Mondeo is due next year, the Kuga will probably be Ford’s most important launch of 2012 in volume terms. Demand for mid-size SUVs has increased three-fold in a decade, Ford says, and 60 per cent of America’s new car buyers now consider either a mid-size saloon or SUV.
“More people every year are looking for cars like Escape,” says Kuzak. “We want to give them many reasons to buy.”