From £21,1706
Top-of-the-pile diesel version of new pseudo-premium Ford SUV has encouraging handling but lacks the completeness of its newfound rivals

Our Verdict

Ford Kuga

The second-generation Ford Kuga sports an American facelift, new trims and added equipment, doesn't detract it from still being one of the more athletic SUVs on sale

What is it?

The new Ford Kuga Vignale is a retaliative swipe at the likes of Audi, BMW and Land Rover (all of whom have been making lots of money out of Europe’s growing love affair with the SUV, thank you very much) by one of Europe’s biggest car makers (still hoping to do equally well out of it, fingers crossed). It’s the best reason that the Blue Oval can currently come up with not to buy an Audi Q3, a BMW X1, a new Volkswagen Tiguan or a lower-end Range Rover Evoque. And yet it’s not quite a good reason.

Having just given the Kuga an averagely thorough mid-life facelift, Ford is banking on a healthy dose of extra standard equipment here, as well as some new quilted leather seats, shiny alloy wheels and relatively appealing personal finance deals, to transform its five-seat SUV into a credible premium-brand alternative.

There are precisely no meaningful mechanical differences between a Kuga Titanium X and a Vignale. In years to come, after the designers and engineers have got their ideas for the Vignale version of the next Kuga locked in from an early stage, there may be mechanical differences – but Ford’s fledgling premium brand project started too late for that to have been the case here.

Instead, the Kuga Vignale gives you almost everything worth having from the car’s options catalogue (park assist, a powered tailgate, adaptive headlights and an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, for starters), as well as lashings of Windsor leather, for a price that should still look like value next to a similarly equipped Audi or BMW.

The Kuga’s lesser engines aren’t part of the Vignale range, but you can choose between 180bhp 1.5-litre turbo petrol, 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel or 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel powerplants, as well as automatic or manual gearboxes.

Ford would, of course, be quick to add that, like its other Vignale models, the Kuga goes through 100 extra quality checks during assembly compared with a regular model. It’s dusted with ostrich feathers prior to painting, for heaven’s sake. So what more, exactly, could the company have done to be worthy of that hard-earned splash of cash?

What's it like?

The Kuga’s ride and handling isn’t the problem here. It’s more that the car’s top-of-the-line diesel powertrain isn’t the match of it, while packaging, material quality and infotainment system sophistication aren’t up to proper premium-brand standards either.

Like its range mates, the Kuga Vignale is an agile and often encouraging kind of SUV to drive. There’s a bit of elasticity to the steering feel and an occasional clunkiness to the ride quality over harsher urban roads if you go for the optional 19in wheels. But still, the car blends a taut yet compliant ride with direct, darty directional response, strong body control and good grip levels, constructing a keen sense of dynamism that’s rare in a car of this kind and, in isolation, might be worth paying extra for.

But the 178bhp 2.0 TDCi engine is noisy at high revs compared with the premium-brand opposition, and its dual-clutch automatic gearbox can be a bit clumsy and slow to kick down - although both work well at a normal cruising pace. Acceleration feels fairly strong, but it comes as no surprise to discover that this Kuga gives up more than two seconds to its German-branded rivals on the claimed 0-62mph sprint.

The Kuga Vignale’s leather front seats are comfortable and tactile, but the rear ones are still rather thin in the cushion, and passenger space in both rows could be better. And for every material highlight and flourish around the cabin, there's also a dull, hard plastic moulding or a flimsy bit of trim to burst the bubble of luxury you’d momentarily been enjoying. In a £25k car, those cheaper materials may be okay – but in a £35k one they’re difficult to forgive.

The one addition that could have done most to elevate the Kuga into premium-brand territory for 21st century car buyers, Ford’s new Sync3 infotainment system, also leaves a mixed impression. Navigation mapping is displayed at a more useful scale than before on the 8.0in screen, and the addition of smartphone mirroring systems for both Apple and Andoid phones is long overdue. But the system responds only reluctantly when you try to pinch and swipe your way around its maps, and its online connectivity options are still limited.

Should I buy one?

Although that poised, precise drive is as distinguishing and likeable as ever, the Kuga is out of its depth at a near-£35,000 showroom price. Private buyers would certainly be well advised not to gamble on the commitment of Ford, and its main dealer network, to keep residual values high, and instead simply see how well the Vignale brand stands the test of time.

At a lower price point, avoiding the Powershift transmission, the Kuga still makes a competitive case for keener drivers. But as raw material for the Blue Oval’s already shaky-looking attempt to expand upmarket, it simply lacks the necessary class and polish to shape up.

Ford Kuga Vignale 2.0 TDCi 180 Powershift AWD

Location Austria; On sale Now; Price £34,445; Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, diesel; Power 178bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1716kg; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 57.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 134g/km, 26%; Rivals Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 190, BMW X1 xDrive20d

Join the debate

Comments
20

28 October 2016
I can't think why you would want to buy one of these rather than the obvious competitors, unless you wait a couple of years to buy a used one. Whatever Ford says about keeping residuals high, I can see used values dropping like a stone, or faster.

Citroëniste.

28 October 2016
Bob Cholmondeley wrote:

I can't think why you would want to buy one of these rather than the obvious competitors, unless you wait a couple of years to buy a used one. Whatever Ford says about keeping residuals high, I can see used values dropping like a stone, or faster.

The obvious reason to buy one would be because it will be rarer than the "premium" equivalent and spec wise they would substantially more expensive, look beyond the badge and its another thoroughly competitive product from Ford, which no one can match at this price point.

29 October 2016
Citytiger wrote:
Bob Cholmondeley wrote:

I can't think why you would want to buy one of these rather than the obvious competitors, unless you wait a couple of years to buy a used one. Whatever Ford says about keeping residuals high, I can see used values dropping like a stone, or faster.

The obvious reason to buy one would be because it will be rarer than the "premium" equivalent and spec wise they would substantially more expensive, look beyond the badge and its another thoroughly competitive product from Ford, which no one can match at this price point.

Usual dribble from you.

It will be rarer because it will lose value like crazy. Few people are that crazy to want to buy it on that basis alone. It's simply not in the same ballpark as the German competitors - I see you compared the a5 interior to a Mondeo the other day, idiot.

28 October 2016
Will be sold to Ford group staff cheap on the employee discount scheme, to the few that wished they really did work for a premium brand. Will spend a lot of time in the workshop being fixed.

28 October 2016
And explain to me why it will spend a lot of time in the workshop being fixed?

29 October 2016
Jimbbobw1977 wrote:

And explain to me why it will spend a lot of time in the workshop being fixed?

Ford make good sound cars, I have owned many, but they don't do 'complex' too well and more kit means more niggles. Combined with their service network being dire. there are shortages of good technicians and the good ones move up the chain. Will spend regular days in the bay with a trainee scratching his head why the boot won't open.

29 October 2016
The Apprentice wrote:
Jimbbobw1977 wrote:

And explain to me why it will spend a lot of time in the workshop being fixed?

Ford make good sound cars, I have owned many, but they don't do 'complex' too well and more kit means more niggles. Combined with their service network being dire. there are shortages of good technicians and the good ones move up the chain. Will spend regular days in the bay with a trainee scratching his head why the boot won't open.

My own personal experience - Focus MK3 163 2.0tdci titanium x, has xenons, cruise, blind spot monitoring, auto city stop, electric seat, windows etc etc.. amount of times in 60 000 miles spent in the garage for warranty work... 0 none zilch. No faults, not rattles or break downs. I've never even had to replace a bulb

28 October 2016
Ford`s Q3 results show Europe as the only part of its empire posting an increased profit. So while it products may not appeal to all they are obviously appealing to more and more people.

28 October 2016
I have owned and driven Escorts. Orions, Fiesta's, Mondeo's, and Explorers. The only issue besides tyres and windscreens was a EGR problem on my explorer, I was never let down once. I have also owned and driven BMW X5. 3 series, LR Discovery, RR Sport and more recently a Volvo XC60. Everyone of these vehicles has had faults that require warranty repairs. My only gripe with Ford in the UK is that you cannot purchase with a light coloured trim.

28 October 2016
Autocar wrote:

like its other Vignale models, the Kuga goes through 100 extra quality checks

If these are identifying build quality issues, they shouldn't be reserved for the Vignale. If I bought a £30k Kuga Titanium X or indeed any other Kuga I'd want it to be the best they can make it.

 

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