What is it?
Ford calls it a cross-over, we’d call it a compact four-wheel drive. Either way the Kuga is a handsome, tall family wagon that looks a cut above your mundane estate, allows you to look down on the world from loftier seats, offers decent room and majors on a fine driving experience.
And it does provide four-wheel drive, although the electronically-controlled Haldex clutch usually sends more than 95 per cent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels, the rear axle playing a greater role only when needed.
There’s no use of the brakes to limit wheelspin either - Ford considers this potentially counter-productive if all four wheels are on a slippery surface - and nor is there hill-descent control.
So the message is clear - the Kuga is all about on-road driving, but it will drag a boat and trailer up a seaweed-slathered slipway, and it will be that bit more secure in treacherous road conditions, too.
The guts of this car are derived from the Focus family component set, but the bodyshell and most of the interior are entirely new. Only one engine is available at launch, a 134bhp 2.0 TDCi diesel and six-speed, although a197bhp 2.2-litre five cylinder petrol will appear later in the year. Expect a 2.2-litre diesel eventually as well.
What’s it like?
Largely as you’d expect a Focus-derived SUV to be, really, though its dynamics are better than might be anticipated given the challenges of making a tall, relatively heavy vehicle of this kind athletic.
It’s particularly impressive for its fuss-free agility, direct steering, lack of roll and the relatively high speeds you can reach before understeer sets in, or would if the ESP was disengaged.
Despite the need to be pretty firmly suspended to achieve such a deft way with bends it rides comfortably too, though sharper bumps are more likely to be well rounded-off rather than fully absorbed. The bodyshell feels impressively robust over rutted tracks and the suspension operates with impressive quiet, too.