First DriveA UK drive of the new Ford Kuga proves the latest updates and a new ST-Line trim broaden its appeal, but don't quash the challenge of newer rivals
First DriveTop-of-the-pile diesel version of new pseudo-premium Ford SUV has encouraging handling but lacks the completeness of its newfound rivals
What is it?
This is the Ford Kuga 2.5 Titanium, the first petrol-engined Ford Kuga. It’s powered by a 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine that’s basically a detuned version of the motor that propels the Focus ST and RS.
Unlike diesel Kugas, however, this one is four-wheel drive only; there is no option of a front-drive model. You also get the chance to add a five-speed auto ’box to it, but a six-speed manual is the standard transmission.
What’s it like?
Whether or not the new Ford Kuga 2.5 Titanium is any good may only be of academic interest to most UK buyers into the idea of a mid-sized SUV.
Indeed, even the most optimistic Blue Oval executives reckon that, with the 2.0-litre diesel as the mainstay of the Ford Kuga range, this new petrol model is only going to attract a tiny portion of the business of what is now the best-selling car in its class.
Then again, Ford reckons that there are enough must-have petrol buyers out there to justify putting the Kuga 2.5 Titanium on the price lists, and possibly one or two of us downsizing from bigger four-wheel drives who don’t want to lose out on poke or who want the option of an auto.
It's just as well Ford is offering the Kuga 2.5 too, as it’s a great effort. We’ve been left impressed by the diesels, and the 2.5 litre is more of the same. You’re getting a great-looking and spacious SUV as well as the best riding and handling car in its sector, but it's now allied to a delightfully flexible and pretty punchy engine.
In the manual Kuga that we were driving the five-pot provided plenty of overtaking urge, and plenty of character, even if it’s a mite more muffled than in the hot Focuses.
The downside is that fuel economy and emissions are hardly inspiring; there’s no doubt that a four-cylinder turbo would be better and dish out equal performance.
Should I buy one?
The price tag may be hard to swallow, but even that looks good next to the Land Rover Freelander. And image aside, the Kuga is easily the equal, if not the better of the Landie.
So if you must have petrol power, then the Kuga 2.5 is easily one of the best mid-sized SUVs on the market. But we reckon most of you will find the plus points of the diesel too hard to resist.