Call it late braking, but the other week I finally got my turn in a Ford Kuga.
Come again? The Kuga, Ford’s smart soft roader, has been out quite a while now, has it not? Yes, true but not in Japan, alas, where I happen to reside.
Which means that to drive the Kuga and all other new wave Euro Fords, these days I have to board a plane to Europe to see how they stack up versus the Mazdas, Subarus, BMWs et al that normally come my way in Japan.
Time was when we got the Ka, Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo in Tokyo and Ford, to its credit, put it a lot of time and effort to adapt them to the sometimes curious demands of the Japanese market. Trust me, the cars were competitive…
For reasons best known to itself, however, Ford Japan has decided to switch tack and scratch the Euro Fords off the menu. At least for now.
Instead, we get Blue Oval cars from the US (the Mustang, Explorer, the Lincoln MXK and Mercury Grand Marquis), a nod it would seem to the full-sized, Made in America brand of Fords that perhaps have a stronger image among Japanese.
American Fords, let’s remember, also go back a long way in Japan. Henry Ford set up a state-of-the-art plant in Yokohama in 1929 to build the Model A. Before that, Ford was even making Model Ts in Japan and at one point in that pre-war era had some 50 per cent of the Japanese market locked up (GM had the other half) as the Japanese car industry was then barely on its feet.
Fast forward to today and in a minivan strong market like Japan’s, the S-Max ought to have the local opposition running for cover.
The Kuga? Yes, good, thanks. Strong on style, space, go and kit and way more appealing than a CR-V. I had a 2.5 Titanium which was engagingly fast and throbby, but I hear the 2.0-litre diesel is maybe The One.
On a previous trip over, I also spent time with a Fiesta 5dr 1.6 TDCi, Another excellent all-round package that would gel well in Japan (and wouldn’t that shape look cool in Tokyo?).
While I hear that Fiesta might eventually be on its way, a word of caution: Ford needs to get two things right – auto box and air con – if it’s truly to take off.
Meantime, don’t even talk to me about the Focus RS. It’s enough to have me crying into my sake.