Ford Kuga roars in - better late than never
Ford South Africa has launched its Kuga all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle months after its American counterparts unveiled the Kuga's replacement at the Los Angeles motor show in October last year.
The Kuga will be launched early next year (2013) in the US (called the Ford Escape) and it is expected soon thereafter in South Africa.
Media representatives at the launch in Cape Town last week questioned Ford executives about the timing of the South African launch, asking if it was a case of "dumping" old stock.
Ford officials quickly explained that they " cannot wait that long for the new model to enter the market" and decided to launch the vehicle to eager South Africans.
This approach is borne out by Naamsa figures, which show 111 of the crossover SUVs were sold in December. January figures were not available at the time of writing.
We suspect Ford is under pressure from its local dealers to take up the sales void left by the demise of the Bantam bakkie, for which a replacement has yet to be announced.
It's inevitable the current Kuga will not be sold here for very long before the Escape (badged as a Kuga?) is available, probably early next year, although Ford executives were tight-lipped about the timing.
But what is the Kuga like? It's very, very good, and will steal the hearts and minds of those who take it for a test drive.
The handling is impressive, as a result of the all-wheel drive system, and performance from the 2.5-litre motor is exemplary.
The SUV is available in two derivatives, Trend and Titanium, both powered by the same turbocharged five-cylinder engine that powers the outgoing Focus ST.
The new ST will get a four-cylinder Ecoboost engine when it is launched later this year in SA.
The Kuga has a Durashift 5-tronic automatic transmission.
With a maximum power output of 147kW at 6000rpm and a linear torque peak of 320Nm available from 1600 up to 4000rpm, the vehicle reaches a top speed of 202km/h.
The Kuga delivers a combined fuel economy figure of 10.3l/ 100km and has an average CO2 output of 244g/km.
The SUV boasts an intelligent AWD system for those who want to use it cross-country. It ensures very good driving dynamics and steering performance and car-like handling.
Ford says the AWD system uses an "on demand" rear-wheel-drive system. The electronically controlled system transmits as much torque to the rear wheels as isneeded to ensure the best traction under all possible cornering and accelerating conditions, while being careful to avoid a negative impact on the fuel consumption.
We found the split tailgate with separate access to either the upper tailgate section only or both sections simultaneously, a very neat feature.
More neat features are the second row underseat storage, a generous cargo area and a high compartment sill which ensures ease of use when loading heavy items in the car.
Loose items can be tethered using four D-ring tie-down points.
A "one-touch" push function for the rear tonneau cover and flexible netting in the luggage area (only available in the Trend) keeps luggage out of sight to thieving eyes!
The Kuga comes with a comprehensive four-year/120000km warranty and a four-year/80000km service plan. There is also a three-year/unlimited kilometre roadside assistance plan - while service intervals are staggered at 20000km.
The Kuga is an attractive option for those buyers who want an SUV, and is a welcome addition to the Ford stable.
But buyers must be aware that a new model is on the horizon.
Engine: 2.5 litre Duratec Turbo petrol
Power: 147kW at 6000rpm
0 to 100km/h: 8.8 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 202km/h (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 10.3 l/100km (claimed)
Price: Trend R375000; Titanium R395000
Power and refinement
We don't like
The spectre of "dumping"