2012 Ford Kuga Titanium Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Powerful turbo engine, all-paw grip, solid handling.
What's Not
Thirsty around town, gearbox refinement missing, ageing interior.
Not quite a high-riding AWD Focus XR5, but it?s not far off it...
Tony O'Kane | Aug, 05 2012 | 2 Comments


Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $44,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 10.6 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 11.5 l/100km



The Ford Kuga, sitting above the underwhelming Escape in the local Ford line-up, is an interesting mix of pluses and minuses.

Whether you'll like it will depend upon what value you put to the pluses, and whether they cancel the debits.

It’s only available in just two grades, with one engine and one transmission. It’s also approaching the end of its lifespan with an all-new replacement imminent. And, lastly, it’s priced at the top end of the non-prestige medium SUV segment.

So it's long in the tooth and a bit pricey. But if you can park that to one side, the Kuga’s got quite a bit going for it - especially if you value performance.



Quality: Material quality is at the upper end of the SUV scale, but design and layout aren’t the best. It’s an old car now, and the Kuga’s dated interior design shows it.

Comfort: The Kuga’s well-padded front seats are comfy enough, but the seating position is incredibly high even with the squab at its lowest setting.

You sit quite upright as a result, and while this is great for outward visibility it can compromise comfort on long trips.

Stadium-style seating puts the rear bench higher than the front seats, which is great news for kids as it actually gives them a decent view through the front window.

The low shoulder line also gives backseaters a good view to either side, and the Titanium’s panoramic glass roof is a nice feature to have when the weather is pleasant.

The mesh sunblinds aren’t such a good idea in a country as sunny as Australia though, and the absence of face-level air outlets for rear passengers works against the Kuga’s intended purpose as a family vehicle.

Rear legroom is also in short supply, and the bench isn’t quite wide enough to fit three adults across it.

Equipment: As the high-grade model, the Kuga Titanium offers plenty of gear as standard.

Keyless ignition, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, a powered driver’s seat and heated front seats are all included, as is a panoramic sunroof, rear privacy glass and rear parking sensors.

A Sony-sourced stereo pipes sound to eight speakers and incorporates Bluetooth telephony and a USB auxilliary input, but it looks cheap and has a clunky interface.

Storage: At 360 litres, boot space isn’t terribly big for an SUV. It’s actually about par with many hatchbacks.

Still, the rear seats fold flat and there’s plenty of storage nooks and crannies around the cabin, including some small bins under the rear seat and beneath the floor.

A split tailgate with separately-opening glass is also a handy feature to have in cramped parking spots.



Driveability: The Kuga shares its turbocharged inline-five petrol engine with the Ford Focus XR5, albeit detuned to 147kW. Peak torque is unchanged though, coming in at a healthy 320Nm.

It might weigh a portly 1653kg, but the Kuga is capable of some brisk sprints once its turbo starts to spool. Power delivery is quite linear for a turbocharged engine, and the Kuga’s inline five keeps generating substantial thrust right up until redline.

On-road, its acceleration when overtaking or shooting into a break in the traffic, is very strong - almost in hot-hatch territory.

The accelerator is quite sensitive in the first centimeter or so of its travel, and there is a small amount of turbo lag up until 2800rpm. Those issues aside, this is one immensely tractable engine.

The gearbox is not as impressive. It’s a conventional hydraulic five-speed auto that looks antiquated next to the ZF six-speeds and Powershift twin-clutch transmissions used by other Ford models, and it has quite wide gaps between its ratios.

It’s also slow to change gear during kickdown, and it drags on the engine during manual downshifts. A sporty transmission, it isn’t.

Thirst is also a Kuga bugbear. Ford says it will consume 10.6 l/100km on the combined cycle, but we couldn’t get it to use any less than 11.5 l/100km.

Refinement: There’s quite a bit of noise from the Kuga’s powertrain, but we found its off-beat five cylinder buzz and whooshing turbo to be endearing rather than overbearing.

Road noise is noticeable on coarse-chip asphalt, but it’s not too bad considering the Titanium rides on 18-inch alloys and low-profile rubber. Wind noise is low too, and we didn’t hear any trim rattles during our time with the car.

Suspension: The Kuga is built upon the last-generation Focus chassis, which has been widely-recognised as one of the finest FWD platforms of recent times. It also happens to serve the Kuga rather well.

There’s quite a bit of pitch and roll, but grip is abundant. It may look like an SUV, but the Kuga handles like something far sportier.

The ride is superbly damped too, and ride comfort is excellent even on the Titanium’s 18-inch rolling stock. Ford deserves kudos for tuning a car to corner with composure while still cosseting its occupants.

Steering feel is another highlight. The Kuga’s tiller feels responsive and communicative, and its weighting is neither too heavy nor too light.

Braking: The Kuga’s brakes are responsive, if a little too grabby at the top of the pedal’s stroke.

Besides that, the all-disc hardware can haul up the near 1.7-tonne Kuga with confidence-inspiring ease.



ANCAP rating: 5 Stars (score derived from Euro NCAP test)

Safety features: Standard features on the Kuga include stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist. All passengers are protected by three-point seat belts and front, front side and curtain airbags.



Warranty: Three years/100,000km.

Service costs: Under Ford Australa’s myFord capped price servicing scheme, the cost of a standard service is set at $385. Service intervals are every 15,000km or 12 months, and a major service costing $585 is scheduled for 60,000km/4 years.



Subaru Forester XT Premium auto ($47,490) - Subaru’s Forester XT packs a powerful 169kW 2.5 litre turbo four-cylinder, but mates it to either a dated five-speed manual or four-speed auto.

Interior space is plentiful though, and the inclusion of standard sat-nav is welcome. With permanent all-wheel-drive and a 220mm ride height, the Forester also has more than a modicum of off-road ability. (see Forester reviews)

Toyota RAV4 SX6 ($44,990) - The RAV4’s 3.5 litre V6 gives it the title of “most powerful” in this group, but it also makes it incredibly thirsty out in real-world driving.

It’s getting quite dated now, but it benefits from a very solid construction as well as Toyota’s reputation for reliability. (see RAV4 reviews)

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ($43,200) - Mazda’s top-spec variant of the petrol CX-5 is comprehensively outgunned for power and torque, but it wins for refinement, handling and value.

The CX-5 is such a polished performer that it managed to take home the gold medal in our recent SUV comparo. (see CX-5 reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



So, it’s pretty dated inside and its packaging isn’t especially generous. But we’re willing to bet that few buyers will care about that the instant they give the accelerator a decent prod - for an SUV, it’s a bit of a road rocket.

The Kuga isn’t a car for the family, it’s a car for younger buyers and couples who enjoy the outdoors as well as the occasional ‘blat’ up a twisty mountain pass.

The Titanium is quite expensive though, and given you get just as much performance from the $38,990 Kuga Trend, we think it’s the better buy.



  • Kuga Trend - $38,990
  • Kuga Titanium - $44,990

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

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