8 Comments
2015 Ford Kuga Review: Ambiente And Titanium, EcoBoost and Diesel Photo:
 
 
Tim O'Brien | Dec, 23 2014 | 8 Comments

What’s hot: Comfortable settled ride, brilliant SYNC 'hands free' technology, new engines transform performance.
What’s not: Some cabin trims below par, button-operated sportshift a bit naff.
X-FACTOR: Younger family buyers will love the Kuga’s smart technologies - SYNC is sensational - but they’ll also enjoy the spirited drive.

Price: $27,990 - $46,990 (plus on-roads)

Power/Torque:

  • Ambiente 1.5 litre 2WD EcoBoost: 134kW/240Nm (manual: 110kW/240Nm)
  • Titanium 2.0 litre AWD EcoBoost: 178kW/345Nm
  • Titanium 2.0 litre TDCI diesel: 132kW/400Nm

Fuel consumption:

Ambiente 1.5 litre 2WD EcoBoost listed: 7.0 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km
Titanium 2.0 litre AWD EcoBoost listed: 8.6 l/100km | tested: 10.6 l/100km
Titanium 2.0 litre TDCI diesel listed: 5.7 l/100km | tested: 8.3 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

What a difference the right engine makes.

Ford’s updated Kuga is on sale now, but don’t go looking for changes to the metal - it looks the same.

But it’s not. Thanks to a heart transplant, the 2015 Kuga is quite a different little beast.

In fact, buyers have a choice of three new hearts - two EcoBoost petrol turbo engines, a 1.5 litre and a 2.0 litre, and a feisty 2.0 litre turbo-diesel.

Those engines transform this compact family wagon.

We’ve driven all three engines, but in two variants, the entry Kuga Ambient with the 1.5 litre, and then the top-spec Titanium with both the 2.0 litre turbo petrol and the 2.0 litre Duratorq TDCI turbo-diesel.

These are gritty, eager, enjoyable engines.

The 1.5 litre produces a lusty 132kW and 240Nm when mated to the auto 2WD Ambient we drove; the 2.0 litre EcoBoost produces a hot-hatch-levelling 185kW and 340Nm.

Saving the best till last, we also spent time at the wheel with the Titanium AWD turbo-diesel with 132kW and 400Nm. That’s a shedfull of ergs, especially so in a small family wagon.

 

INTERIOR

  • Ford SYNC with Emergency Assistance
  • Reversing camera
  • Hands-free ‘kick’ tailgate (optional on Trend, standard on Titanium)
  • DAB+ radio (standard on Trend and Titanium)
  • Auto Stop-Start on all 1.5-litre EcoBoost and TDCi variants
  • An optional ‘Technology Pack’ adds the following to Trend and Titanium models.
  • Active City Stop
  • Lane Keeping Aid
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Blind Spot Information System
  • Auto High Beam
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring

The look and feel to the interior in the Spanish-built Kuga is fine; it is well put-together and with materials and tactile surfaces a little better than average.

In out-of-the-way places, like around the base of the seats and lower door-trims, the finish is also neat and free of rough cuts and misalignments.

The sporty multi-function steering wheel feels ‘right’ and the seats are well-shaped and comfortable.

And the Kuga is bigger and roomier inside than it appears. There is good space for longer legs in the rear, and room across, at a pinch, for three larger teens there.

The Ambient comes with tight-weave fabric trim, which looks fine and feels durable (and can be the better choice than leather in the hot Aussie sun).

The Titanium however gets smart leather seats and decorative stitching, a neat piano-black curved centrestack, chrome garnishes and painted metal highlights.

The only obvious debit across all models is the Tupperware feel to the plastic immediately around the gearshift, the fiddly button-operated manual sport-shift in auto models, and the small (by current standards) centre screen.

But it is simply not possible to downgrade the Kuga’s feature-laden interior on superficialities when it carries such a premium list of high-end technologies.

These technologies, most standard across the range - like the brilliant SYNC voice-activated-everything, standard emergency assistance, hands-free park assist (standard in Titanium) and standard inflatable rear seatbelts - put the Kuga at the top of its segment for smart, useful, and potentially life-saving technologies.

If you want to call a friend, or set the air-con, or get directions, you simply ask, and SYNC will do it for you.

And if you crash or need emergency assistance, SYNC will call ‘000’ and provide the GPS co-ordinates for rescue.

A feature of the new wave of Ford models here and coming, the SYNC in-vehicle communications platform is the ace in the 2015 Ford range (and soon to be SYNC2). It is as easy to use as simply pressing a button, and asking.

The reversing camera is currently a dealer-fitted accessory, standard in Trend and Titanium, but it will be a factory-fitted item from mid-2015.

From the Ambient through to the Titanium, the 2015 Kuga brings high-end technologies into the sweet spot for family buyers.

The Titanium, of course, comes with ‘the lot’, and it is reflected in a price barely shy of $50k for the TDCI diesel.

But the Ambient and Trend models are certainly not lacking, and each makes a compelling buy.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • Ambiente 1.5 litre 2WD EcoBoost: 134kW/240Nm (manual: 110kW/240Nm)
  • Titanium 2.0 litre AWD EcoBoost: 178kW/345Nm
  • Titanium 2.0 litre TDCI diesel: 132kW/400Nm
  • Six-speed manual (base model Ambiente); six-speed sports automatic
  • All-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring

The Kuga is up with Mazda’s CX-5 for on-road dynamics. It has the same ‘longer-travel’ feel to the suspension and is a little more settled and comfortable on rougher road surfaces than others in the segment.

The compliant suspension is immediately noticeable and a compelling feature of the Kuga - it will win a lot of friends among country family buyers who daily face ratty secondary roads.

More to the point, a well-tuned front-end ensures there is no highway ‘float’ when confronted with mid-corner hollows and or rippled undulating surfaces.

So, yes, as a versatile wagon for Australian road conditions, Ford’s Kuga is at the head of the small SUV pack. This one won’t wear you out at the wheel on a long country haul.

But it’s the new engines where the real story lies.

The 1.5 litre EcoBoost turbo petrol is a far better, more willing and more appealing engine that the 1.6 litre it replaces.

And while it’s one of the smallest engines in any car in this market segment, you would never know it.

There is nothing puny about its power and torque output. With 134kW and 240Nm, this little EcoBoost embarrasses the 2.0 litre engine in Kia’s Sportage, ditto the 2.0 SkyActiv in the CX-5, and also ditto Subaru’s 2.0 litre 110kW/198Nm Forester.

And it feels livelier.

Only available in the base model Ambiente, drive it and you won’t find it lacking.

We sampled it in the 2WD Ambient auto; it responds eagerly on the road if a sudden burst of speed is called for, and, at least with a small load, is untroubled by hills.

So you may wonder if there is really any need for the 2.0 litre EcoBoost.

Until you drive it. The difference here is that while the 1.5 litre is certainly willing, the 2.0 litre EcoBoost turbo is a blast - not a hot-hatch, but close.

Packing 178kW and 345Nm under the bonnet, it is close to a dead-match with the Sube Forester ST as the most potent sub-premium small SUV on the market.

But, starting at $36,490 for the Trend 20T six-speed auto, the roomy little Ford is quite a bit cheaper than the $43,490 177kW/350Nm Forester ST.

It is certainly quick, and, with AWD keeping all four wheels talking to the tarmac, it has the grip to match the urge coming from under the bonnet.

With this engine, the Kuga Titanium we drove makes short work of passing slower traffic, will pick up the skirts and bolt out of a corner, and, despite the family wagon ‘clothing’, is a potent and swift point-to-point tourer.

Then there’s the TDCI diesel. For each of the qualities noted above for the 2.0 litre turbo EcoBoost, you can list them also under the diesel.

Except it feels even stronger once on the road and rolling.

The petrol turbo will show it a clean set of exhausts in a blast from the line, but once on the move, especially in that ‘overtaking zone’ from 80km/h to 140 km/h, the diesel holds the aces over its petrol stablemates.

It’s as strong as Mazda’s class-defining CX-5 2.2 turbo-diesel. With 130kW and 400Nm, it is line-ball in an ‘on-paper’ comparison, and also line-ball on the road.

The Mazda feels a little more ‘flexible’, unusual for a diesel it thrives on higher revs, but the Kuga TDCI is certainly as potent in real world driving.

The only niggle - a debit for me - is the silly ‘toggle-button’ for manual shifts.

It’s a Ford thing, it sits on the site of the shifter and (if you’re like me) you’ll find yourself looking every time you want to shift. God alone knows why that hasn’t been dispensed with in favour of a simple plus-minus plane.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

No question about it, the new engines transform the 2015 Kuga. The big surprise is the 1.5 litre EcoBoost. Vastly superior and more potent than the 1.6 it replaces, it makes a very strong pitch in the entry-level Ambient.

If you want real performance, the 2.0 litre EcoBoost is exceptionally lively - at least as quick as most ‘warm’ hatches - and the 2.0 TDCI diesel pulls like a train.

Add in a technology-laden interior, a premium-feel finish, and a $27,990 entry-point to the range, and you’ve got a lot of car here in the 2015 Kuga.

For on-road dynamics, it’s right with the CX-5.

Importantly, it also offers an unusually comfortable and compliant ride. Which is ‘the double’ really - no mashing of the kidneys on crook roads, and a really sporty urgency when asked.

The Kuga is a little under buyers’ radar at the moment. But that will change - this car is very good buying, is beautifully engineered, and will win hearts when the word gets out.

As a portent of things to come from Ford Australia, the future is looking good for the blue oval.

MORE: Kuga News and Reviews
MORE: SUV Comparison: Kuga, CR-V, CX-5, Forester, RAV4
MORE: Ford | SUVs | Family Cars

 

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

  • 2015 Kuga Ambiente FWD MT - $27,490 (down $500)
  • 2015 Kuga Ambiente FWD AT - $28,990 (New)
  • 2015 Kuga Ambiente AWD AT - $31,490 (no change)
  • 2015 Kuga Trend AWD AT - $36,490 (up $250)
  • 2015 Kuga Trend AWD AT Diesel - $38,490 (down $750)
  • 2015 Kuga Titanium AWD AT - $44,990 (up $250)
  • 2015 Kuga Titanium AWD AT Diesel - $46,990 (down $750)
 
TMR Comments
5 Comments

Finance Calculator

Repayment is : $

Latest Comments
 
The size of your tyre is located on the sidewall of your tyre.
It will be similar to the sample below.