Who remembers the Ford Cougar? If you think about it long enough you can probably remember the car that, at the time, was heralded by many to be the new Capri. It wasnít and was destined to become one of the few Fords you have to think hard to remember. A few years later and Iím about to drive the new Kuga - same name, different spelling - and if youíre changing the spelling then you may as well change the whole car.
Looking at the pictures, you will see that the new Ford is a little unusual for PistonHeads, itís a four wheel drive, powered by a diesel engine that starts at around £20,000. So why am I about to drive it? Well, we first told you about this car a few months ago in this news story and it received a surprising amount of comments. That meant it was now on our radar, but could it live up to the hype?
We already know that Ford can make a decent handling car. From the humble Ka to our own S Max, every model simply offers more driver enjoyment than much of the competition.† If I had to drive a family hatch it would be a Focus, if you havenít driven one, try it, youíll be impressed. As the Kuga is based on the same chassis, so can the handling of the Focus be passed on to a jacked up 4x4?
While other magazines were busy with their tape measures seeing how big the boot is, and sitting looking through the handbook to establish how many miles per gallon it can achieve, I grabbed some keys and set off. I can only apologise if you wanted that data, but I can assure you that many magazines will have written about these details should you fancy a browse in your local WH Smith. Being PH I decided to give that a miss and set off for a drive, but it was worth a five minute delay to give the car a look over.
First thing youíll notice is the Kuga is actually a decent looking car, admittedly its not as muscular as the concept featured in the earlier PH story, but many of the details that made the concept so interesting in the first place have made it into production. The interior is well put together and manages to be nicer to look at than the new Mondeo- and that's no mean feat. However the increasing appearance of start buttons in mainstream cars means the genuine appeal of thumbing a starter button is now lost. The Kuga has keyless start too, however you still need to have a regular key in your pocket when in the car, and then press the rather small button marked Ďpowerí - so why not just stick a key in and turn it? Maybe Iím getting old and will soon start saying that things arenít what they used to be, but this seems to be pointless progress.
So how does it drive? Thankfully itís not just the Ford designers that have earned their bonus, but also the chassis engineers too. Itís a decent handling car believe it or not, and sharing the Focus platform it manages to retain some of that car's agility. The 2.0 TDCI could do with a bit more power but there is the now familiar 2.5 turbo petrol engine on its way that should sort that out. I took the car on the sorts of roads that would be built by PHers were we in charge of things. I mean proper mountain roads with hairpins, fast corners, long straights and challenging descents† - and while Iím not suggesting it can beat something like a Cayman, it does handle much better than any other car of this sort. It doesnít roll, or pitch into corners meaning you can actually place it on the road. It brakes well, the steering has a nice weight to it with decent feel and you actually enjoy driving it after a while, something that I wasnít expecting.
Iíll leave it to you to decide on the looks, and whether you would actually put your hand in your pocket and buy one. But I will tell you that if you have the need for a car like this, but want to enjoy your driving then itís the only choice. This time the Kuga will be remembered as a decent car, and itís the only small 4x4 to warrant a slot on the PH homepage.
136PS 2.0 Duratorq TDCI
Six Speed Manual
Macpherson front suspension
Ford Control Blade rear suspension
Electro Hydraulic steering- speed dependant with standard, comfort and sport settings.
Electronically controlled All Wheel Drive
2.5 turbo to arrive late 2008
£20,500 Kuga Zetec
£22,500 Kuga Titanium