New beginnings for Ford? Facelifted Kuga is here.
So, there’s a new (read facelifted Kuga) and it’s near impossible to discuss the new Ford Kuga in South Africa, without referencing the controversial “Kuga Fires” in the old car. As you know, this terrible situation led to a massive recall and even greater reputational damage to the brand. So, you can imagine how awkward it must be then, to make a happy occasion of the new Kuga launching in South Africa. The problem faced with Ford now is, how do you move on? How do you rebuild the trust that has been broken? These are the questions the product manager in SA has had to ask himself as we sit in a press conference during the launch. At the point, I am incredibly grateful to be on my side of the fence and not his.
Where to from here?
In a nutshell, this is what the Kuga recall has accomplished. The campaign’s first phase has reached 93% of affected customers and Ford is actively looking for the remaining 7%. This recall affected 1.6 EcoBoost vehicles built between May 2012 and September 2014. A second phase was also initiated which included hardware changes as well in the vehicles. To further show their commitment to their clients, when the facelifted Kuga arrived in South Africa, the affected customers were given first preference to experience the car. Normally, the motoring media are given the vehicles to give their unbiased opinion on the car, but things were switched up this time – which is probably good because the customers come first, not the media.
So, since the affected customers have already driven this car, they’ve already probably formulated an opinion on it. New consumers on the other hand maybe still weary of the nameplate, for obvious reasons such as potentially bad resale value. Before getting into the looks and how it drives, we need to discuss the fact that this new car comes in cheaper than the previous one, approximately 7% cheaper. Ford will tell you that “the Rand has been good to them” but in reality, this is another way to rebuild that trust, which again is a good thing for the consumer. One more thing, the engine that caused all the issues is not even available in the facelifted Kuga and was on run-out in the previous one too. That hopefully eliminates any worries in the eyes of potential customers. Okay, now let’s chat about the new car.
What is on offer now in terms of engines is the 1.5 litre EcoBoost, the 2.0 TDCI, as well as the 2.0 EcoBoost for those that want a lot of power. As usual, different trim packaging is available in the form of Ambiente, Trend and Titanium specification. Manual gearboxes are available on the 1.5 EcoBoost but the two 2.0 engines use automatic transmissions. In terms of tech, the SYNC 3 infotainment system is standard on Trend and Titanium models. This means you get Apple CarPlay and optional navigation. The functionality of Apple CarPlay in my mind makes in built navigation useless as Apple’s system uses its own maps which work very well. A Driver Assistance Package available on the Trend and Titanium will give you Blind Spot Detection, Lane keep/departure warning and Adaptive Cruise Control. All of which work well as our drive in the car revealed.
On the outside, the new look of the Kuga may fool you to think it’s a new car. It’s only a facelift but it does look pretty. The front and rear end has been redesigned, making it look sharper and more aesthetically pleasing. The interior is also of a good standard, not as premium as its rivals, but not cheap in any way. In this segment, there is a lot of competition so your choices are vast. The likes of a Volkswagen Tiguan or Mazda CX5 are tough competitors.
So then, how does it drive?
On launch, the 1.5 EcoBoost automatic was available as well as the 2.0 TDCI. The 1.5 is front wheel drive only, whereas both the 2.0 engines are all-wheel drive, via a Haldex system. The little 1.5 is probably the best bang for buck for those looking for a large car with a raised ride height. If you’re a city dweller that barely does any off-road driving, you won’t need more than the 110kW/240N.m on offer from the engine. At R427 900 it comes in attractively too. Comfort levels are good and dynamically the car handled the 150km test route with ease. A slight wind noise here and there was apparent but we were in Eastern Cape after all. Overall however, the most complete package is the 2.0 TDCI. The powertrain in this car is very capable. With 400N.m you’re sorted for any situation, be it general overtaking in the city or long-distance driving. This engine feels better mated to the automatic transmission than the 1.5 EcoBoost, mainly due to the added torque.
Overall, the facelifted Kuga is a good car. It was never a bad car to begin with in terms of its capabilities or attributes. In fact, before the “Kuga Fires” incident, it was a highly recommended vehicle. Now that the old engine is gone, a new design is here and the pricing is lower – it’s simply a matter of allowing time to heal the wounds. Consumers are not as difficult to crack as they seem to be, one day Ford will look back on this situation and think, “That Kuga really showed us flames”. Pun intended.
Ford Kuga Pricing in South Africa
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Ambiente 6MT FWD R368 800
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Ambiente 6AT FWD R381 900
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Trend 6MT FWD R406 400
Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Trend 6AT FWD R427 900
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Trend 6AT AWD R483 900
Ford Kuga 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT AWD R497 900
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium 6AT AWD R506 900