The Ford Kuga was the company's answer in 2008 to the incredible success of the Nissan Qashqai and the development of the whole crossover sector.
Initially, I wasn't knocked out; however, the Kuga has been relaunched after selling 300,000 units and it's an amazing platform of style and safety devices that is hard to fault. My test model was also using an intelligent all-wheel drive system, making it almost a smug pleasure to drive through the recent atrocious weather, which ranged from snow to floods and high winds.
The handling was supremely confident and it was reassuring that you could monitor exactly when the AWD system was coming into play. A curve control and a torque vectoring system are also available to ensure grip in difficult situations. Also on-board was active city stop, which flashed and sounded a warning if you were getting too close to the vehicle in front or a pedestrian steps out, and a blind spot information system that indicates with warning lights in the side mirrors anything coming up on the inside or outside. It may be a bit nannyish but in the atrocious weather conditions, it was very useful.
Ford claims to have reduced petrol consumption by 25 per cent and diesel by 10 per cent across the range and the 2.0 litre 140bhp diesel model on test will give around 100km for little more than five litres, Ford says. Emissions are 139 g/km. A nice touch, especially if you are laden with shopping, is the remote opening and closing of the tailgate by a kicking motion under sensors beneath the rear bumper.
My firm favourite in this sector up until now has been the Skoda Yeti. However, the Kuga I was driving was priced at €33,450, which is around the same as a well-specced 4WD Yeti. The Ford would win out on looks as it now seems a softer and friendlier vehicle than the rather aggressive one it replaces. It is now also bigger, with luggage and back-seat space concerns sorted out. That, together with the fact that it has the most technology ever offered on a Ford in Europe, could be the clincher for many people. Keyless entry and immediate smartphone and music connectivity are some of the nice touches along with park assist and lane-keeping. There is also the emergency assistance scheme on board, which sends out an emergency call and co-ordinates in the local language when an accident occurs.
It is all quite amazing and shows just how far the trickle-down effect of modern technology has come. My son used to ask me when we were driving premium cars and I showed him such and such a device, "How long, Dad, before all cars will have this?"
The day is coming, my boy, and it's coming fast.
The Mazda CX-5, also on a Ford platform, is probably the best crossover out there but the Kuga is coming up very strong on the inside.