Thursday 21 June 2018

All dressed up but who will buy Ford's Kuga 'Vignale'?

There's no need to go 'premium' on a fine SUV

Ford Kuga
Ford Kuga
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I've fought the temptation not to have a bit of a rant this week but ultimately I couldn't help myself. The idea of a perfectly decent Ford crossover being given the so-called expensive 'Vignale' treatment is too much to let pass without one more broadside. Let me explain.

Some time back, Ford carried out research which they took so seriously that top brass decided that lots of people right across Europe wanted, and were prepared to pay a lot more for, all sorts of creature comforts, equipment and handcrafted materials in their cars.

So they hit on the idea of creating a new, posh elite within the brand. And they called it Vignale.

It's one of the strangest ideas/strategies I've come across for a good while.

See, I always thought people liked their Fords to be smart and comfortable. And most of them are. They know how to cover that spread of Middle Ireland admirably, not just with their models but with what they consider to be mainstay equipment levels, too.

I never thought people, even a minority of them, who drove Fords were motoring snobs. I still don't. Which is why I believe this Vignale thing is not going to tempt too many to part with thousands of additional euro for "premium floor mats with double stitching", "exquisite detailing in a luxurious cabin" and an interior "handcrafted with premium materials".

Not to mention the whole Vignale 'experience' being further enhanced within Ford Stores where you "will find a dedicated Vignale Relationship Manager".

I'm not joking. You get a relationship manager - for the car, I should stress.

I just think the whole thing has been taken to ridiculous levels of presumption, but there is no stopping them. They are stamping the Vignale identity on models in most of their range now.

Of course, I could be wrong (I don't think I am) and maybe we're all dying for a chance to own a Ford with Vignale encrypted on the back just so we can tilt our noses at the mere mortals driving an ordinary Mondeo or Fiesta. And just so we can feel on equal footing with the drivers of Beemers and Mercs.

I didn't have to resist the urge of tilting my nose at anyone as I drove the latest incarnation of this Kuga crossover. It was that sort of week.

Most of what I saw from my leather seat for a big chunk of the week was traffic, traffic and more traffic. Misery.

It sure was comfortable, though, in my Kuga but did I really notice much Vignale difference?

Apart from nice soft materials, especially on and around the dash, and a brilliant electronic lumbar support for the driver's seat, no, I didn't.

From the outside the main item of notice was the strong front grille; I like that.

Inside, I did note how much roomier it was than I'd remembered (nothing to do with Vignale, I should stress) - even though it wasn't that long ago since I drove this revised motor across Poland.

And there is a fine, big, deep boot (didn't spot any leather there). So for the record: this is a bigger-than-it-looks Crossover regardless of trim or spec.

The fine 2-litre diesel powered our near-relentless town driving. In its own way it was fine; the only thing I noticed was how often I had to change down gears because the higher ones struggled with moderately lower speeds.

In other words, some gear ratios are more suited to cruising than chop-stop-start semi-gridlock. It didn't make for the easiest of city driving. The steering felt a bit heavy, too. I know a 2-litre 150PS diesel is not your typical commute motor, but I was a bit disappointed on those aspects of my drives.

And the claimed consumption suffered (7.3l/100km on test) as you'd expect from so many journeys in lower gears.

But it was a lovely, easy drive south to Wicklow, for example, or along the M50 to the airport and back a couple of times.

So, after all that, would I buy it? Not the Vignale or the mindset that goes with it, not by any means.

Yet the Kuga itself, despite being shuttled around a range of price strategies over the years, is a better all-round car than I have previously reckoned.

That is the main reason I'm now feeling a bit guilty for having a rant over what is probably too easy a target.

I feel the distraction about Vignale has shifted the focus from what is a properly decent Crossover to how it is all dressed up.

Ultimately, however - good and all as it may be - there is no way I can see the Kuga meriting the Vignale treatment; or too many bothering with the expense of it.

And you'd never know. Maybe someone, somewhere out there might start paying some attention to what we 'ordinary' people (of Ireland anyway) are saying.

Facts & figures

Ford Kuga Vignale, compact crossover/SUV, 2-litre diesel (150PS), front-wheel-drive, 6spd manual.

Spec includes 18ins alloys, Vignale body styling kit, bi-xenon headlights with jet wash, LED tail lamps, full leather seats, 10-way electric adjustable driver's seat, SYNC3 system with nine Sony speakers, Vignale front scuff plates/leather interior finishing, rain-sensing wipers, electric folding mirrors, electronic parking brake, dual electronic auto temp control; spread of safety equipment, parking sensors; 122g/km, road tax €270. 4.7l/100km

Price: from €33,345; Vignale model €42,325.

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