Ford kits out the Kuga to take a shot at the premium SUV market
Intended as a direct competitor for the Audi Q3, BMW X1, VW Tiguan and a (lower end) Range Rover Evoque, the Kuga Vignale enters the fray with extra high-spec equipment as standard.
Apart from revamped alloy wheels, quilted leather upholstery and more favourable finance deals, Ford has thrown in virtually the whole options catalogue: an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, park assist, adaptive headlights and a powered tailgate, all sumptuously accompanied by Windsor leather.
Ford also tells us that, in common with its fellow Vignale models, each Kuga Vignale gets a special 100-point quality check at the factory which includes being tickled by ostrich feathers. No word of a lie.
The only engines are the 180bhp 1.5-litre turbo petrol, 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel or 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel, mated to automatic or manual gearboxes.
Ford Kuga Vignale 2.0 TDCi 180 Powershift AWD
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 178bhp at 3500rpm
Torque: 295lb ft at 2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
Top speed: 124mph
Fuel economy: 57.6mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 134g/km
So the Kuga Vignale looks like it has a lot to offer, but does it?
Sitting in that new leather seating bodes well, with comfort and substantial quality on show in the front at least. The rear seats are less successful, with thinner leather and less cushioning. All in all the cabin is a mixture of luxuriant design delights with contrasting hard-nosed plastic trimmings.
For an SUV, the passenger space could be better utilised to match the standard of the opposition. The aesthetic sum total is one of almost but not quite. Namely, not quite what you’d expect in a vehicle costing £35k.
This niggling feeling of being slightly short-changed pops up again when you use the Sync3 infotainment system. The navigation system is effective and user friendly with its large, clear screen, and there’s up-to-date connectivity to all smartphone formats, but things falls short when you try to ‘pinch and swipe’ effectively while on the move. In this blooming market of info-mania that’s a trick missed.
The drive is the Kuga Vignale’s best asset. It bowls along neatly and in keeping with the best SUV competitors is willing, surprisingly nimble and responsive. At higher revs the dual-clutch automatic gearbox can be a bit clumsy and slow to kick down and the 178bhp 2.0 TDCi engine does get noisy, though at normal levels neither is an issue. The Kuga Vignale is two seconds tardier than its German counterparts in the 0-62mph run.
As to whether you should buy a Kuga, the answer remains yes, but the £35k Kuga Vignale is a harder choice to justify. There’s a lot that’s worth having, especially the agile and compliant driving experience, but at this price point the Ford brand seems pretty stretched.