The styling updates give the Kuga a more premium look.    Picture: MARK SMYTH
The styling updates give the Kuga a more premium look. Picture: MARK SMYTH

Yes, we have a new Ford Kuga in our long-term fleet. Before we get into the details and that small issue of the fire in the room, we have the matter of saying goodbye to the Ford Everest. It had been with us since May and as a product that rolled off the assembly line at Ford SA in Silverton near Pretoria, it was a sad goodbye.

It was not perfect; the wife complained that the suspension was too uneven and the thing was a bit bouncy. The fuel consumption was terrible at over 11.0l/100km, mainly because the 2.2 turbodiesel had to work hard in urban stop/start traffic.

But it was called on to work hard as family transport during the time we had it and it dealt with everything we threw at it. This included a visit by relatives from overseas and that meant cramming in four adults, a 4-year-old and two babies.

With the Peppa Pig sunshades in place and three child seats fitted, the Everest still had reasonable boot space, enough for buggies, family paraphernalia and a bit more. It was tight, but we’ve had seven-seaters that offer much less space.

Seven-up it had to work harder of course and we quickly found that its overtaking ability was hampered by the full complement of passengers and stuff. But it remained honest and as we listened to it streaming my daughter’s end-of-year concert playlist constantly throughout the week, it was clear that it was going to be a little sad to come down from Everest.

Technically the only thing we have come down on is space, because our long-term Kuga is the 2.0 TDCI Titanium model, the top-of-the-range version, at least unless Ford SA decides to bring in the luxurious Vignale derivative that Europe gets.

The interior is well equipped but the touchscreen Sync system is not at the best angle ergonomically.   Picture: MARK SMYTH
The interior is well equipped but the touchscreen Sync system is not at the best angle ergonomically. Picture: MARK SMYTH

We debated the Kuga a lot, especially as it will be used for family activities. We debated it again when we learned that a cat had climbed into Ford’s storage yard the day before it was delivered and scratched the bonnet. We don’t know what colour the cat was.

It also arrives a year after the Kuga fire crisis began in 2017. But this is not the same model, not the same engine. The 2.0 TDCI was never affected by the saga and so we are far more relaxed about it joining the fleet.

Being the top spec means all-wheel drive, plenty of chrome, a new face and a long list of standard equipment. We will get into all this in the months ahead as we spend more time with it.

What has impressed us so far is the drop in fuel consumption compared to the Everest. We have only been driving it a couple of weeks but consumption is at 7.9l/100km.

The interior space and comfort is good, but there are a few minor niggles. One is that the gearbox does not stop you slotting the auto transmission straight from Park into Sport. There is no stop point at Drive, no lights on the gearstick, no feel for where it is. Instead you have to look at the notification in the instrument cluster, or wonder why it is revving so high between gear changes.

Also, the electrically operated tailgate button does not light up, so in the darkness you have to either know exactly where it is or feel for it. Not ideal when you are standing in the rain waiting for the tailgate to open.

So the holiday season is almost here and the Kuga will be put to work. It has a lot to do to convince us and the market, but we hope it will prove itself.

Because we know you are wondering, yes, we have bought a fire extinguisher. Every household should have one — just in case you burn the Christmas turkey, you understand.

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