The Ford Kuga is a compelling package but its reputation has definitely been fire damaged. Picture: QUICKPIC
The Ford Kuga is a compelling package but its reputation has definitely been fire damaged. Picture: QUICKPIC

Having spent the better part of the past year in the company of our long-term Renault Megane GT, it was my turn to spend some time with our Ford Kuga TDCI Titanium, the flagship model in the range.

Seemingly, the burning issues that transpired in December 2016 when more than 50 Kugas caught alight seems to linger in the air like a horrid stench. Even within my circle of close friends, I heard anything from: "Don’t burn while on your way home," to "I hope you have a fire extinguisher in the car," and everything in between, really. This proves the extent of reputational damage that the incident has placed both on the psyche of the public in general and the brand in particular.

However, I have valiantly defended our particular model that, for starters, is not the notorious model that was the source of the fires. These were issues associated with the pre-facelift model and not the updated version we have.

That said and after a long spell since I last drove a Kuga, I had almost forgotten just how comfortable the model is, how well-appointed is the interior and how thrifty the engine is considering the all-wheel drive setup employed here.

In addition, the electric driver’s seat offers great scope for adjustment and the overall visibility of one’s surroundings is quite exemplary.

Then there are the semi-autonomous systems on board such as the Lane Keep Assist that tugs the steering wheel to pull you back into the lane should you inadvertently veer away. Also impressive and useful is the autonomous emergency braking system that brings the vehicle to a stop should it sense an obstacle ahead, whether another car or a pedestrian. It is quite a handy system particularly in gridlocked traffic where we can all relate to our attention drifting, a prime situation for bumper-bashing incidents. It will save your bacon, as it did mine a few times.

The 2.0l turbo-diesel engine is relatively thrifty and during urban commuting between the home and office I have averaged 7.7l/100km — quite commendable for a vehicle of this size.

The infotainment system is for the most part good, but I do find the buttons a touch cumbersome to operate. They require you to lean forward more than you would have anticipated. Also, the centre console with its myriad buttons is a little busy and it is an area that Ford needs to simplify. If the forthcoming Focus is anything to go by, then the next generation Kuga will be quite a technological tour de force.

In other areas, the Kuga has items such as an electronic boot, which can also be opened by waving one’s foot under the rear bumper, and the keyless entry and start is also a welcome item.

All considered, as a package, the flagship Kuga remains a compelling offering with an array of technological features usually associated with more premium offerings.