2013 Ford Kuga Test Drive: More Than The Average SUV
Ford Malaysia couldn’t have picked a better time to slot in their 2013 Ford Kuga, could they? Amidst a time when new Japanese compact SUVs are being launched left, right and center, here comes a foreign alternative to shake things up a bit.
Just this year alone, we saw the 2013 Mazda CX-5, 2013 Nissan X-Trail, the 2013 Honda CR-V, and the 2013 Subaru XV launched in the country. Fact of the matter is that the compact SUV has always been a highly sought-after vehicle, and carmakers have been hard at pushing them out this year.
If you’ll notice, they’re all Japanese, for one. Secondly, they’re all a bit boring, aren’t they? Yes, there’s loads of practicality and resale value in the list above, but for putting the ‘fun’ in ‘functionality’, I don’t believe any of those cars have the wits about them to match the Ford Kuga.
In any case, it never was going to be easy for the Kuga – or any car, to match and beat any Japanese rival. So why is it then that I believe Ford is has achieved this? Here’s why:
Driving a 2013 Ford Kuga: Firm ride, great performing 1.6-litre engine, typically Ford
PERFORMANCE: Before we go any further, I urge you to stop all “oh, but it’s only a 1.6-litre” thoughts. Let me put the record straight in saying that it’s a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine, and that it will dispatch a 2.0-litre Honda CR-V with ease, and cause considerable concern for the 2.4-litre variant.
If you do manage your right foot with some civility, there’s pretty good fuel consumption to gain as well - more on this below.
CABIN EXPERIENCE: Once you’re properly nestled into the Kuga’s tight but cosy cabin, things start to liven up a little bit. Apart from the minimal stowage compartments and ergonomically-unfriendly dashboard, the essentials all look and feel very good inside.
DRIVING POSITION: Drivers may be irked by the Kuga’s big SUV dimensions – it looks big from the outside, and feels just the same to drive within the city. At higher speeds however, the Kuga starts to feel a lot less big, and a lot more nimble.
This is likely down to its suspension geometry, which is firm, and keeps the car’s body-roll in check. Inside, all the dials and switches are at a bit of a stretch from your ideal seating position. And I don’t particularly enjoy the illusion of being in a spacious car created by a dash that stretches too far out before it hits the windscreen. It’s all illusion, and doesn’t gel well with the actual lack of spaciousness.
With no rear-view camera for assistance, the Ford Kuga’s surrounding visibility is slightly hampered at the rear, where all you have to depend on is its Rear Parking Aid system. The parking assistance works well, but you just can’t beat the assurance of a rear-view camera, as offered of the Kuga’s Japanese rivals: the Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail.
RIDE COMFORT AND HANDLING: Having lost the bout for interior spaciousness and practicality against the Japanese CR-V and X-Trail, the Kuga does win one back for the foreigners with its handling and driving dynamics. It offers the far more firm ride in comparison, but not so much to unsettle your everyday driving.
Around the bends, the Kuga holds its grip very well, revealing only hints of lateral body roll. Road bumps are of course felt a little bit more than they should be in a compact family SUV, but I could appreciate all the work the seats were doing to cushion me, and didn’t mind the trade-off for good handling instead.
OVERALL: The 2013 Ford Kuga is a bit of a hit-and-miss when it comes to driving experiences. I personally enjoyed the European-esque handling and good performance. It could however use more interior spaciousness, better cabin ergonomics, and a rear-view camera for some assistance in tight spaces.
Living with a 2013 Ford Kuga: Flashy, practical, perfect alternative
Not something most dare attempt, Ford has an Everest to climb if it wants to match – let alone beat – its Japanese rivals in the category of everyday practicality. Even still, the 2013 Ford Kuga has a couple of tricks up its sleeves, and refuses to throw in the towel.
EQUIPMENT: Rather than take the plain and practical approach, the Ford Kuga goes to market with a lot more flash – beginning with the Hands-Free Power Liftgate, which Ford Malaysia rove about being the first of its kind in the SUV realm. It’s a great thing to have, and works very conveniently and safely – it doesn’t pinch your fingers you should accidentally leave them in the way.
Other bits of flash include the Ford SYNC system, nine premium High Series speakers, Bluetooth/iPod/USB/Aux connectivity and a 4.2-inch colour multi-function display screen, which if we’re honest, is smaller than my mobile phone. The flash works well to justify the Kuga’s price tag, and further its position as an alternative and modern compact SUV.
SPACIOUSNESS: While they don’t lack build quality, Ford cabins tend to suffocate us a bit. Against something like the super space-effective Honda CR-V, the Ford Kuga’s interior feels a bit like an awkward hug; sort of cosy with good intentions, but a little bit uncomfortable, and take about three seconds longer than it should’ve to complete. That’s the first of two unpopular Ford trends.
The second is with its dashboard. Okay, it looks good at first, but try switching between radio stations or locating which button unlocks the doors (and yes, it’s there) while driving – you’ll struggle to do any of these in any of the current Ford models, even as a passenger.
Nevertheless, the Ford Kuga does come with some pretty impressive cargo room – 406 litres of space is available behind the 60/40-split rear seats, and there’s the option to drop them flat to make 1603 litres. Head- and legroom inside the Kuga is equally impressive for the front and rear passengers.
FEW COMPARTMENTS: Another one of the issues found with the Ford Kuga’s cabin, is the shortage of stowage compartments. Should you fill up the two cupholders in the center console, you’ll find that there isn’t any room left to stash things like your wallet, mobile phone, or house keys.
ECONOMY: The 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine found in the Kuga consumed anything from 8.0l/100km (highway) to 12.0l/100km (city) in the our real-world tests, which depended heavily on where we drove it. Not bad at all, when you consider the 177hp and 240Nm of torque you have on tap. If it’s worth anything to you, Ford’s brochures suggest you can get up to 7.7l/100km, which equates to a range of 778km from its 60-litre fuel tank.
LIFESTYLE: The 2013 Ford Kuga is definitely a more appealing lifestyle complement than its rivals. The fact that it looks good, is trendy, and offers quite a few more things than just everyday practicality suggests that its driver doesn’t just want to own a car that will go from A to B conveniently; they demand to be seen doing it stylishly. Another win for the Ford.
Competition: How does it rack up against the competition?
Having mentioned earlier that the Ford Kuga enters a market that’s plainly dominated by Japanese vehicles, we know that it pretty much stacks up against the 2013 Honda CR-V, 2013 Nissan X-Trail, the 2013 Mazda CX-5, and the 2013 Subaru XV – for price, segment and worthy mentions.
Leading that pack is by far the Honda CR-V, which racks up tremendous sales figures month after month. So how does the Kuga stand against it?
For one, the Ford Kuga is more exciting to drive. Knowing that compact SUVs aren’t supposed to be all about “the drive”, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it. I remember when it came time to return the CR-V from our test, and thinking I was rather glad to do so because I just couldn’t do more of this plain driving of a car – I wanted it to be more than just about getting from A to B. Don’t get me wrong, the CR-V is the better compact SUV for practicality, but the Kuga’s offerings is just that much more exciting for its equipment, handling, and fancy features.
Japanese SUVs are hard to top, and the Kuga doesn’t particularly do better – they’re just different, and offer things someone like myself appreciates more than plain practicality and resale value. But, if I had to choose, the way the Malaysian market would have me buying a Honda CR-V despite the Kuga’s thrills.
Buyer’s Guide: Should you buy a 2013 Ford Kuga?
The availability of the 2013 Ford Kuga isn’t to me about beat Japanese SUVs. The Kuga works well in many aspects, but what I personally appreciate about it is that the Ford offers an alternative. Japanese SUVs are excellent vehicles for everyday use, but the Kuga is all about everything the CR-V lacks. In the end, it boils down to what you want from your compact SUV: business, or pleasure?
If you want a car that will go from A to B spotlessly, ferry your family about very comfortably and return great resale value, the smart choice would be to grab the CR-V.
However, if you want to do all that, and are willing to sacrifice increments of the practicality for some driving dynamics and fancy features, and to look cool, the 2013 Ford Kuga is your bet.
Personally, I valued the drive and the nifty bits of the Kuga a little more than the plain conveniences and practicality of the CR-V. As for which one I’d buy, the market and Malaysian tax structures sadly appoint me to opt for the CR-V.
SPECS: 2013 Ford Kuga
Price: RM159,999 – OTR with Insurance
Engine: 1.6-litre EcoBoost with Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing
Transmission: Six-speed automatic - AWD
Power: 177hp @5,700rpm/ 240Nm of torque @2,500rpm
Performance: Top speed: 200km/h
Fuel consumption: Highway: 8.0l/100km/ City: 12.0l/100km (observed)/ Listed: 7.7l/100km
WINS: Driving dynamics, good build quality, impressive styling, nifty equipment
LOSES: Minimal stowage compartments, compact cabin, frustrating dashboard ergonomics