The Ford Kuga has certainly been well accepted by New Zealand car buyers. John Oxley reports on the entry-level EcoBoost Ambiente.
What the heck does “ambiente” mean? That was the first thing I thought when I saw Ford’s entry level Kuga. Where do they get these names from? Well, in this case, it’s Spain, for in Spanish ambiente means the same as the English word ambient – surrounding, atmosphere, encompassing.
I suppose we should think ourselves lucky Ford chose Ambiente to describe the spec level of its entry level Kuga, and not “surrounding.” Ford Kuga Surrounding? I don’t think so!
Based on Ford’s Global C platform (which also underpins the latest Focus), the Kuga is built in Dagenham, in the UK, as well as Louisville, America, Valencia, Spain, and China, with New Zealand products being sourced from the Spanish plant. So I suppose Ambiente is valid in this case.
Engine in this entry level model is Ford’s award-winning 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine producing 134kW/240Nm, and coupled to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Kuga uses a new 4WD system that employs an electromagnetic coupler in the centre differential, allowing torque to be allocated front-rear by as much as 100 percent on each axle, a first for this type of vehicle. It acts faster than the blink of an eye to ensure superb roadholding.
The Kuga also employs Torque Vectoring, which is an electronic system which uses brake technology make cornering safer and faster, as well as Roll Stability Control which uses a gyroscopic sensor to minimise the danger of rollovers, as well as Trailer Sway Control while towing.
Torque steer compensation is built-in, too, while the electric steering system gives more direct steering than before, and Curve Control acts as a safeguard for drivers who have entered a bend with too much speed, preventing understeer, and if necessary cutting power so the vehicle gets safely around the corner.
All of this adds up to the sort of pin-sharp handling we’ve come to expect from Ford, the “Focus focus” I like to call it. In fact it handles so well that you forget you’re in in a tall SUV. It feels like a Focus, and inside it even looks like a Focus, with that all-too-fussy dashboard.
However, as everything else in life, it’s not all good, for although it’s a great 4WD wagon, it’s no off-roader, being limited, as so many of its ilk are these days, by its 197mm ground clearance. The plus side is that it’s a really great 4WD system, and you’d be amazed at just what you can achieve if you’re careful, with the traction control adding to the benefits of 4WD.
The Ambiente spec level puts a lot of kit into the Kuga. On the safety side, there’s a five-star EuroNCAP rating thanks to now fewer than seven airbags, as well as a stability programme and ABS with Brake Assist, but you have to go up a grade to get the City Safe crash avoidance system.
You also get cruise control plus a speed limiter, and this I like. Sometimes, and especially in traffic, you don’t want to switch on the cruise control, but it is good to have the peace-of-mind that the electronics are watching your speed. You feel a resistance in the accelerator pedal when you reach your chosen speed, but if you need power quickly, that’s easily overcome.
There are also rear park sensors as standard, but again, you have to go up a grade to get a reversing camera, as well as Ford’s self-parking feature.
The Ambiente is fitted with the smallest of Ford’s multifunction display screens, at 3.5 inches, but it gets a nice audio system with CD and radio (with steering column controls) plus six speakers and Ford’s Sync in-vehicle communications system, with voice control and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
There’s air conditioning as standard, plus heated electric mirrors which also have repeater indicators, and fog lights are fitted front and rear.
The front seats are manually adjusted, but with height adjustment and lumbar support it’s easy to get comfortable.