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The revised 2015 Ford Kuga compact SUV range has launched in Australia this week sporting a trio of improved petrol or diesel powertrains – including a high-performance 178kW/345Nm 2.0-litre petrol option – and sharper entry pricing. 

Ford has also added a crucial new variant that was missing from the old range: an automatic version of the front-wheel-drive Ambiente base car.

This crucial new model, which will allow Ford to at last play in a part of the compact SUV market that eats up about 30 per cent of foot traffic, should see Ford boost its average market share in one of the market’s fastest-growing segments. 

Kuga sales may be up a whopping 55.5 per cent this year off a low base, but its annual sales tally is only about 30 per cent that of the class-topping Mazda CX-5. 

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The updated TF (edit) Kuga will also form one cog in Ford’s bolstered SUV line-up, designed to capitalise on the continued market shift towards high-riding vehicles of all types. This runs from the EcoSport to the Kuga, up to the Territory and capped off with the locally designed Everest from later in 2015.

Within this revised Kuga range, the model line-up retains the familiar Ambiente, Trend and Titanium variations, though all come in for some welcome improvements. 

First, the prices. The entry FWD Ambiente manual now kicks off at a Honda CR-V-matching $27,490 plus on-road costs, down $500, while the new FWD automatic option is $28,990, topped off by the AWD derivative at an unchanged $31,490. 

However, from launch, Ford is offering special drive-away pricing nationally (end-date undecided) of $28,990 for the base manual, $29,990 for the auto and $32,990 for the AWD Ambiente, further sharpening the offer. 

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The mid-range Trend now costs $36,490 in entry petrol form with standard six-speed auto, while the AWD diesel auto is an extra $2000 at $38,490. As such, the petrol costs $250 more than before while the diesel is $750 less. 

Like the Ambiente, from launch for an undetermined time frame, the Trend is available across all dealers on a drive-away basis at $38,290 (petrol) or $40,290 (diesel).

The flagship Titanium, finally, costs an extra $250 as a petrol at $44,990, while the diesel is a familiar $750 cheaper than before at $46,990. These prices are list price, and Ford is not publishing drive-away figures for this variant. 

Headlining the physical changes are the new engines. For starters, the old 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol engine makes way for a smaller 1.5-litre EcoBoost unit that makes as much power as before but cuts down on fuel use. 

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As such, the entry six-speed manual Ambiente (the only self-shifter in the range) has 110kW/240Nm available but uses 6.3L/100km on the combined cycle (0.4L less than before). 

Newly available is a six-speed (torque-converter) auto version of the front-drive Ambiente base model, with an uprated version of the 1.5-litre engine with the same 134kW/240Nm output as the old 1.6. This model uses 7.2L/100km. 

Completing the Ambiente range is the 134kW/240Nm 1.5-litre AWD version with fuel consumption of 7.4L/100km. 

More exciting is the new 2.0-litre petrol EcoBoost engine in the Trend and Titanium, which pumps out a class-leading 178kW/345Nm (1kW more and 5Nm less than the Forester XT) matched a six-speed conventional auto. 

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This is the most potent compact SUV in town, and the difference is especially marked considering the old petrol versions got the same 134kW/240Nm 1.6 as the Ambiente. Fuel consumption on both is 8.8L/100km. 

Finally, the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine in the Trend and Titanium now makes 132kW/400Nm (up from 120kW/340Nm) and is available in AWD, six-speed dual-clutch Powershift auto form only. Fuel use is a claimed 5.5L/100km on the Trend and 5.6L/100km on the Titanium. 

Ford has not released the towing capacities for the new engines yet, nor the 0-100km/h times. 

Ford has also somewhat answered critics by making a reversing camera at least an optional extra on the Ambiente and Trend (it remains standard on the Titanium). Note, rivals such as the CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and CR-V have a standard unit on all variants, something we’d prefer Ford to echo. 

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For now, the unit is a dealer-fit item housed in the rear-view mirror, and oddly Ford has not settled on final pricing – it will be available from the commencement of deliveries on (edit) January 1. From about September 2015 the offer will switch over to a more integrated factory fit unit. 

On the safety front, all Kugas get a five-star ANCAP rating with seven airbags and trailer stability control, as well as SYNC Emergency Assistance that can dial 000 if you crash and are rendered unconscious. 

All models have a cargo capacity of 406L with the seats up or 1603L with them folded. The spare wheel under the rear floor is a space-saver. 

Likewise, all get all-round independent suspension (MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear) and electric power steering with an 11.1-metre turing circle.

2015 Ford Kuga Key Features: Model by Model

Ambiente

  • Rear parking sensors
  • Rear spoiler
  • Body-coloured mirrors and door-handles
  • Power heated side mirrors
  • Front and rear foglights
  • SYNC with voice control, Bluetooth streaming, USB/iPod connection
  • Push-button start
  • Steering wheel controls
  • Cruise control with speed limiter
  • 17-inch steel wheels

Trend

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Privacy glass rear of B-pillar
  • Roof rails
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Auto headlights
  • Leather seat bolsters
  • 10-way power seat adjustment
  • 4.2-inch colour multi-function display
  • Nine-speaker sound with DAB+

Titanium

  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • Panoramic glass roof
  • Hands-free electric tailgate
  • Bi-Xenon headlights with DRLs
  • Rear-view camera
  • Full leather seats
  • Heated front seats
  • Front door scuff plates
  • Ambient cabin lighting
  • 5.0-inch display
  • Satellite navigation
  • Active Park Assist

Options:

  • Technology Pack (Trend and Titanium only) for $1600 adds adaptive cruise control, autonomous, low-speed brakes, blind-spot monitor, lane assist and automatic high-beam
  • Hands-free electric tailgate (Trend, standard on Titanium) $1200

Ford Kuga MLRP pricing (drive-away launch pricing in brackets)

  • Ambiente FWD petrol manual $27,490 ($28,990)
  • Ambiente FWD petrol auto $28,990 ($29,990)
  • Ambiente AWD petrol auto $31,490 ($32,990)
  • Trend AWD petrol auto $36,490 ($38,290)
  • Trend AWD diesel auto $38,490 ($40,290)
  • Titanium AWD petrol auto $44,990
  • Titanium AWD diesel auto $46,990



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