Ford Australia has launched a four-year-old model – the Ford Kuga – as it begins a much-needed battle for market share in the hugely popular compact SUV segment.
The Ford Kuga, based on the platform of the previous-generation Focus small car, is a stop-gap measure by the local car maker before the arrival of the all-new replacement due in early 2013.
The Kuga itself replaces the slow-selling Escape, a model that dates back to the late 1990s in terms of its Mazda 626-based underpinnings and was released in 2001. It was twinned with the now-discontinued Mazda Tribute.
Supply limitations from Europe have restricted Ford Australia’s Kuga offering to just a single petrol variant with no diesels available.
A starting price tag of $38,990 means the five-cylinder turbocharged Ford Kuga may also struggle to achieve significant volume against competitor models such as the Subaru Forester, imminent Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 that are priced from the high-$20K to low-$30,000 bracket.
The Kuga’s engine delivers outputs that are well above the average, with 147kW of power and 320Nm of torque. It's a Volvo engine that's a detuned version of the unit found previously in the Focus XR5 Turbo and the Focus RS.
Power is distributed to all four wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel consumption is officially rated at 10.3L/100km, making the Kuga one of thirstier models in the compact SUV category.
The Ford Kuga is offered in two trim levels: Trend and Titanium.
The entry-level $38,990 Trend is well kitted out, sitting on 17-inch alloy wheels and including Bluetooth connectivity, voice command system, Sony audio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, foglights, keyless engine start/stop, roof rails, ‘follow me home’ lighting and a rear tailgate that mimics the locally built Territory with a flip-up glass window section.
Stepping up to the $44,990 Ford Kuga Titanium brings 18-inch alloys, panoramic glass roof, dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed upholstery with heated front seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, rear parking sensors, rain sensors, automatic headlights and stainless-steel front scuff plates.
Ford Australia launched the Kuga in New Zealand, following its move with the locally assembled Territory back in 2004. The Kuga had been on sale in New Zealand for a few months, but the model reaches Australian showrooms in March.
Ford says its supply from Europe is restricted but expects to sell 200 Kugas a month, its full allocation.
The Ford Escape continues alongside initially but will be phased out.