WHAT'S in a name? Quite a lot actually...at least most car makers seem to think so.
Especially when they are trying to distance a prestige model from the rest of the pack. Which is why Ford has given the name Vignale to its most upmarket Kuga .
Until recently the firm has had to sit back and watch sales going Audi, Merc and BMW's way as buyers in search of status choose mainly German alternatives.
If you aren't familiar with the name Vignale, it was an Italian coachbuilding firm that listed Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa among its clients. The Vignale treatment is also applied to several other Fords.
Mechanically, the Kuga Vignale is the same as any other Kuga, ie a competent, well-made and roomy high-rider. But visually it gets a different grille, more brightwork and just about every extra from the accessory catalogue.
These include adaptive headlights, power tailgate, quilted leather upholstery, rear view camera and special alloy wheels. Add up the value of the kit, and the Vignale priced at £35k looks a good deal against much of the opposition. Mind you, a panoramic sunroof is still a £900 extra.
Three engine options are offered - 180bhp, 1.5-litre petrol, and a 2.0-litre diesesl either in 148bhp or 178bhp tune.
The car I drove was the most powerful, 178bhp diesel. Among the Kuga's innate strengths is an ability to shrink around the driver. It feels light and nimble on the road despite its significant size and the ride is compliant yet firm enough to allow you to exploit its decent handling and roadholding.
With a relatively close ratio steering rack, responses are sharp which together with a stiff structure allow the five-door, five-seater to be hustled confidently through bends.
The engine has ample power and pulls strongly in high gear, but it does let you know it is being worked hard with a noticeable mechanical rattle at low speed. This aspect of the Vignale detracts slightly from the classy, upmarket image.
But there's little to complain about the performance. A top speed of 126mph and acceleration to 62mph in around nine seconds is useful enough.
Fitted with a dual clutch automatic gearbox, it copes well with most traffic situations delivering smooth changes that generally go unnoticed.
The cabin feels classy and plush, if a tad old-school compared to the likes of the new Peugeot 3008/5008, or the Renault Koleos. But it's roomy with ample head and legroom for five. Fold down the rear seats and there's 1600litres of luggage space. With them in place, the area for cargo is just over 400litres - a little less than many rivals.
Ford engines are usually pretty miserly on fuel, and despite having four-wheel-drive the Kuga will easily average better than 40mpg in real life road conditions. The official combined figure is 54.3mpg, with emissions of 135g/km.
Ford Kuga Vignale 2.0TDCi
Mechanical: 2.0litre, 178bhp 4-cyl diesel engine driving 4-wheels via automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 126mph
Combined MPG: 54.3
Insurance Group: 24
C02 emissions: 135g/km
Bik rating: 26%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles