WHAT a difference a tweak makes.
When Ford upgraded its 2.0-litre Duratorq engine it turned the Kuga SUV into a real mile-muncher.
Having clocked up tens of thousands of miles in the previous version of the diesel Kuga the transformation is remarkable.
Real world fuel economy is up more than 20 per cent to an average of around 45mpg - and that's with some intensive motorway driving at speed.
For a full-blown 4x4 it makes the latest Kuga a very attractive proposition, especially in top grade Titanium X Sport trim.
The engine now puts out 180ps - 17ps more than before - and with a stop/start system it has cut emissions to 135g/km which from a company car tax perspective is in the same league as a Fiesta ST.
All round performance is better as well with 0 to 60 coming up in 9.2 seconds with a maximum speed of 126mph. Official fuel consumption for the six-speed manual model is now 54.3mpg compared to 45.6 to the gallon from the 163ps engine.
The latest model feels significantly more powerful yet for an SUV the Kuga drives with considerable composure.
Ford's 4x4 system works automatically which means that under most circumstances traction comes from the front and that in itself helps economy.
Nevertheless, when all-wheel-drive is needed it's there in an instant which not only makes the Kuga very sure footed in poor conditions but also gives it a fair amount of off-road clout.
It is more than a soft-roader and on the towing front can haul up to 2.1 tonnes.
In Sport trim the Kuga costs from £32,045 and this one came with some £3,000 worth of extras which included blind spot detection, keyless opening, hands-free tailgate operation and lane departure warning.
The ruby red metallic paint job was also an extra at £795 but all Sport models come with additional body kit including silver skid plates, body coloured skirts and a rear spoiler.
It looks very smart and capable and as an all-round vehicle for action families the Kuga is very competitive.
Luggage capacity ranges from 406 to 1,603 litres with the rear seats down and there's a good amount of onboard convenience features including fold-down picnic tables and sensibly sized door pockets.
Standard kit includes a Sony digital sound system, sat nav with live traffic alerts, Ford SYNC connectivity and emergency alert system, a rear view camera and automatic parking - a handy addition on any car of such size.
Build quality throughout is top class and with leather upholstery and a high gloss black finish around the instruments it is as smart inside as it is good looking outside.
Factor in features such as Ford's quick clear heated windscreen and an opening panoramic sunroof and there is plenty about the Kuga which impresses.
It is a good-sized family vehicle with a lot of classy features - not to mention its above average abilities in tough conditions - and for the money it has to be right at the top of the pile.