THE Kuga has been an unqualified success but Ford is not resting on laurels and has consistently refined what is the best selling SUV in its sector.
We have just been trying the new and most powerful turbo-diesel which has renergised the Kuga and will capitalise on the fact that a diesel supplement has ended and there is no added penalty if you are running it as a company car.
Anyone buying a Kuga is likely to run it with a full load of four passengers, fill it for a getaway weekend or even use it for towing with a very useful 2,100kg braked-trailer limit.
That can be a big ask for a family car but the Ford Kuga should cope with composure and comfort.
It has four wide opening doors and seats five, all be that with a squash in the rear middle seat, but its leg and headroom is very good.
This car came with a £700 keyless entry and powered tailgate option, but I was disappointed by the imprecise foot-sweep action and the very slow performance of the system.
The tailgate is not too heavy to lift without power assistance and it has a ridge-less sill and loadbed with a very good shape and capacity which rises from 406 to 1,603 litres maximum with the back seats down.
That high-tail design means there are rear blindspots and reversing senses are a necessity but on the Titanium Sport they work with front sensors to provide active park assist to self-park the car if you wish. That is potentially of better use than the powered tailgate.
The new turbo-diesel engine packs a useful 400Nm at 2,000rpm so there is plenty of mid-range grunt for acceleration and overtaking and it is a very relaxed motorway cruised.
This flexibility helps push the fuel economy over 40mpg in some situations but we averaged 38mpg over a ten-day test in various traffic conditions.
It is a quiet performer except at the very top of its rev-range through the intermediate gears, and the short progressive clutch and neat six-slot change are delightful.
Underfoot, the brakes haul down speed with out drama or fuss and I liked the traditional big handrake rather than a soulless electric button.
Steering is well balanced for assistance and ability with a good turning circle, no vibration and a useful adjustment range on the column.
Secondary switches on column, spokes and a few on the facia come to fingers very easily, the instruments are of moderate size and clear if not marked in detail and there is a multi-function panel directly infront of the driver with selectable views for major functions.
Heating and ventilation is straightforward and works well with good output, control and distribution, backed up by forward and rear windscreen heating or demisting.
Oddments room is good with big door bins, console box and trays as well as front glovebox and slip pockets on the seat backs, and a small underfloor compartment houses the slim emergency wheel and tyre.
Noise levels are low with occasional bump thump from the 18-inch tyres but mechanical and wind noise sources are minimal.
Visibility is compromised to the rear when reversing and over the shoulder when pulling out but side and front sightlines are clear, the wipers clear a big area of glass and the headlights are very good.
The high riding position inside Kuga means you can see over most cars and make the most of the power underfoot.
It responds well if not quickly to throttle and you need to be in the best gear for any situation but it handles well and with confidence, even having a limited four-wheel-drive ability for soft-roading or wintry conditions using its traction control system.
Thefour-wheel-drivesystem comes without a weight or significant fuel penalty but delivers a real assurance when you may need it. It is also comfortable without being hard.