THERE'S no denying we Brits enjoy a long-standing love affair with Ford and anyone doubting the relationship simply needs to look at sales figures with the Fiesta always topping the UK charts and the Focus never far behind.
And since its launch, the stylish, rugged Kuga has made its mark on the highly popular SUV scene too.
But the arrival of a range-topping Vignale model is a deliberate attempt to lure customers away from the likes of Audi, BMW and even Land Rover.
Admittedly, the rather steep Â£36,095 price-tag (Â£38,695 with options fitted) may scare away some potential buyers - after all, this a vehicle carrying the blue oval badge and that generally equates to reasonably priced cars.
But the Kuga Vignale is no ordinary car. It boasts distinctive Vignale styling inside and out, is packed with state-of-the-art infotainment technology and the cabin oozes sophisticated elegance and is designed with a range of premium quality materials and soft touch surfaces.
At a glance, the five door Kuga looks impressive thanks to its Vignale-specific bumpers, silver roof rails, rear privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Move inside and this is where the car really stands out as a step towards premium branding. There are quilted leather seats that can be heated and the driver's seat boasts 10-way power adjustment with memory settings.
There is a heated steering wheel, a powered panoramic sunroof, adjustable ambient lighting, front scuff plates and premium floor mats with double stitching.
Connecting smartphones is imperative these days and that's an easy process in the Kuga thanks to the SYNC 3 with navigation system that also features a nine-speaker Sony sound system. SYNC 3 allows you to control the likes of music, sat nav, phone calls and text messaging through simple voice commands.
The eight-inch touchscreen can be configured to suit your requirements and smartphones are connected via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Comfort levels are high for all occupants within the car with ample space for three passengers in the back and the elevated driving position results in excellent all-round visibility.
The tailgate can be opened automatically and the boot capacity ranges from 406 to 1,603 litres with the rear seats dropped flat. Elsewhere there are convenient cup holders, a good-sized glovebox, door pockets and a central bin where there are USB connection points.
The Kuga Vignale also features Active Park Assist which will identify a suitable space and park the car while the driver changes gears, brakes and accelerates. It will even help to manoeuvre the vehicle away from a parking space should some inconsiderate motorist block you in.
Driven by a 2.0-litre 180ps diesel engine mated to a six-speed Powershift automatic gearbox, the all-wheel-drive Kuga Vignale can reach 62mph from a standing start in 10.0 seconds, tops out at 124mph, can deliver combined fuel economy of 54.3mpg with carbon emissions of 134g/km.
When it comes to handling, the Kuga Vignale is a very easy car to settle into and drive. All the instrumentation is modern in its layout and the displays can be adjusted to show different data. I particularly liked the little car graphic that showed if the lights were on and the neon blue needles on the speedo, rev counter, fuel and temperature gauges.
In and around town, the Kuga is smooth through the gears and deceptively agile. Then out on the open road the acceleration is good, although not blisteringly fast. The road-holding is assured and there is little sign of body sway into bends. You will hear a little wind and engine noise at higher speeds, but that is generally the norm for SUVs.
The car can also be driven in a Sport mode which sharpens up responses considerably and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles if you fancy taking a little more control.
There is a raft of safety features and driver's aids including the likes of active city stop, lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, driver alert, auto high beam and blind spot monitoring. All these systems contributed towards the Kuga being awarded the maximum five stars when it was Euro NCAP tested.