JUST like a rather fine wine, the Ford Kuga has matured with age and has grown into a very capable all-round SUV with all the trimmings and techno treats imaginable.
And the fact that this car was the sportier ST-Line Edition version - just one trim level below the high-end Vignale - added further to the appeal.
The latest Kuga is very easy on the eye and commands attention with its athletic and muscular stance. Design cues include rear privacy glass, a distinctive grille and sweeping light clusters with LED daytime running lights. Our ST-Line Edition model gained 19-inch Rock Metallic alloys, a large rear spoiler, red brake callipers, black mirror caps and a panoramic roof.
Move inside and there is a sporty theme to the design and layout with part-leather upholstery with red stitching, a flat bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, ST-Line floor mats with, you guessed it, red stitching and alloy pedals.
Creature comforts include dual-zone automatic temperature control, the Ford SYNC 3 DAB navigation system with eight-inch touchscreen, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There were a few optional extras on the car that bumped the price up from Â£36,260 to Â£39,235 and these included a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, bi-xenon HID headlights with adaptive beam shape and rear LED lights, a hands-free powered tailgate, rearview camera, a Sony sound system with nine speakers, plus a winter pack that added heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and headlamp jet washers.
The Kuga was powered by a 2.0-litre 180ps diesel engine mated to a six-speed automatic powershift gearbox and it could sprint from 0-62mph in 10.0 seconds, maxed out at 124mph and, according to official WLTP figures, could deliver combined fuel economy of 36.7-38.7mpg with carbon emissions of 161g/km.
Out on the open road, it was nicely poised and there was minimal body lean into corners when attacked at pace. The road holding was confident and the effective suspension system did an excellent job of smoothing out the road surfaces. The acceleration through the gears was smooth and responsive and the steering wheel-mounted paddles allow you to take control of the gear switches. There is also a Sport mode that livens up the handling even further.
Within the cabin, noise levels are fairly well suppressed, although you will hear some wind and engine sounds at higher speeds which is quite normal for high-sided SUV-styled vehicles.
The Kuga also proved agile in busy town centres where it weaved its way through the crowds with light steering and good turning locks. The driver benefits from an elevated seating position which results in great all-round visibility and all the dials, controls and readouts are perfectly positioned for easy access on the move.
Comfort levels within the latest Kuga are very high and there is ample space for a family of five with all their luggage to enjoy a break away. The boot can accommodate 406 litres of kit - a capacity that increases to 1,603 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
Additional storage facilities throughout the car include a glovebox, door pockets, cup holders, trays, a central cubby box and overhead sunglasses compartment.
The Ford Kuga also hits the spot when it comes to safety and secured a maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP rating. Features include anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, hill start assist, cruise control with speed limiter, along with intelligent all-wheel drive to keep you going in more adverse driving and weather conditions.
All in all, the Ford Kuga is an impressive piece of kit that is great to drive, packed with technology, practical and competitively priced.