Ford Kuga in the test: This SUV also wants to be a van

Ford Kuga in the test: This SUV also wants to be a van

The first impression: Athletic!

The manufacturer says: "We're following the trend," said Stewart Rowley, head of Ford Europe, justifying the focus on the SUV. The brand has already phased out all sedans in the United States. "That was necessary," Rowle told the journal "Auto, Motor und Sport". The segment in which the just introduced puma and now the Kuga are on the road, are increasing significantly, even if they are not yet able to get to the Focus compact car.

There is a simple reason why the Kuga has grown in size and is more variable in the third generation, according to Ford management: this way the new car can also serve all customers who have previously bought van models such as the C-Max – which has since been discontinued.

We noticed this: Seen from one of the front seats, not much changes when the Kuga changes generations. The car is more spacious around the shoulders and digital instruments are now installed behind the steering wheel. But despite the completely new infotainment system including built-in online modem, which is driving the digitalization of the car, the cockpit looks comparatively old-fashioned. At least not as smart as Mercedes in the compact class or recently the VW group with the new Golf and its brand siblings have shown.

On the other hand, progress is evident in the second row. Because the Kuga has grown nine centimeters in length and two centimeters in the wheelbase, and on top of that the back seat can be moved by two hands, adults in the rear can now almost cross their legs. If you move the back seat all the way forward, the trunk becomes almost as big as in the former compact van C-Max.

The Kuga also shows a new side at the wheel, at least in the top model. There is the first plug-in hybrid that Ford offers in Europe on a large scale. The Kuga therefore starts quietly: Without having to be particularly gentle with the accelerator pedal or having to select the pure electric mode from the driving programs, the SUV buzzes electrically most of the time and makes no move beyond the town sign to start the petrol engine: up to 135 km / h The 97 kW electric motor can do the job on its own – and in the best case for a maximum of 56 kilometers. Only those who really want to storm to 100 km / h in 9.2 seconds or blow at a maximum speed of 200 km / h are dependent on both engines.

The 56 kilometer range is of course a rather theoretical promise and cannot be achieved even with a particularly forward-looking driving style and largely deactivated comfort consumers. Especially not at overland speeds. But once in the evening traffic across Cologne and finally a piece of highway – the 14.4 kWh battery was enough for the test drive. If you don't want to just run on gas or charge the batteries with excess engine energy afterwards, you have to plan a stop of 6 hours at the household socket or 3.5 hours at the wall box.

Equally theoretical is the standard consumption of 1.2 liters, which is favored by a non-realistic calculation formula. After all, Ford has made every effort to minimize fuel consumption. A particularly economical, but rather unpopular CVT gearbox was installed because of its tough speed curve and laced up with an unusual engine. Because the combustion engine is not one of the highly acclaimed EcoBoost engines with a small cubic capacity and high turbocharging, but rather an unusually large petrol engine with a displacement of 2.5 liters, which has to do without turbo.

The developers in Cologne cite the so-called Atkinson cycle as the reason for this. Attention, now it gets technical: With this combustion process, part of the intake air is pushed back through the still open intake valve in the first part of the compression cycle. There is now less mixture in the cylinder for combustion. However, this can be expanded further in the existing larger displacement than with normal engines. The result is better efficiency – and therefore less consumption, explains the manufacturer.

Ford does not contest that the four-cylinder engine produces a rather meager 152 hp due to the 2.5-liter displacement method, where the Eco-Boost engines often achieve more than twice the output per liter: This reduced power is provided by the electric motor more than balanced.

Another problem of the Atkinson cycle is effectively tackled by the engineers, just like the howling high speeds caused by the stepless automatic: the noise level. As with noise cancellation headphones, electronics analyze all background noises and, with targeted counter-sound, ensure quietness when traveling. Oh, if that could also work with the genes of the next generation at the push of a button. Then the Kuga would become the perfect family carriage.

You have to know: The new Kuga has been available for order since the end of last year and will be delivered from the end of April at prices that start at € 26,300. The plug-in hybrid of the top model, which costs at least € 39,900, is not the only electrified drive: For the first time, Ford is offering three different hybrid drives for the Kuga: the manufacturer links the 150 hp 1.5-liter diesel engine with one Mild hybrid system including 48 volt technology and starter generator; and by the end of the year the 2.5-liter engine from the plug-in hybrid will also be available with a smaller backup battery without a socket connection than conventional full hybrids. If you don't want to fly electrically, you can order the Kuga with a 1.5 liter petrol engine with 120 or 150 hp or as a normal diesel with 1.5 liter displacement and 120 hp or 2.0 liters and 190 hp output. Later there is said to be a Kuga ST, which should then particularly highlight the sporty side with well over 300 hp.

We will not forget that: The brake trainer with which Ford wants to help plug-in hybrid drivers to recover more efficiently. The further the driver looks ahead and the more gently he brakes, the more the Kuga decelerates with the electric motor converted into a generator and gives the driver eco-points. With a little practice, you can quickly get values ​​close to the 100 percent mark. Even if the SUV flood is apparently unstoppable, you still get this model with a really good feeling when standing.

Icon: The mirror

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