My colleague Seelan has an uncanny ability to keep a straight face when he’s about to prank someone.
So, I must admit, this one I didn’t see coming.
He walked over to me and told me there was “a problem” with my parking space in the building and that the building services manager had ordered his staff to place red warning cones around it.
I was already halfway down to the car park when he delivered the punchline – again with a straight face.
“The people parking next to you are worried about their cars …” I was still a bit baffled and he went on, “… in case yours catches fire.”
Ha ha ha, Seelan.
Yes I know it was a Ford Kuga. And, yes, the poor car will go to its grave with that tag of “unexpected combustion” on its nameplate.
I cannot honestly write a review about the new Ford Kuga – a car I like very much, by the way – without ignoring that hot elephant in the room.
Normally I would have asked newly appointed Citizen Motoring editor Jaco van der Merwe to drive the car.
That’s because Jaco is a family man and is our regular reviewer of SUVs-as-family-transport.
But even then, on the outside possibility something might go wrong, I thought: let this be on my head alone.
In the seven days I spent with the car, nothing did go wrong.
I didn’t expect anything to, for a number of reasons. All of the fires in Kugas that attracted so much media attention occurred in vehicles with the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
This has now been discontinued.
There are four engine options available in the new Kuga.
First up is a 1.5 turbopetrol engine in two stages of tune – 110kW for the manual derivative and 132kW for the one with the auto gearbox.
Quite why this should be the case is baffling.
Perhaps the manual box can’t handle the power and torque. All of the petrol-engined Kugas come with front-wheel-drive only; all-wheeldrive is not an option.
Next up in the petrol class is a 177kW 2.0 litre turbo, which I know, from previous experience, gives the SUV real get up and go.
It also comes with the Ford allwheel-drive system and, again from previous experience, it is surprisingly good with the rough stuff, although obviously is still not an expedition vehicle.
The final engine and transmission option – which we had on test – is the 132kW 2.0 turbodiesel and all-wheel-drive.
In the week I was with the car, I had absolutely no worries about fires.
Quite the opposite: diesel, after all, is much less of a fire risk.
I also like the diesel for its grunt, which makes overtaking on the highway a pleasure.
The six-speed auto now has paddles behind the steering wheel, unlike the previous model, which used silly buttons on the gearstick for manual changes.
To my mind, the Kuga is one of the best-looking SUVs on the market at the moment … a prettiness which has not been dimmed, in my eyes, by the model’s chequered past.
There’s plenty of space inside – front, rear seat and in the boot – which makes it a good family vehicle.
As you’d expect in a top-spec vehicle costing just over half a million rand, the Kuga we had came with all sorts of bells and whistles, most of them safety-related.
Blind spot warnings, as well as three-quarter warnings – which pick up cars a long way away if you are reversing into a street, for example – are a boon.
The Ford infotainment system – which now includes navigation in the top models – is easy to use, especially when it comes to pairing and linking mobile phones and setting the radio stations.
The ride is comfortable and the whole vehicle feels very well put together.
I detected barely a rattle on rough roads which were part of an offroad “assault course”.
On the highway I managed to get the fuel consumption down into the 7 litres per 100km territory, while around town, it hovered at just over 9l/100km.
That is quite disappointing for a modern turbodiesel.
Mind you, I did drive the Kuga after I achieved a scarcely believable 4.0 litres per 100km on a recent trip with a 1.5 diesel Ford Fiesta.
So, crunch time: Would I recommend the Kuga?
I would. Because: It. Is. Not. The. Same. Car. However, whether anyone would listen to me is another issue.
It is quite likely that given that a Kuga is going to be family transport, it is the woman in the house who will make the decision.
And women tend to have long memories.
Also, I think the Kuga jokes are going to be around for a while … not so, Seelan?