I think I have said this about a million times over the years, South Africans love SUVs almost as much as they love bakkies. Almost every successful motor manufacturer has a model or two and multiple derivatives of each in their range.
And Ford South Africa is no different, moving the third greatest number of vehicles per month in our country, they have all your SUV needs covered.
You can choose from the compact EcoSport, the Kuga and the full-size Everest and for our road test this week, we have the 2.0-litre EcoBoost AWD Kuga, that now features a sportier ST Line trim to replace the previous Titanium spec.
Unfortunately, we can do this now, or we can do this later, but we have to get the elephant in the room out of the way before we continue.
People have not forgotten about the bunch of Kugas that caught fire all over the place a few years ago and now instead of people complimenting the good looks of the ST Line Kuga like they should, they prefer to hit you with all their best fire extinguisher one-liners like they are auditioning for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
So, if you can put the ribbing aside – and more than 100 customers a month do that by the way when they take delivery of their new Kuga – then I think you will be happy with your buy.
The ST Line is inspired by Ford Performance and offers customers a greater choice of styling and specification in the form of high-gloss Ebony Black finish for the front grille, along with honeycomb design for the lower portion of the grille and matching sports mesh finish on the fog lamp bezels.
Extensive colour coding for the integrated body kit incorporates the front skid plate, side skirts, mirrors, door handles, rear roof spoiler and wheel arches, set against contrasting elements such as the high-gloss Ebony Black rear diffuser, black roof rails, tinted front and rear lights, as well as privacy glass for the rear windows.
Then something which is weird, even though this is the ST Line that starts at a very wellpriced R548 500, you still need to spend a fair whack on extras such as a Styling Pack at R21 400 (panoramic roof, 19-inch wheels, large roof spoiler) and R6 600 for high intensity headlamps.
And this trend continues on the inside as you get sport seats trimmed in partial leather featuring contrasting stitching for the seats, steering wheel and gear lever boot.
A dark headliner and pillar trim, combined with a two-layer metallic-effect Deep Space paint on the centre console, alloy pedals and scuff plates incorporating the ST-Line logo offer further individuality.
But to have the SYNC 3 system that offers Bluetooth and Voice Control, eight-inch touchscreen and navigation, and a nine-speaker sound system, you set you back R5 250.
And then for R16 060 you can go for the Driver Assistance Pack that adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Advanced Active Park Assist, Blind Spot Information System and Lane Keeping Aid.
This brought the price of our test unit to R600 250, which is still a good deal considering the spec you now have on board.
What I did think would be really missed though, especially for a family orientated vehicle, is the option of fitting a tow-bar to the ST Line.
So, no towing of anything on holiday or even attaching a few mountain bikes to this SUV, unless you use a tailgate-mounted rack and run the very real risk of damaging the paint and the bikes.
Maybe the person who buys a 177kW/340Nm, 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol-powered SUV that now runs an optimised suspension and steering is more into speed and dynamics than he is into playing in the bush.
The revised set-up benefits from thicker anti-roll bars, a 10mm lower ride height for reduced body roll and sharper responses, plus the fitment of stiffer suspension bushes while spring and damper rates have been fine-tuned.
I have to say that I had no complaints in the handling department, but I felt the very smooth shifting six-speed automatic gearbox was a little on the slow side when you wanted to push on in Sport mode.
That said, getting off the line is fuss free thanks to the all-wheel drive on offer and the Kuga ST Line hit 100km/h in under 9sec and went on to cross the 1km mark at 175km/h on the way to a top speed of 210km/h.
The only downside here was that the EcoBoost engine was nowhere near as economical as the claimed 8.6-litres per 100km.
I only managed 9.9-litres per 100km on the highway and it quickly went over 15l/100km when you drove it enthusiastically and eventually settled on 12.9-litres.
The average fuel consumption number manufacturers use is derived from a very outdated NEDC computer simulated test and this is what they all use, so it’s not only Ford that does this.
- ST Line offers you a dynamic and good-looking SUV
- EcoBoost engine offers decent urge
- Engine heavy on fuel
- No tow-bar option hinders its outdoor family appeal
- Don’t dismiss the Ford Kuga because of the sins of its predecessor, it is better than this, but it lives in a very tough segment and we are fickle consumers