The Phoenix Saga*

Date:28 February 2018 Author: Lindsey Schutters Tags:, ,

Ford’s new Kuga swoops in to replace the uncanny previous model, but does it do enough to win back formerly loyal customers? They handed us one for a long-term review so we can find out.

There was a steady drizzle, even heavy rain in some parts, on the morning my dad died. Racing to be by his hospital bedside as he slowly acquiesced to the great parking lot in the sky took a large helping of my talent behind the wheel. Bleep-bleep, bleep-bleep: “Vehicle is nearing top speed.”

I stare down in disbelief. Surely the 132 kW and 240 N.m turbo-petrol 1,5 Ecoboost motor can propel the Ruby Red Kuga’s 2 100 kg to the claimed terminal velocity of 200 km/h? The warning kicked in at a mere 20 km/h over the national limit. Foot flat, time ticking away and the replacement long-termer refused to push the needle above 140.

I later discover that the MyKey feature was activated on this car, which allows the owner to assign certain limits (speed and the permanence of driver aids) to a specific key. So if you share a car with your au pair or a newly-licensed offspring you can neuter the car’s performance.

Given the circumstances, that MyKey limit probably spared my family another fatality that morning. I made it to the hospital before the cancer mercifully tolled the death knell. He went quietly, surrounded by family and free from pain.

Climbing back into the new car was a surreal experience. It’s a Ford in the way that I wasn’t accustomed to. One without even a partial fingerprint of my dad’s influence (Previously, I’d reflected on his deep roots in local manufacture of Blue Oval products.)

The Sync 3 infotainment system is wildly different from the original basic Bluetooth Sync unit found in the previous car. There’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, touchscreen and built-in navigation. There’s the rear camera, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and forward collision warning.

Thankfully the new model retains the 220 V two-pronged (EU-spec) power outlet, and resurrects the trays in the front seat-backs from the original Kuga. The most obvious culling inside the cabin are the handbrake lever – replaced by an electronic switch. In Trend guise the new car also gains leather seats, a welcome improvement over the cloth from the previous Ambiente-spec Kuga.

I’m still getting to know the nuances of the new car and especially keen on learning the dark art of pulling fuel consumption below the current average 10,9 litres/100 km. My family took to it well, with even my son’s troublesome car seat fitting snugly under the rear headrest; it comes up quite high and usually causes a problem on cars where you can’t remove the headrest.

I miss the old car’s sense of urgency and manual gearbox, but the six-speed auto does make the 30 km of highway stop-start traffic a breeze. Also, Android Auto/CarPlay should be minimum specification for any urban car by now.
* Part 1

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