Ford’s European SUV gets a little hotter

Ford first launched the Kuga compact SUV in 2008, ushering in a second generation in 2012. The Kuga has been offered in a variety of worldwide markets, including Europe, Argentina, Japan, South Africa, and New Zealand, and it was sourced for the U.S.-bound 2013 Ford Escape. Now, as SUV sales in Europe start to gain steam, Ford is expanding its lineup to include the first-ever performance SUV for European buyers – the Kuga ST. Sharing the same sportier designation as the Mondeo ST, Focus ST, and Fiesta ST, the Kuga ST brings the same brash styling and upright body as the standard Kuga, but adds a slew of unique aesthetic tweaks, black embellishments, and new sport seats in the interior, plus an upgraded suspension set-up for nippier handling.

According to Ford, SUV sales in Europe are increasing every year, mostly thanks to interest from moms, Millenials, and buyers in their fifties. “The percentage of SUVs sold in Europe compared with total car sales has grown from six percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2015,” Ford states in its press release, quoting a figure from JATO Consult. Furthermore, Ford says it expects that figure to grow to 27 percent in the next four years, as evidenced by findings from IHS, an industry sales analyst.

So it makes sense to expand the Kuga line, at least from a sales point of view. But the real question is this – is this SUV worthy of the ST affiliation?

Continue reading to learn more about the Ford Kuga.

  • 2017 Ford Kuga ST
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2017 Ford Kuga ST High Resolution Exterior Press Releases
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Unsurprisingly, the Ford Kuga ST doesn’t stray too far from the original SUV’s look and feel. You still get the same tall body, plumped wheel arches, stout nose, extended roofline, and truncated overhangs. Ford has been making SUV’s for quite some time now, and obviously knows what it takes when it comes to creating a slick-looking utility vehicle.

To this solid canvas, the ST adds tons of black exterior details in pursuit of a sportier appearance. Kicking things off is an upper grille section that’s painted in Ebony Black, a glossy finish that’s repeated in the honeycomb grille insert for the lower grille. Completing the fascia is a hexagonal “sports mesh” insert for the fog lamps, which is unique to the ST.

Ford has been making SUV’s for quite some time now, and obviously knows what it takes when it comes to creating a slick-looking utility vehicle.

Elsewhere, there are components that are matched to the body color for a more cohesive appearance. This includes the wheel arches, side skirts, side-view mirror coverings, door cladding, the door handles, and the front skid plate. The rear skid plate is finished in the same Ebony Black as the front grille sections.

Up top we find roof rails that are finished in black, as well as a roof spoiler attached to the trailing edge of the hatch. The rear spoiler is also finished in the same color as the body.

More dark coloring is used for the window surrounds, with privacy glass installed for the rear sections. This is complemented by a tint for the taillights and the headlights, which go a long way in tying the package together. ST badges are placed on the fenders.

Finally, Kuga ST models get unique alloy wheels, starting with 18-inch rollers in gloss black with a machine finish. Alternatively, buyers can pick up the upgraded 19-inchers, which come in the ubiquitous Ebony Black colorization.


2012 Ford Kuga High Resolution Interior
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Note: Interior from standard 2012 Ford Kuga shown here.

While we did not receive any official shots of what the Kuga ST’s interior space looks like, we did get a bit of info on what to expect.

Two of the most important upgrades, at least as far as performance is concerned, are sportier seats. These come covered with partial leather upholstery, and get the requisite contrast stitching. Contrast stitching is also present on the shift boot and the steering wheel.

Next, the center console was slathered in Deep Space paint, a two-layer coloring with a metallic finish. Above the spacey console is a black headliner.

Not much else can be said of the cabin, but Ford does mention that further updates to the infotainment system are expected later this year, promising “to make driving simpler, safer, more enjoyable and more affordable.” We’ll get you all the details as they become available.


2012 Ford Kuga High Resolution Exterior
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Note: Standard 2012 Ford Kuga shown here.

The Ford Kuga employs a front-engine layout, with either FWD or AWD on hand to make the go.

For the ST, Ford is offering the Kuga’s full line of powerplant options, including both the EcoBoost turbocharged gas variants, and the TDCi turbocharged diesel variants. Unfortunately, there aren’t any fire-breathing, ST-specific options making the list to complement the sportier chassis, suspension, and aesthetic treatments.

Ford is offering the Kuga’s full line of powerplant options, including both the EcoBoost turbocharged gas variants, and the TDCi turbocharged diesel variants.

That said, anyone interested in the ST will probably go for the top-range, 182-PS (179 horsepower) 1.5-liter EcoBoost unit, plus AWD. In this configuration, mileage is rated at 38.2 mpg, while CO2 emissions are rated at 171 g/km.

The 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine is also available in 120 PS (118 horsepower) and 150 PS (148 horsepower) output levels. Mated to FWD, these are expected to return 45.6 mpg and emit 143 g/km of CO2.

If diesel is more your thing, there’s a downsized 1.5-liter TDCi intended as a replacement for the old 2.0-liter oil burner. Output is rated at the same 120 PS (118 horsepower), but fuel efficiency is upped to 64.2 mpg, while CO2 emissions are down to 115 g/km.

A second diesel, a new 2.0-liter unit, rounds out the powerplant options. This engine is offered in two states of tune, starting at 150 PS (148 horsepower). Mileage for this power level comes to 60.1 mpg, while CO2 emissions are 122 g/km. Both FWD and AWD are available.

Finally, there’s the top-spec, 180-PS (177-horsepower) 2.0-liter TDCi, which mates to AWD and returns 54.3 mpg while emitting 134 g/km of CO2 out the tailpipe.

Chassis And Handling

2017 Ford Kuga ST High Resolution Exterior Press Releases
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The Kuga ST is based on Ford’s Global C platform, the same platform used for the Ford C-Max, and more importantly, the Ford Focus. That means there should be potential for some fun hiding under there, even with the large Kuga body mounted up top.

As such, Ford justifies the ST badges thanks to the “sportiest Kuga driving dynamics yet,” with an upgraded chassis, new suspension bits, and retuned steering.

First and foremost, the anti-roll bars are now thicker, while the ride height is lowered by 10 mm (0.39 inches). Ford says these changes result in less body roll and more responsive feedback.

Next, the bushings were made stiffer, while the spring and damper rates were tweaked to give the ST SUV a more proper balance between performance and comfort.

The final revision was to the Electronic Power Assisted Steering system, which was recalibrated for a “tighter, more responsive and sporty feel.”


2017 Ford Kuga ST High Resolution Exterior Press Releases
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You can get your hands on a base Kuga for 20,845 pounds ($27,486 at current exchange rates, 08/01/2016), but if you want the exterior, interior, and suspension benefits of the ST, you’ll need an additional five grand (25,845 pounds, or $34,079 at current exchange rates).

The Ford Kuga ST will go on sale September 1st, with deliveries scheduled by the end of the year.


Mazda CX-3

2016 - 2017 Mazda CX-3 High Resolution Exterior
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If you’re looking for something fun, odds are Mazda has been doing it longer than most. Such is the case when it comes to compact SUVs, with the Japanese brand offering up the very stylish CX-3. The base model includes a 120-PS (118-horsepower) SkyActiv gas engine, but a variety of options are available, including a 150-PS (148-horsepower) top-spec unit and a diesel. Both FWD and AWD are offered, as is a manual and automatic transmission. Pricing starts at 18,795 pounds ($24,796 at current exchange rates, 08/01/2016).

Read the full review here.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS

2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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In Nissan-ese, Nismo equals performance, which means this sub-compact crossover has some real race-ready DNA instilled in it. It all starts with a top-spec performance AWD system, which is fed by a 1.6-liter engine making 218 PS (215 horsepower). You can also get the Juke Nismo RS with FWD, which options up the possibility for a six-speed manual transmission. The suspension set-up is up the task as well. Pricing starts at 22,180 pounds ($29,257 at current exchange rates, 08/01/2016).

Read the full review here.


2017 Ford Kuga ST High Resolution Exterior Press Releases
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Ford says it’s expecting its expanded SUV line-up to increase sales substantially – up to 200,000 units total for the Kuga, EcoSport, and Edge, a 200-percent increase compared to just three years ago. Undoubtedly, the Kuga ST will play a major role in boosting those numbers.

But the question remains – does the Kuga ST justify its sporting intentions? That’s still up for debate. Some will undoubtedly call it out as a watered down ST, while others will enjoy the sharper handling.

Speaking as an enthusiast, I have my doubts about the SUV’s sportiness. It looks the part decently enough, and the new suspension and chassis enhancements will no doubt make it more interesting in the corners, but at the end of the day, I would have liked to see a little extra grunt under the hood as well.

As I see it, the biggest changes are on a surface level. But hey, if you really wanted some fast four-wheeled conveyance in this price range, you probably shouldn’t be looking at SUV’s in the first place.

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Jonathan Lopez
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Press Release

Ford Kuga ST-Line SUV offering bold styling and sporty driving dynamics on sale from 1st September
Part of Ford’s technologically advanced new Kuga, upscale Ford Kuga Vignale, compact EcoSport and all-new Edge SUV family
Ford Performance-inspired Kuga ST-Line joins Fiesta ST-Line, Focus ST-Line and Mondeo ST-Line with sports styling, powerful and efficient engines at attractive price
BRENTWOOD, Essex, August 1, 2016 – Ford has announced a new Kuga ST-Line version of the popular mid-size sports utility vehicle (SUV) on sale later this year, offering sporty styling inspired by Ford Performance models, alongside powerful and efficient EcoBoost petrol and TDCi diesel engines as well as sports-tuned driving dynamics.

The new Kuga ST-Line will feature among Ford’s expanded SUV range and the most comprehensive Kuga line-up ever, including the sophisticated new Kuga and the upscale Ford Kuga Vignale, as well as the compact EcoSport and large all-new Edge.

New Kuga prices will start from £20,845 and Kuga ST-Line prices from £25,845 for delivery by the end of this year.

Kuga ST-Line delivers bold exterior and interior styling including unique alloy wheels and sport seat designs; powertrains including Ford’s 182PS 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol with Ford Intelligent All Wheel Drive (AWD); and a sports chassis with specially tuned suspension and steering.

“With our sporty Kuga ST-Line joining the new Kuga and our upscale Ford Kuga Vignale, Ford will offer a Kuga for every lifestyle,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe. “We predict sales of 200,000 Ford Kuga, EcoSport and Edge SUVs in Europe this year – up by 200 per cent from 2013.”

Ford’s expanded range of SUVs in Europe meets increasing demand among European car buyers. The percentage of SUVs sold in Europe compared with total car sales has grown from six per cent in 2005 to 23 per cent in 2015.* This is expected to increase to 27 per cent by 2020, according to industry sales analyst IHS, fuelled by growing popularity with an unusually diverse group of buyers, according to a recent Ford survey.

Nearly one in three “Modern Mums”, mothers with young kids, are considering an SUV for their next car, as are one in four Millennials (17- to 34-years-olds); and one in five “Quintastics” (active and youthful buyers in their fifties), according to the Ford-sponsored survey of 5,000 people in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain who own a car or who intend to buy one in the next 12 months.**

New Kuga ST-Line

Kuga ST-Line delivers Ford Performance-inspired styling that includes:

Upper grille finished in high-gloss Ebony Black; honeycomb design for the lower front grille in high-gloss Ebony Black with unique, matching sports mesh finish on the fog lamp bezels
Front skid plate, side-skirts, mirror caps, door handles, door cladding, rear roof spoiler and wheel arches in body colour; high-gloss Ebony Black rear skid plate; black roof rails; tinted front and rear lights; and privacy glass
A black beltline beneath the windows and ST-Line exterior badging on the front fenders
A choice of unique new 18in high-gloss black alloys wheels with a bright machined surface or 19in alloy wheels in Ebony Black
Unique sport seat design in partial leather; contrasting stitching for the seats, gear lever gaiter and steering wheel; special two-layer metallic-effect Deep Space paint on the centre console; and black headliner
The new Kuga ST-Line will offer the sportiest Kuga driving dynamics yet, with chassis enhancements including thicker anti-roll bars and a 10mm lower ride height for reduced body roll and sharper responses.

Stiffer suspension bushes help to reduce unwanted movement in the suspension system, while spring and damper rates are fine-tuned to deliver comfort and performance. Ford’s Electronic Power Assisted Steering system also features a revised calibration to deliver a tighter, more responsive and sporty feel.

“Ford ST-Line models are designed to deliver a fun to drive experience, and we placed a strong focus on ensuring that Ford’s first performance-orientated SUV in Europe offered the same driving characteristics as the Fiesta ST-Line, Focus ST-Line and Mondeo ST-Line models”, said Frederick Vrancken, Kuga ST-Line vehicle dynamics engineer, Ford of Europe.

The full range of Kuga powertrains will be offered, including Ford’s 120PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine that replaces the outgoing 120PS 2.0-litre TDCi diesel – expected to enhance fuel efficiency to 64.2mpg and deliver up to 115g/km CO2.***

Also available will be a 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine with 150PS and either front-wheel drive or Ford Intelligent AWD, offering from 60.1 mpg and 122g/km CO2; and 180PS with Intelligent AWD homologated to 54.3mpg and 134g/km CO2.

Ford’s 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine in 120PS or 150PS front-wheel drive form is expected to achieve from 45.6mpg and 143g/km CO2; and a 182PS Intelligent AWD version from 38.2mpg) and 171g/km CO2.

In addition to the new Kuga ST-Line, SUV customers in Europe will later this year be able to order the stylish and sophisticated new Kuga that offers technologies and updates to make driving simpler, safer, more enjoyable and more affordable, including Ford’s SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system.

Kuga Vignale

A new upscale Ford Kuga Vignale also will be offered for the first time. The production version of the meticulously crafted SUV recently was revealed in pearlescent-metallic Vignale Milano Grigio exterior colour with Cashmere leather interior trim as part of an exclusive specification.

Expanding ST-Line range

The new Kuga ST-Line joins the Fiesta ST-Line, Focus ST-Line and Mondeo ST-Line as part of Ford’s new range of ST-Line models that offer bold styling, sporty driving dynamics and great value.

Fiesta ST-Line is priced at £15,645, Focus ST-Line from £20,595 and newly announced Mondeo ST-Line, first shown at last month’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, is available from £24,745. These three ST-Lines can be ordered now for early autumn delivery.

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*JATO Dynamics results are based on information provided by JATO Consult, the company’s bespoke consulting service. Figures are based on 30 European countries. For more information please visit

** Calculation based on European Commission eurostat data that of estimated EU 28 population of 508,450,856, those aged 17- to 34-years-old account for 111,914,312 people, and those aged 50-59 account for 69,974,620 people

*** The declared Fuel/Energy Consumptions, CO2 emissions and electric range are measured according to the technical requirements and specifications of the European Regulations (EC) 715/2007 and (EC) 692/2008 as last amended. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are specified for a vehicle variant and not for a single car. The applied standard test procedure enables comparison between different vehicle types and different manufacturers. In addition to the fuel efficiency of a car, driving behaviour as well as other non-technical factors play a role in determining a car’s fuel/energy consumption, CO2 emissions and electric range. CO2 is the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

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