2017 Ford Kuga ST
Ford’s European SUV gets a little hotterby Jonathan Lopez, on
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
Horsepower @ RPM:179
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.