Ford Kuga 1. 5 EcoBoost Trendy Titanium – Manual great

The Ford Kuga is no longer the hot new thing on the market, but it still impresses with its ruggedness and practicality. We tested this model with the base 1.5 EcoBoost engine and manual gearbox, referred to as the Trendy Titanium version. It’s actually the most affordable Kuga, with decent equipment and the advantage that cars in this configuration are readily available from stock. So let’s take a look at it…
In the four years that the current generation Kuga has been on the market, the powertrain lineup has changed many times, with all diesel engines in particular first dropped out and now back in. So the Kuga is now available here with, for example, the tried-and-tested 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol three-cylinder with a six-speed manual gearbox, kept company in the price list by the hybrid 2.5 Duratec FHEV and also the aforementioned diesel 1.5 TDCi and 2.0 TDCi EcoBlue variants.
In terms of looks, the Kuga is one of the prettier SUVs out there. The front end is reminiscent of older models from a French marque with its elongated headlights, but the bonnet is typically Ford-esque and the front overhang is quite long, which looks slightly disproportionate to the current trend of placing wheels at the corners of bodies.
I appreciate the unpainted door bottoms, fender trims, and bumpers, which in such a finish will certainly withstand more careless handling than their painted add-ons. At the rear, the lights are nicely shaped, the boot-opening handle is conveniently placed, eliminating blind groping over the registration plate, and overall, the rear of the Kuga pleases the eye of the petrolhead most of all. In fact, the best part is at the bottom, and I’m talking of course about the two exhaust tips, which are genuine.
Opening the doors and settling behind the wheel, I was once again delighted by the classic Ford interior, which I always appreciate, especially for its simple concept, with logically placed controls. Whether we’re talking about adjusting the air conditioning, switching off the stop-start system, selecting driving modes or switching off the lane-keeping system – everything is controlled by its own buttons, which are moreover logically and intuitively positioned within the driver’s reach. Getting used to controlling the car almost blind is thus only a matter of a few journeys.
Technologically speaking, the interior of the Kuga doesn’t impress at first, but at the same time it doesn’t disappoint either. The digital instrument cluster has pleasing graphics and great resolution, but lags a bit in fluidity when transitioning between driving mode animations and when moving through menus. Often, you’ll actually inadvertently skip a number of modes (Eco, Sport, Normal, Sand, etc…) and have to click again.
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The Sync 3 infotainment with its eight-inch touchscreen, then, may not dazzle with breathtaking graphics, but its functionality and clarity are quite adequate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work, so wanting anything more from the infotainment is pointless today anyway. But if anyone does need it, this trim also includes an integrated navigation system with maps for Europe.
The position behind the steering wheel is comfortable, and the seat and steering wheel adjustment options are quite adequate. The driver’s seat itself feels nice and has decent lateral guidance as well. Perhaps a longer seat cushion would have been useful, but I still didn’t feel any discomfort behind the wheel, even after longer journeys. And neither did the other crew members, who on the contrary appreciated the ample space in the second row. The Kuga hasn’t got the slightest problem with storage space either, and the variable compartment in the centre console with a removable ‘tray’ for documents, for example, is great.
Among the extras here, there was also a heated windscreen, heated steering wheel and heated front seats. Plus, on top of that, a special Magnetic Grey metallic paint that’s great at weekly dirt masking.
The boot offers a standard volume of 645 litres, but thanks to the optional spare wheel, its basic volume has been reduced by a whopping 55 litres. Nevertheless, it still offers more than enough space for the whole family on a short holiday.
Finally, the suitcase also delights with great variability, as the rear bench, which is split 60:40, can be easily moved by up to 15 cm. The backrests are also split in the same ratio and it’s a bit of a fatk that they don’t offer a tunnel for skis or long objects behind the armrest. However, they have an extra tilt adjustment and when fully folded  can reach a volume of up to 1530 litres.
Under the hood of the Kuga hides “only” a 1.5-litre petrol three-cylinder engine with EcoBoost badging, which offers a peak power output of 110 kW (150 hp) at 6,000 rpm and a peak torque of 240 Nm between 1,600 and 4,000 rpm. With a minimum operating weight of 1,564 kg, this is enough to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds and a top speed of up to 195 km/h. The numbers alone, however, don’t do justice to the character of the engine, which is pleasantly quiet and calm at lower revs, as if it wasn’t even a three-cylinder. Then, between 2000 and 3000rpm, the engine comes pleasantly alive and pulls beautifully virtually to the limiter. As the revs rise, the engine noise does increase, but its speech and power delivery is nevertheless very pleasant.
The driving experience is enhanced by switching the car into sport mode, after which you can feel the three-cylinder come to life and get even more eager to rev. The manual gearbox is very precise and the paddle shifters feel comfortable in the hand. It’s positioned just a short distance from the steering wheel, the lanes are precisely defined and the gears fall beautifully into place, just as I’m used to in a Ford…
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With a basic engine and in the right hands, the Kuga can offer a very enjoyable driving experience and thanks to the gearbox and chassis, a bit of that sportier ride. It’s certainly not a boring car, yet it demands quiet driving practically from the start, which is made easier for long-distance shifts by things like cruise control, anti-collision assist, and lane-keep assist.
The chassis is also classically Ford and its suspension offers a very nice balance between confidence and comfort. Combined with 17-inch alloy wheels shod in 225/65 tyres, the Kuga handles even very rutted roads with ease, without undue interior banging. Through the seat, though you’ll feel that our typical Slovakian road surface isn’t exactly ideal, the chassis manages to soak up most bumps effectively. The car doesn’t bounce and remains pleasantly confident, which is felt especially in corners, where the Kuga is stable and the body doesn’t even tilt too much despite the SUV’s taller build.
Consumption was around 7-9 l/100km in the city in quiet driving, combined it was approx. 7,3 l/100km, pure highway 7,7 l/100km and district you put well under 6 l/100km. The basis for such good figures is the twin fuel injection and turbocharging with variable blade geometry. Cylinder deactivation technology also plays its part in boosting efficiency, where the already “lean” three-cylinder can be run with just two cylinders. Of course, this feature is only available when the engine is running at minimum load and this is done while driving smoothly at a steady speed. As for pricing, the standard Kuga starts at a price tag of €29,290 for the full base. Stock and especially stock cars in Trendy Titanium trim are up to €7,300 with a €7,490 price bonus. So that’s a proper discount, for such a well-equipped and great-riding SUV.
In conclusion, perhaps just a summary – at first glance the Kuga may not charm everyone, but I quite enjoyed getting behind the wheel of it. With its volume and power, it gamely gobbled up the highway miles, and thanks to the capacious boot, it had no problem carrying any cargo. With a great manual transmission, a very pleasant engine, and a well-tuned chassis, the Kuga was a great companion on a variety of twisty backroads. For a fairly ordinary SUV from Ford, these are simply very pleasant experiences and I look forward to seeing its next derivation…