Are you a lover of SUVs or a hater? The big, thirsty, bling-laden variety is ever harder to justify, but just as we admire cars that are light, nimble, fast and a riot to drive, so there might be a place for an SUV similarly blessed. Relatively speaking, anyway.
The best-driving workaday hatch you can buy is a Ford Focus. Fact. So what happens if you take a Focus platform, enlarge it in track, wheelbase and the height of the body it carries, and insert an extra, Haldex clutch-controlled drive to the rear wheels? You get a Ford Kuga.
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Smaller than a Freelander, it doesn’t promise unstoppable off-road ability but it’s competent. It has the usual 2-litre turbodiesel (the 2.5-litre turbo five-pot petrol arrives later) and comes in top Titanium or well-gizmoed Zetec trim, the latter optionally with satin-finish blue or orange accents inside.
And it steers and handles like no other compact SUV I can recall. The steering is crisp, consistent and natural (providing you don’t switch it to heavy, stodgy ‘Sport’ or anaesthetic ‘Comfort’), there’s little roll and yet the ride is smooth, calm and composed. It’s a bit of a miracle, frankly. And the engine pulls with the zing typical of a good modern TD, with a CO2 rating of just 169g/km. Take that, SUV-haters.
|Engine||4-cyl, 1997cc, turbodiesel|
|Max power||136bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Max torque||236lb ft @2000rpm|
|Top speed||112mph (claimed)|