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At the beginning of 2017, the topic of conversation around braaivleis fires and water coolers was dominated by the Ford Kuga, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. Ford has turned this situation around, and recently launched a new Kuga. Reuben van Niekerk reports
Early in January, Ford South Africa announced a recall of 4 556 units of its 1,6-litre Kuga model, sold between December 2012 and February 2014.
Affected cars required components in the cooling system to be replaced and software updated. The recall was implemented following an approach to the company by the Government’s National Consumer Commission (NCC) in the wake of media reports of under-bonnet fires in a number of Kugas.
Ford has admitted that customers have lost faith in the brand, and will be doing everything they can to turn this situation around, with a dedicated team in place focusing on customers, in order to improve perceptions.
“We believe we are taking the right steps in rebuilding the Ford brand,” said Casper Kruger, Managing director of Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region.
Of all the Kuga models affected, 93% have been through the first phase of the recall, and 60% through the second phase which includes the fitment of new hardware, a coolant level sensor, and software that reduces engine power when a fault is detected.
Coming back from a situation like this is not easy, but the new Kuga is being launched with lower pricing than the outgoing model, an all turbo-engine line-up, class-leading driver assistance systems, and infotainment in terms of the Sync3 system.
The new Kuga joins the best-selling EcoSport compact SUV and the Everest seven-seater SUV to offer a wide range of models across the key segments.
Upfront, the large upper trapezoidal grille and a smaller lower grille are flanked by sleek new headlamps complemented by functional, stylish fog lamps.
At the rear, the Kuga’s stance is emphasised by redesigned light clusters and a new tailgate design, along with purposeful twin exhausts. A range of standard and optional alloy wheel designs is available, spanning 17 to 19-inch sizes, which complement the upmarket styling of the Kuga.
Inside, drivers will find an array of useful convenience features, including Isofix anchorage-points, an electronic parking brake, improved storage in the centre console, as well as rear tray tables and rear air vents on the Trend and Titanium models. Cargo space can be extended to 1603 litres of cargo space with the rear stadium seating folded.
Drivers can now control audio functions, plus connected smartphones using simple, more conversational voice commands, with Ford’s new Sync3 connectivity system, which is standard on the Trend and Titanium derivatives.
Sync3 with navigation is optional across the Kuga range, featuring embedded navigation which provides a full 3D experience with elevated map view, enhanced full colour graphics and POI building images. The system also incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Standard safety across the range includes seven airbags, ABS, with ESP, Trailer Stability function, Hill Launch Assist, and Rollover Mitigation.
The new Kuga relies on Ford’s powerful, yet extremely efficient 1,5 litre EcoBoost engine. Two output levels are offered, comprising a unit with 110kW and 240Nm of torque in the front wheel drive 6-speed manual derivative.
A 132kW version of the 1,5 EcoBoost engine is provided on the models equipped with the 6-speed automatic transmission, available in front-wheel drive guise and with Ford’s Intelligent All Wheel Drive.
The petrol engine line-up is topped by the powerful 2,0 EcoBoost, which produces 177kW and 340Nm, and is available exclusively with all-wheel drive and the 6-speed torque-convertor automatic.
For diesel fans, the impressive 2,0 TDCi turbo-diesel engine remains, producing 132kW and a substantial 400Nm. Power is delivered to all four wheels through the responsive PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission.
As before, three specification levels are available, starting off with the value-oriented Ambiente, the mid-level Trend and the range-topping Titanium.
The new Ford Kuga is a car that can’t be faulted, and all that Ford is really asking is that customers give it a chance. Pricing is very attractive, and the level of technology and equipment is on par, or better than the competitors in its segment.
Furthermore, Ford has promised that they will change the way they do business, and have put new processes in place to satisfy the needs and wants of the customer, along with a massive focus on customer retention.
All models come standard with a 4-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance. A 5-year/90 000km service plan is included on the TDCi models, with 15 000km service intervals. The petrol Kuga models have 20 000km service intervals, and are sold with a 4-year/80 000km service plan.