Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line review

Ford has been both generous and clever with the Kuga ST line. They offer the driver a responsive fun car to drive with sporty looks and fairly sporty performance and then add dollops of luxury items as standard for a very fair price.

It is both a luxury mid-size SUV and a sporty feeling car at the same time. And very good value for money in its segment.

I really enjoyed driving the ST Line ( note: not ST) Kuga and could live very happily with it even though it is not terribly economical in turbo petrol guise although Ford claims 8.7L/100km. I think most users will average around 10L/100km, although the diesel will be lighter.

Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line

The ST Line badging implies it is not a real ST high performance derivative, but rather has more performance and upgraded suspension than the standard models, a bit like Audi offers the S-Line trim, Mercedes-Benz the AMG Line, and a number of BMW derivatives bear M badges.

The interior is restrained but smart and practical. A very pleasant space to spend time in. The Synch3 infotainment system is one of the best out there. Nothing to fault in that department.

An electric tailgate is now standard on all Kuga derivatives and includes a leg-swing opening function, a feature that allows for hands-free operation of the tailgate (even if the car is locked), as long as the key is in your pocket. The function is activated by swinging your foot under the rear of the car to open the tailgate. The technique needs a little practice, but once mastered its pretty useful.

A nice surprise was the  240-Volt two-pin plug port provided for the rear passengers. Very nifty, I thought.

A reverse camera is standard across the range, so parking is easy. The view from the very comfortable and adjustable driving seat is commanding.

The suspension easily soaks up imperfections in the road and rough surfaces and, on smooth tarmac, the Kuga offers a premium, luxury experience. It drives and feels like a car, albeit higher of the tar.

While the suspension has been tweaked to be firmer for better handling, the engineers have achieved an admirable balance between comfort and sharper handling. Its really very good.

Available in Ambiente, Trend and Titanium specification levels, with 1.5 and 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines or 2.0 TDCi diesel.

The 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine has power and torque figures of 177 kW and 340 Nm, while the diesel gets 132 kW and 400 Nm with up to 40% less consumption than the petrol.

All Kugas have a four-year or 120 000km warranty.

Pricing is from R403,700 to R576,700. Fortunately they are well equipped, so what you expect is what you get.

The KUGA ST LINE SUV 2.0P 6AT AWD we drove costs R561 300, the diesel is R576 700. The model I like is the KUGA 2.0 TDCI TITANIUM POWERSHIFT 6AT AWD SUV at R530 600.

The Kuga is a good size, not too big, but also not cramped. With the the extensive specification, the above average handling and road holding and the great feel in mind, the Kuga must be on your list if you are looking at a medium sized SUV.

 

 

Ford Everest Limited review

The road is mine, and the trail and the bundu. There is no hill too high for the Everest to climb. In any case that is how it feels while piloting this new update of Ford’s big SUV in SA.

Ford Everest Limited

The new Ford Everest looks much like the old one, but its how it does things that has changed.

It rides better, it goes better and the infotainment system is even better, and easily the best in this segment.

“From the value-oriented offering in the XLS 2.2 TDCi to the range-topping Everest Limited, there is a model to suit a wide range of customers, which makes it a more compelling choice than ever,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

There are now six models, in three series: XLS, XLT and Limited.

But the big news is the new engine, new gearbox and new suspension in certain models.

There are basically four drivetrain options: the new 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo and Single Turbo with the newish 10-speed automatic transmission, or the current 2.2 and 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi with the old six-speed auto box.

Ford Everest Limited 2.0 Bi-turbo Automatic

Other new items include two-layer glossy metallic paint, 20-inch split spoke alloy wheels, although 18-inch diameter rims can be specified for the Limited, Ebony environment colour which changes the  ambience of the interior,  contrast stitching on the Limited, along with shadow chrome finishes, perforated leather and high-quality paints.

The maximum power output for the new 2.0 Bi-Turbo engine (built here in SA) is 157kW, matched to a peak torque figure of 500Nm driving all four wheels through the new 10-speed automatic transmission, in conjunction with the Terrain Management System.

The two turbos work in tandem. A small high pressure (HP) turbo works in conjunction with a large low pressure (LP) turbo, controlled with by-pass valves that determine the operating mode depending on engine speed. At lower engine speeds the two turbos work in series, enhancing torque and responsiveness, while at higher revs the small HP turbo is bypassed, and the larger LP turbo provides boost to deliver top-end power.

The 10-speed box reduces the gaps in power and acceleration between gears, providing smoother acceleration, and improved performance . The electronic control system features real-time adaptive shift-scheduling, engineered to help select the correct gear at the right time, including skip-shift and direct downshift capabilities.

The unit’s Progressive Range Select (PRS) system gives the driver the ability to lock out gears from the automatic shifting range for improved control. When selected the available gears are shown on the instrument cluster, with the current gear indicated. Only the available gears are then displayed, and the transmission automatically shifts between these ratios. The suspension has also been tweaked. The front-mounted stabiliser bar has been moved to the rear of the front axle, which along with an increase in diameter and stiffness gives improved roll control and handling performance, which has also enabled a reduction in tyre pressures from 240 to 210 kPa for a more comfortable ride which I can attest to.

The Limited model we drove has Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Alert (which now recognises pedestrians, in addition to its ability to detect other vehicles), LaneKeeping Aid and Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and Auto High Beam Control.

The impressive standard safety package across the line-up extends to Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system with Traction Control (TC), Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Hill Descent Control (HDC) on the 4×4 models, Load Adaptive control (LAC) and Roll Over Mitigation (ROM).

A full Category 1 Thatcham-specification alarm is now standard on all Everest XLS, XLT and Limited models for enhanced anti-theft security.

SYNC®3 with Navigation is standard on the XLT and Limited models, linked to the integrated eight-inch touch-screen colour display, two USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. It is simply the best system in this category – easy to use and does what it says on the box.

The system has fully-featured embedded navigation, multi-touch gestures (such as swipe, slide, scroll and pinch-to-zoom), plus voice recognition that uses simple, real-world voice commands.

Tracks4Africa is included in the package, as well as access to maps for over 20 countries in Africa.

The Limited remains the range-topping model, offering customers a premium execution with a higher level of luxury and more active driving safety features.

The refreshed styling treatment includes side steps, along with high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps (with automatic levelling and auto high-beam control)and LED daytime running lights. The cabin environment continues the luxury touches, with a dark roof lining, illuminated front scuff plates, eight-way power and heated front seats, powered panoramic glass moonroof, as well as adaptive ambient lighting with multiple colour choices to suit the driver’s mood.

Access to the load compartment is facilitated by the a powered tailgate, while the 50:50 split third-row rear seats can be lowered or raised electrically for seven-seat configuration.

The exhaustive list of active driving safety features on the Everest Limited is top class. This includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Alert with Autonomous Braking, Lane Keeping Aid and Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), and Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist (SAPPA).

Pricing of the Everest range is as following: 2.2 TDCI XLS 6AT 4X2 R499 900,  2.0 Turbo XLT 10AT 4X2 R584 900,  2.0 BI Turbo XLT 10AT 4X2 R624 100, 3.2 TDCI XLT 6AT 4X4 R644 000,  2.0 BI Turbo XLT 10AT 4X4 R687 700 and the model we drove the 2.0 Bi-turbo Limited 10AT 4X4 R761 200.

Direct competitors are the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Discovery Sport, Isuzu mu-X, Kia Sorento and Toyota Fortuner. Also look at the Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan Allspace, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Volvo XC60 and Mercedes GLC.

The Everest Limited takes Ford’s SUV offering to the next level. In my opinion it is the best of the bakkie based SUVs and beats many of the others because of its versatility and ability to be both family car and adventure off-roader.

Ford Protect, comprises a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year/90 000km service plan is included.

 

Which bakkie should I buy?

Owning and living with a bakkie is more than just walking into a dealership and paying for your truck. Your experience of and with the dealership can make or break your attitude to your bakkie and the brand.

If the purchasing and servicing experience is important to you this is going to help you decide which brands to look into.

The best buying and servicing experience is measured continuously by an independent research company, called Ipsos, for the industry.

Historic data

The owners of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) in South Africa are getting a very good deal in terms of their purchasing and servicing experience according to the results of the 2015 Ipsos customer satisfaction market research of the local automotive industry.

The good level of customer satisfaction in terms of the LCV purchasing and servicing experience in South Africa is underlined by the fact that four brands; Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen, won gold awards for purchasing and three; Isuzu, Nissan and Toyota  won gold for servicing in the 2015 survey. So the top brands to own are Isuzu, Nissan and Toyota.

Chevrolet and Ford got silver awards for purchasing, while Chevrolet and Volkswagen earned silver for servicing. Ford was the only recipient of a bronze award for LCV servicing. This may be down to the massive growth of their market share last year.

The results of the survey are subjected to four separate checks and balances or so-called quality gates to ensure validity.

bakkie sales q

The servicing winners are:

bakkie servicing

“These 2015 figures are absolutely outstanding,” commented Patrick Busschau, the Ipsos SA Automotive Business Unit Director. “The very impressive results show that both the buying and servicing experience provided by dealers franchised by the participating brands in South Africa is world class.

“Buyers of light commercials are also not short-changed from a product, as well as a sales and after-sales experience perspective, and this is very important in view of the large number of people who now buy top end LCVs for both personal and leisure use. They pay a lot of money for many of these vehicles, which are now competing with mid to high-end SUVs in the quality and comfort stakes, and it is good to see that the manufacturers, importers and dealers are putting a lot of focus on providing excellent service to those buying and operating LCVs. The Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen brands, in particular, in the LCV segment are to be commended for the consistently excellent service delivery when customers purchase or service these vehicles”.

Servicing over time

The servicing experience has improved over time as can be seen from the graph. Satisfaction has increased from 80% to 90% over the last few years.

Latest data from 2018

Bear in mind that this research is always a year behind and many bakkies have been upgraded or renewed in the last 12 months. This is just a rough guide as to the perceived quality.

In the graph below the lower the score the better.

The smaller bakkies have the disadvantage that they are noisier and have smaller engines. It is actually wrong to compare them with the bigger bakkies.

Safe motoring.

Ford Raptor hatches

It’s fierce, it is fast and it is furious. It is also wider, rides higher and is brilliant in sand and on fast Kalahari tracks.

It is the new Ford Ranger Raptor. The ultimate big boy’s toy.

Ford Ranger Raptor

Although the new Raptor is based on the Ranger platform, it is a very different beast. The development team were given a blank cheque and told to make the fastest off-road bakkie, perhaps inspired by the very rapid US F-150 based Raptor.

Ranger Raptor suspension

They started with the chassis, which they widened by 150mm, strengthened and stiffened. An entirely new suspension was developed by Ford Australia which includes high performance Fox shocks Position Sensitive Damping, a Watts linkage at the back (from the Everset), forged aluminium upper control arms and cast aluminium lower control arms. This gives the Raptor 32% more travel at the front and 22% at the rear. An enhanced version of Ford Stability Control incorporating Roll Mitigation Function and Electronic Stability Control; Trailer Sway Control; Hill Start Assist; Hill Descent Control and Load Adaptive Control helps keep things under control.

“The standout experience of the Ranger Raptor, hands down, is how far you can push it off-road versus any other available standard production road vehicle, and still provide amazing ride comfort on-road,” says Damien Ross, chief program engineer, Ford Ranger Raptor. BF Goodrich developed new 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres specially for the Raptor.

Top speed is governed at 178km/h due to the tyres. The Raptor cabin is exceptionally quiet when cruising on the highway.  This is due to a combination of good tyre design, noise cancelling technology and double glazing for the side windows.

The new suspension and tyres give the Raptor a ground clearance of 283mm and a wading depth of 870 mm.

Ford Ranger Raptor at full tilt

The 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo engine gets quite growly when pushed, but pleasantly so, producing a very useful 157kW and 500Nm and is mated to Ford’s advanced new 10-speed automatic transmission with magnesium paddle shifters. A unique transmission calibration also includes a Live In Drive (LID) function enabling prompt manual gear selection override.

During a drive from Upington to Goera Pan we got 9.7 L/100km at a steady 120 km/h but consumption  goes up to 16 odd at 160km/h. That is still not bad for a big bakkie.

This bakkie handles beautifully both on and off-road.  Three drive settings –  2H, 4H and 4L and six modes provide the magic. If you want to have fun you select Baja mode, which is one of the 6 modes of what Ford calls the Terrain Management System: normal, sport, sand, snow, mud and fun, er, Baja. Systems such as Traction Control are pared back to allow more spirited off-road driving, while gear selection is optimised for maximum performance, holding gears longer and downshifting more aggressively.

Driving on the Goera Pan on a specially laid out “rally” track with a variety of surfaces, bumps, dips, very soft sand, hard stoney packed stretches was an eye opener. Especially when Gareth Woolridge took the wheel of the Raptor.

The interior of the Raptor is about function. It is effectively a sports car. The blue stitching on the top of the dash and on the  really comfortable and supportive seats which are covered in technical suede add a light touch. The instrumentation is top notch, especially the “trip computer” which is actually a whole lot more. Ford’s Synch 3 infotainment system is good and easy to use and has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto . The navigation is by “Maps for Africa”  and comes with an update licence for 5 years.

There are extra ports at the back.

The Electronic Power Assist Steering (EPAS) is also linked to the TMS, providing varying levels of assistance and responsiveness according to the specific drive mode selected

The exterior is quite butch but bakkie like. Personally I think it fits the bill, especially in grey and white, although most of the media contingent like the blue version. Raptor looks the part, the big bruiser from the blue oval. Other bakkies just look peh in comparison.

The actual colours are: Ford Performance Blue, Colorado Red, Absolute Black, Frozen White and Conquer Grey, with contrasting Dyno Grey accents.

The Raptor is about going very fast over sandy or open terrain. It is a high performance vehicle. The looks, the interior, the finish, (good as they all are) are somewhat immaterial. It is the go that counts.

Raptor has all the safety systems and equipment of the normal Ranger.

The retail price of R786 400 is reasonable in the context of the delivery.

All Ford Rangers come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year/90 000km service plan is included, with 15 000km service intervals.

Ford Fiesta Diesel

Driving Ford’s little oil burner is a real pleasure. It is an example of a design and engineering team getting it right.

The balance between performance and comfort, power and economy, price and value seems to be spot on. The driving dynamics are superb and build quality is very good.

Ford Fiesta Diesel

The new Fiestas look and are bigger than the old model, which is now called the Figo. It feels that the usable space is both bigger and more practical as is the boot. Overall this new little Ford looks good inside and out.

The Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend 6 MT is the model name of the Fiesta I drove. That means it is a 6-speed manual turbo diesel with the Trend or standard trim level. The top specification is the Titanium, but is not available with a diesel engine.

Ford’s Synch III infotainment system with voice control and Bluetooth is a joy to use. It is easy to set up, easy to understand and easy to use. There are two USB ports with charging functionality, integration with you cell phone and a colour touchscreen. Directly in front of the driver is an additional trip computer display with several options.

Standard equipment includes controls on steering wheel, daytime running lights, halogen headlamps, airconditioner, hill launch assist and auto stop – start.

Safety kit is comprehensive and includes ABS brakes with brakeforce assist and distribution control, traction control, airbags, front fog lights, cornering lamps and reverse parking sensors.

Fuel consumption is claimed to be 3.3L/100km but expect 4L/100km on the open road and around 5.5L/100km in town, which in real terms is good.

Fiesta is fun to drive, with excellent road manners, nicely weighted steering and brakes, a feeling of woema when you put foot and an oh-so-smooth gearbox.

This Fiesta raises the bar and is the benchmark for how a small car should drive.

Equipment included in the standard price surpasses that of most of the competition which means you are actually getting good value for money.

This is a car I have really enjoyed to drive. I would also consider the automatic 1.0 T turbo-petrol model which is priced at R277 300 and may be the sweet spot of the range.

The diesel Trend Fiesta is listed at R292 500. The range starts at R261 900 and tops out at R310 600.

The warranty is for 4 years or 120 000km and the base price includes a 4 year or 60 000 km service plan.

The direct competition includes its own sibling, the Figo which is the previous Fiesta, the VW Polo and Vivo, Mazda 2, Suzuki Baleno, Kia Rio, Honda Jazz and Hyundai i20.

Ford EcoSport revisited

When most people think of a compact sports utility vehicle, the EcoSport will come to mind. It was one of the original compact SUV’s.
With the facelifted EcoSport, Ford has wisely not messed with a winning formula. They updated the electronic systems and refreshed the interior. The rest they left mostly as is.

Ford EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium

“Ford has sold more than 45 000 EcoSport units in South Africa since it was launched in 2013, and it has been a major player in its segment ever since thanks to its great looks, impressive space and versatility, superb all-round performance and exceptional value for money,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. He has a point.

What else is there?

For a few rand more the super competent Mazda CX3 is a really good smaller SUV. I am a big fan of the rugged and practical Renault Duster and the quirky Jeep Renegade. Opel offers the Mokka, Honda the interesting BR-V and Toyota the Rush. Peugeot’s 2008 is a different almost left-of-field option.
Newcomers include the Hyundai Kona and Creta, Haval H2 and soon to be launched VW T-Cross.

Whats new?

Ecosport now gets floating central touchscreens up to 8-inches based on Ford’s brilliant SYNC®3 system, which provides connectivity with Navigation, Cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiter.
Electronic Stability Control, a minimum of six airbags and rear parking sensors are all standard across the range.

Ford Ecosport

The interior is now more up-market and user-centric, but will still be familiar. I particularly like the 12v power point at the back, the two USB ports in front and the blue lighting at the base of the central cup holders.
The new seat designs are more comfortable (and supportive) for both front and rear occupants and the front seats nogal get warmers.

New alloy wheels complement the rugged, sporty character, and are offered in Gunmetal grey five-spoke 16-inch versions on the Trend series, or striking 17-inch rims on the Titanium. I prefer the former with slightly fatter 55 ratio tyres.

The adjustable boot floor has a new height adjustable floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres. It is a kind of shelf.

Driving safety has been stepped up with standard fitment of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control (TC), as well as Roll Stability Control (RSC) in the EcoBoost range, that adjusts engine torque and braking to help drivers maintain control. Additionally, the 1.0 EcoBoost-powered models gain Hill Launch Assist (HLA) that makes pulling off on steep inclines easier, along with Ford’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

 

Trend and Titanium versions offer either six-speed manual gearbox or the latest-generation six-speed automatic box. The fuel consumption during the time I drove a Titanium automatic model was just over 8 L/100km. With a light touch, under 8 L/100km should be easily achievable and nearer 5 on the open road.
The car never feels under powered or unstable. It is really user friendly.

Prices start at R 264 500 for the base 1.5 TDCi Ambiente manual diesel model. The 1.0 EcoBoost Trend six-speed manual is priced at R 287 500 and the automatic at R300 700. The Titanium automatic at R339 800 is R12 000 more than the manual. The later all turbo-petrol engines.

Ford Protect is a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A four-year/60 000km service plan is included.

Wheelswrite car of the year 2018

The year of the SUV – 2018

We started 2018 on a pretty high note with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. In many ways just what you would expect an Alfa SUV to be. A big step up for Alfa. What could top it?

Nissan X-trail in Onrus

The next car we tested to really impress was the new Nissan X-trail. At the time I said: “Interestingly the new ‘facelifted’ Nissan X-trail, which I have been driving this week got as many , if not more ‘stop and stares’ (as the Stelvio). Especially men.”

Early in February we reported on the very capable Mitsubishu Sport and later in the month the seriously facelifted Mahindra Pik-Up.

At the end of March we drove two very good SUV’s the “new” Kuga and Mazda CX-5 of which I said at the time: “The Mazda CX-5 is not just another crossover SUV wannabe. It is a refined, well rounded car which leads the way in so many ways.”

Nissan Navara LE 4×2 Auto

In March it was the turn of two very good bakkies. Nissan’s new Navara and Ford’s fancy FX4. The Navara is burly and it’s a bit of a beast and is the basis for a whole slew of models from several brands.
And then perhaps the cat among the pigeons. The Peugeot 3008. The 3008 comes with high specification levels and exceptionally good exterior and classy interior design. It not only looks stunning, it is very clever.

You will notice a lot of SUV’s and crossovers in this list.

The year of the SUV – 2018.

In May we had the pleasure of sampling two German examples of the crossover wave. The spacious Tiguan Allspace and the Opel Grandland. The Allspace is pleasant and easy to drive in town and out touring. VW have created a really comfortable, spacious cabin. The Grandland is based on the same platform as the 3008. Similar substance but very different style.

Mazda MX5

In the spring the fresh new VW Polo GTi really impressed. At the time we said: ”A few months ago we reported about the Mazda MX-5 and how it had a grin factor. You just can’t help grinning while driving it. Well, this new VW Polo GTi also has a huge grin factor.” We really loved the Polo GTi. It gives the Golf GTi a run for its money.
The Peugeot 208 GT was another pleasing car. Similar to the Polo GTi in some respects but very different in others.
I like Suzukis so really looked forward to the new Swift. It is new from the wheels up. I thought it a delightful little runabout.

Early in December I drove two astounding SUV’s. Peugeot’s touring oriented 3008 GT-Line and Haval’s off-road toughie, the H9. Both cars do the job required of them extremely well.

Probably the sweetest car I drove this year is the Mazda MX-5 Targa. A driver’s joy, but a strict two-seater and really a toy, in the sense that it’s whole reason to exist is fun, nothing more, nothing less. The most focused car was without a doubt the Ford Fiesta RS200 Limited Edition,

Ford ST200 LE

fun, fast and almost practical.

So, which to pick?

Must be a SUVish type of vehicle. Surely.

I am tempted to pick the Haval H9, it really is that good, especially if you need low range. The Mazda CX-5 is just such a good car though.
The Peugeot 3008 GT-Line was a pleasant surprise and oh-so capable in its context. Mmmm. Let’s not forget the X-trail and the Allspace.

Damn.

May I pick the SUV as car of the year?

Or just go with the Polo GTi.