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Ford Kuga launched - review hands-on

Chris Finnamore
8 Feb 2013

Chunky styling, easy to drive and with plenty of room for four adults - just make sure your garage is big enough

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Ford has unveiled its 2013 Ford Kuga, and we were lucky enough to go to Valencia (where the European car is made) to drive it. There have been a number of improvements over the last model. The new Kuga is 81mm longer than the old version, which leads to more room for rear seat passengers as well as a larger load area.

Ford Kuga

We found there was plenty of room in the back for six-foot-plus passengers, but we certainly noticed the extra length when parking, to the ire of local Spanish drivers.

NCAP RATING

It's just been announced that the new Ford Kuga 2013 has just won the Euro NCAP award for the SUV class, it not only got a five-star rating, but also beat over newcomers this year. Better still, it got the highest ever score for a mid-sized SUV at 88%. For those who are very safety conscious, but don't want to drive something truly mammoth-sized, the 2013 Kuga is the safest car you can buy - something we wished we'd (for confidence's sake) known before taking to the busy streets of Valencia.

SYNC

There's also some extra kit inside to help make the car easier to live with. Probably the most important is Ford's Sync system, which, while available since 2008 in Ford's North American cars, has only just arrived in Europe.

Ford Kuga

A mass of buttons on the centre console is used to control the Sync system

Sync is an in-car entertainment and communications package that is designed to work with your phone. You can connect your mobile to the Kuga via Bluetooth, and then use voice commands to make phone calls, control your music and even have your messages read aloud. If you have an accident, the Emergency Assistance function will dial the emergency services for you, inform the operator you've had an accident and read out your current GPS location.

We had no problems syncing both an iPhone 5 and a Motorola RAZR i. You can pair more than one handset and use the Sync's menu system to flick between them. Once paired, the system will download your device's phone book automatically. To use voice commands, you just need to press a button on the steering wheel to activate them and then say "phone" and "call parents" to make a call, for example. We found Sync had no problems recognising our voice commands or any of the phone book entries we found. It even coped well with our dictating a phone number from scratch.

Ford Kuga

The voice control button on the steering wheel is within easy reach of your thumbs

Bluetooth audio worked fine on a basic level; we could play music from our handsets and use voice commands to skip tracks and pause, but we found it easier to just use the buttons on the steering wheel. The voice-operated music control steps up a notch when you connect an iPod or MP3-containing flash drive to the car's USB port. You can then play back artists simply by speaking their name. Unfortunately we had neither an iPod nor music-full flash drive to hand to test the system in-car, but it worked well on Ford's demonstration mock-up.

The Sync system is a no-cost option on the base Zetec specification, and is standard on the posher Titanium and Titanium X models. You can also add GPS navigation to a Zetec for £750 inc VAT. If you buy the more expensive Kugas, you have the option of adding a reversing camera for £750. This may be expensive, but we would have made even more of a mess of parking the huge Kuga without it.

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