The fairy tale of Goldilocks and the three bears is all about the titular’s character’s complaints that the furniture and food in the house she’s broken into are either too hard or too soft, or too hot or too cold.
I might not be a juvenile housebreaker on a crime spree but the SUV market presents me with similar problems.
Some models are squishy and dull, some are back-breakingly firm in the name of sportiness. Some have engines that couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding while others throw you towards the horizon as if the world was ending. Some look like the designers took the week off while others look like they threw every idea they’ve ever had onto one model.
Yet, like Goldilocks, I think I’ve found one that’s just about right in the shape of the Ford Kuga.
Ford’s mid-sized model manages to strike a sensible balance in so many areas that it will appeal to buyers looking at any number of rivals.
Ford Kuga ST-Line Edition
Price: £35,935 (£38,485 as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 10 seconds
CO2 emissions: 160g/km
In looks, it’s clearly part of the Ford family, with a big trapezoidal grille and angular headlights. It’s not exactly inspiring design but neither is it an overly-fussy approach that beats a particular motif to death (a la the DS 7 Crossback).
On the road it manages Ford’s usual trick of blending comfort with control that few rivals can match.
Some SUVs like the Citroen C5 Aircross and Nissan Qashqai have more pliant suspension that offers a smoother ride than the Kuga but this comes at the expense of handling that betrays their height and weight. Others such as the Seat and Cupra Ateca models and the Skoda Karoq have good body control but in exchange offer a ride that can verge on the harsh.
The Kuga however, manages to soak up the majority of unpleasant surfaces while offering better feel and control than any rival. Whatever Ford’s chassis engineers are paid, they’ve earned it here.
Our test car’s pleasing driving feel was helped by being equipped with one of the range’s most powerful engines. A 148bhp diesel seems almost the default choice in this segment but the extra 30bhp from our test car’s 2.0-litre gave it a little more punch and made it feel more easygoing. The six-speed automatic gearbox, however, highlighted one of the areas where Ford still lags behind, as well as economy in the mid-30s.
The Kuga starts at around £23,000 for a basic Zetec model but the ST-Line Edition sits just below the luxury Vignale in the line-up and starts at £30,000. With the bigger engine and auto box, our test car was £35,925. The ST-Line trim brings plenty of styling enhancements, such as 19-inch alloys, as well as features such as sports suspension, dual-zone climate control, parking assist and an opening panoramic roof. But goodies such as adaptive cruise, the driver assistance safety pack and a premium navigation with rear camera which are standard on rivals remain optional extras that pushed our car’s price to £38,485.
That stiff pricing remains one of the Kuga’s biggest flaws. Aside from that and some questionable economy its strong performance across the board makes it just right, as Goldilocks would say.