2008 Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi

2008 Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 2008 Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi
Second Drive

“She is very pretty,” said the middle-aged Frenchman, with a smile and polite nod. “So, are you happy with her?” Even allowing for any vast cultural differences, this isn’t what we expected to hear while standing outside a gas station in the north of Paris.

Lest you feel offended on our behalf, know that in French the word for “car” is feminine. The “she” our admirer was referring to just happened to be the diesel-powered Ford Kuga crossover that we were refueling. The Kuga’s fat-fendered and aggressive exterior earned lots of compliments and envious stares during our weekend together—although the gas station conversation was by far the strangest of the bunch.

Good-Looking and Good to Be In, Too

After four days and hundreds of miles driving in France, we discovered that the Kuga’s beauty is more than skin-deep. Based on the same rock-solid C1 platform found lurking beneath the latest Euro Ford Focus (which finally arrives in the U.S. for 2011), the Kuga’s ride and handling shame many family sedans, not to mention most small sport-utes and crossovers.

Our Kuga came in the upscale Titanium trim level. This included automatic wipers and headlights, sportier leather-and-cloth seats, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control. Also fitted were wicked-looking 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic glass roof, and a navigation system with a seven-inch touch screen. (A second nav system is available that uses a five-inch touch screen.)

Credit goes to Ford for creating a truly classy, comfortable, and sophisticated cabin. The silver finish on the center console is, of course, painted plastic. But it’s a million times better-looking than black plastic or, heaven forbid, fake wood. One notable flaw was the nav screen’s tendency to wash out in direct sunlight. Even more serious was the Kuga’s poor rear visibility. This made parallel parking ponderously slow, and hyperactive parking sensors only made matters worse. The optional rearview parking camera is a must-have.

There is room for two in the rear seats, but three adults would be a squeeze. Loads of useful nooks and crannies in the dash, door panels, and even under the floor help free up precious space for stuff, though. The cargo area accommodates 12.7 cubic feet of cargo with the 60/40-split rear seats up. With them folded down, cargo room swells to 47.9 cubic feet.

In terms of size, there isn’t much to separate the Kuga from the Ford Escape. The Kuga is 174.9 inches long and 67.3 inches high—fractions of an inch away from the Escape’s measurements. Where the Kuga sets itself apart from its American cousin is with its combination of sharp steering and suspension control.