Driver's choice: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi AWD Titanium road test

  • Kuga impresses with off-road capability
  • Permanent all-wheel-drive, auto available
  • 19-inchers compromise ride, stick with standard rims

The Ford Kuga may not be top of your list if you are considering an off-road vehicle but, make no mistake, the all-wheel-drive version is no slouch on the rough stuff.

This model, with a 2.0-litre 160bhp diesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, will cruise nicely on the road and it’s quick enough for relaxed overtaking. It can be a bit clattery on start-up or when revved hard though.

For the record, 0-62mph takes 9.9 seconds and top speed is 123mph. It’s reasonably frugal too, with an average claimed fuel economy of 47.9mpg. CO2 emissions are 145g/km.

It handles nicely: with plenty of grip and little body lean it deals with corners almost as well as a standard saloon. Yes, it’s not faultless – there’s not much in the way of steering feel and the automatic version isn’t particularly flexible – but you’d be hard-pressed to find a 4x4 alternative that is as good on the road as this.

So, it’s excellent on road but what’s it like when you venture on to muddy, rutted tracks?

In short, it’s very good. We tested the car in a country estate in Kent where rocky inclines and declines were the norm. It’s interesting that it coped so well especially when you consider that there are no alternative settings to choose from – no sand, rocky or snow settings to help you along.

The Land Rover Freelander, for example, has an all-terrain system where you can select a setting according to the conditions, and it also has hill descent control designed to keep the car under control on particularly steep inclines. The Kuga, however, has none of that. You simply control the car using the footbrake and gears.

It is quite satisfying and it was surprising how well this so-called ‘soft-roader’ dealt with the ruts. The ‘intelligent’ all-wheel-drive system diverts the power to wheels that have the most contact with the ground and because of that you can easily get through the slippery stuff.

Yes, it’s not in the same league as the Freelander, or indeed the Range Rover Evoque, but if you are part of the green wellie brigade that often ventures out on to country tracks, you’ll have no worries in the Kuga.

In Titanium spec it has all the kit and off-road tech and, with a reasonably firm ride and supportive seating, it is comfortable enough for long journeys. Standard equipment includes the intelligent all-wheel-drive with torque distribution display, torque vectoring control with curve control, DAB radio/CD, Ford SYNC voice-activated system with Emergency Assist, leather steering wheel and gearshift knob, part-leather seats, dual-zone climate control and auto headlights with rain-sensing wipers.

The car also included Ford’s appearance pack that features roof rails and privacy glass (£350) and 19-inch alloy wheels, but we think the standard 18-inchers are good enough.

To read the full Ford Kuga review click here.

Also consider:

Mitsubishi ASX
An alternative choice, it’s pretty dreary inside but it has a nice diesel engine that offers strong performance.

Kia Sportage
Stylish and spacious, but the diesel engine can get noisy and the dashboard is a bit plasticky.

Hyundai ix35
Like the Sportage it’s a solid, affordable off-roader. Probably not as capable off-road as the Kuga.