Review Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga Puts Sport in SUV

Car Review: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi (140PS) Titanium S

Compact SUVs are highly fashionable means of transport. The emphasis tends to be more on the sport side of S-U-V than utility but the four wheel drive Ford Kuga I drove had sportiness and utility.

However, the body kit that came standard on my top of the range Titanium S trim car meant that I stayed firmly on tarmac during my test drive!

So how would I rate the Kuga?

Design

The new Kuga is bigger than the one it replaces and it’s one of the best looking SUVs in this class with a genuinely sporty look to it and the sort of presence that will scare the daylights out of supermini drivers. I had the Titanium S model to test and it seriously ranks up the bling with a body kit and 19” inch wheels. The good news is that lesser specced cars look just as good from the outside.

Ford Kuga Review
Ford Kuga: Enough presence to scare the daylights out of supermini drivers

I may have had a few grievances about the interior of the Fiesta and the Focus but the smartly finished cabin with lots of gloss black and an upgraded stereo make Ford’s busy centre console design much more palatable in the Kuga. There is a real feeling of quality to the cabin and once you close the door it’s instantly comforting and homely (if that’s possible for a car!). The Titanium S model has beautiful part leather trimmed seats that are brilliantly supportive and oh so comfy.There is lots of storage in the car including a cubby in the centre console, large door pockets all round and a large glovebox. If cupholders are a priority - there are two in the front and two in the back. There are also separate fan controls for rear passengers, so everyone on board is well catered for.

Ford Kuga Review
The cabin is smart with lashings of gloss black adding a sophisticated feel

It’s comfortable to seat five with loads of head and leg room and you can recline the rear seats easily too. The boot volume has been increased by 46 litres compared to the old model, bringing the total volume to 406 litres with a mini-spare wheel included, but a Honda CRV and Mazda CX5 have bigger boots if that is a priority. The boot has a practical square shape and a handy low and flat loading sill. You can add a “hands-free tailgate” as an option which opens the boot with just a gentle kicking motion under the rear bumper with the keys in your pocket.

Ford Kuga Review
The boot has a practical square shape and a low, flat loading sill

Driving

There was a time when you could expect a 4x4 like the Kuga to lumber about and be a bit “agricultural”. But from the minute you press the start button this Kuga will impress – it’s so car-like to drive and it will hunker down on the road for you like a hot hatch. We expect nothing less from our SUVs. I drove the popular 2.0 litre TDCi with 140bhp and from the get-go it was a wonderful match for the Kuga - swift, quiet and refined. This is a mightily impressive car on the road, probably the best handling compact SUV that you will find, but the ride is a little harsher than expected. But with handling so tight, we don’t mind. Like all Fords, the steering is excellent too with loads of feel.

Economy

The model I drove was four wheel drive so it is thirstier and more expensive to tax than the front wheel drive model. The official economy figure is just under 48mpg and I averaged 40mpg while I had the car. Annual road tax costs a hefty €390.

Equipment

Zetec models get 17” alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated windshield, cruise control, daytime running lights, rear spoiler, twin exhausts, alarm, trip computer and leather steering wheel with remote audio controls. Titanium trim adds unique 17” alloys, auto lights and wipers, front scuff plates, dual zone air conditioning, driver’s lumbar support, partial leather seats, Sony radio/CD, Ford SYNC connectivity and premium centre console with sliding armrest. Titanium S trim adds a body kit, 19” wheels, roof rails, rear parking sensors and Active Park Assist.

Verdict

Ford is leveraging their new Kuga as a luxury SUV and I was very impressed with the fit and finish of the car. Out on the road it is equally impressive, more like a hatchback than a big, lumbering utility vehicle. Buyers of these sorts of vehicles don’t really care for the utility part of S-U-V. They really just want the space and 4x4 attitude. The Kuga scores for its excellent handling and refinement, tough looks and oodles of space.

Model tested: Ford Kuga Titanium S
Price: €43,370 (Kuga range starts at €33,450)

Transmission: 6 speed manual, four wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 litre TDCi, turbo diesel
Power: 140bhp
0-100km/h: 10.7 seconds
Economy: 47.9 mpg (5.9l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 154g/km
Tax band: C (€390 per year)

Caroline Kidd


Fiat Panda 4x4

Fiat Panda 4x4: The City Car That Could

The Fiat Panda 4x4 has been knocking around for 30 years, up and down hills with all the attitude of an off-roader but within the tiny body of a city car. This test drive was always going to be a lot of fun.

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Ford Focus vs Honda Civic vs Peugeot 308

This week I'm taking three diesel hatchback rivals from Ford, Honda and Peugeot and pitting them against one another. The diesel hatchbacks I've tested here have broad appeal due to their affordable combination of space, comfort, practicality, economy and performance.

In isolation, the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Peugeot 308 are very good cars, but I've brought together diesel versions of all three to see how they compare.

Click the links below to read the individual reviews or go straight to the results of the group test:

Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC

Peugeot 308 1.6 HDi

Peugeot 308
A strong, muscular silhouette and sharp new grille give the Peugeot 308 real kerb appeal

Design

The Peugeot 308 is easily the best-looking car of the trio. It is understated but stylish in a similar vein to German premium hatchback rivals - some may be surprised to find Peugeot’s lion emblem on the front rather than four rings or a three pointed star.

The Civic is very distinct with sharp, angular styling. It looks like no other family hatchback, but that makes it a little bit of a Marmite car – you will love the dynamic styling or else you will be completely turned off by it.

The Ford Focus has been with us since 2011 making it the oldest car here. It’s not a bad looking car – it just looks bland in this company. Higher spec Zetec and Titanium models do benefit from more dramatic alloy wheels and chrome detailing that add more presence.

Silver Ford Focus
Ford Focus

The 308 has the best cabin of all three on the surface of things. It's beautifully designed with a real feeling of quality. The cabin in the Ford just doesn't feel as luxurious unless you go for a higher specced model and the the centre console looks heavy and clumsy. The driving position is really good though and the white illuminated dials with blue needles give it a sporty feel. The Honda has a really well built cabin but an unusual layout that might put some off. The indigo illuminated dials are really striking and the seats are plush - it's no bad place to be.

Practicality

All three offer great shoulder and headroom up front for a driver and passenger to sit comfortably without rubbing elbows every time the driver changes gear. The boot in the Ford Focus is a practical shape and a full size spare wheel is included, but it falls short of class standards at just 277 litres. The Peugeot 308 by comparison has an impressive 470 litres of boot space, and a full size spare wheel has been squeezed in too. However, both the Civic and the Focus feel more spacious than the 308 in the rear. The Honda Civic offers a good balance between interior space and boot space. At 477 litres the boot in the Civic is the largest of our trio, but there is no spare wheel – a tyre repair kit comes as standard instead.

Driving

Honda Civic
Honda Civic: avant-garde looks you won't find anywhere else in this segment

The Focus, 308 and Civic are all very comfortable and ideal for long sprints on the motorway. The Ford Focus is the driver’s car of the bunch with very precise steering, great handling and a real sure footedness about it out on the road. But the diesel engine is the least powerful here with 95bhp and it’s noisy and less refined compared to the similarly sized engines in the Civic and 308, though remember there is a 115bhp diesel available for the Focus too that offers more similar power and performance to the other cars tested here. The 308 is not as engaging to drive as the Focus but the 1.6 litre 115bhp diesel engine is punchy and super refined. The 120bhp Civic is the most powerful car of our trio and it is easy to access the power no matter what gear you are in. It’s smooth and refined to go with it and though it's not quite as fun to drive as a Focus, on balance the Civic is the pick of the bunch.

Economy

Fuel saving start/stop technology is standard on our three test cars. The Ford Focus is the thirstiest car of our trio with manufacturer’s quoted fuel economy of 4.2 litres per km (but that's still over 60mpg!). The Peugeot 308 manages an impressive 3.8 litres per km. The Honda Civic is the most frugal of the bunch at 3.6 litres per km.

Equipment

The Ford Focus we tested was in Edition spec and is the cheapest of the cars we tested. The kit list is a bit sparse but you do get electric front windows and mirrors, alloys, Ford Sync, steering wheel mounted audio controls and air con. You need Zetec trim for fog lamps and Titanium trim for cruise control.

The Honda Civic we drove didn't feel budget despite being an entry level model. In Comfort spec it has Bluetooth, alarm, LED daytime running lights, air con, alloy wheels. four electric windows, hill start assist and steering wheel mounted audio controls. For cruise control and front fog lamps you need to go up to Sport trim.

The Peugeot 308  we tested is the mid range Active trim and  has a really good level of equipment for the money including a touchscreen, Bluetooth, dual zone air con, alloy wheels, programmable cruise control, four electric windows, fog lamps, auto lights & wipers, hill start assist and rear parking sensors.

Verdict

And the winner is...

Honda Civic
The Honda Civic offers great practicality despite Marmite looks and the 1.6 litre i-DTEC delivers on balance between power and refinement

Our three diesel hatchbacks on test each have their own individual merits. The Peugeot 308 has the classy looks, big boot and punchy, refined engine. The Focus has a mature feel to it but the superb handling means it is anything but dull. However, the Focus is starting to look a bit dated now and the 308 is just not as fun to drive. In this company, the Honda Civic just edges ahead with its refined yet powerful and fuel efficient engine, comfort and space, and just enough driver engagement to keep us happy behind the wheel.

Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Edition Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Comfort Peugeot 308 1.6 HDi Active
Price €22,845 €24,195 €24,390
Engine 1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel 1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel 1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel
Power 95bhp 120bhp 115bhp
0-100kmh 12.5 secs 10.5 secs 10.2 secs
Fuel economy 67mpg 78.5mpg 74mpg
CO2 109g/km 94g/km 98g/km
Tax Band A3 (€190 per year) A2 (€180 per year) A2 (€180 per year)

Caroline Kidd


Citroen DS3 by Benefit

Video: Citroën DS3 DSign by Benefit

Style matters for the premium small car. Mini invented this segment in 2001 and Fiat followed suit with the 500, but both used a similar recipe for success - taking a much loved classic and giving it a twenty first century makeover while retaining a retro character.

The Citroen DS3 is completely different. It has a fresh, modern design with not a whiff of retro. Citroen Ireland recently teamed up with Benefit Cosmetics to release a special edition in Ireland of the DS3 based on a standard DS3 in DSign specification - the Citroen DS3 by Benefit.Read more


Honda Civic

Honda Civic: Out of this World

I had just parked the Honda Civic on a city street and was getting out to admire my handy work when a passer-by nodded in the car’s direction while speaking on his mobile phone and said “gorgeous car”. That doesn’t happen very often, not least when driving a sub-€25,000 mass market hatchback.

But the Honda Civic had more surprises in store for me aside from avant-garde looks. Read on.

Design

The Honda Civic is a little bit of a Marmite car – you will love the way it looks or you will seriously dislike it (see more photos here). It’s sharp and angular and looks like nothing else in its class, bringing a futuristic and original look to the hatchback segment. The current model is lower and wider than the previous model and has been designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind - the result is a sporty, athletic profile. LED daytime running lights and 16” inch alloys fitted as standard add to the dynamism. The downside of the Civic's unusual exterior design is that the rear spoiler splits your view out the rear window and visibility is poor towards the rear corners of the car.

Honda Civic
Honda Civic: avant-garde looks you won't find anywhere else in this segment

Inspiration for the Civic’s interior came from cockpits of jet fighter planes and race cars and it shows - the instruments feel like they wrap around the driver’s seat and the futuristic look continues inside with attractive indigo illuminated dials and digital displays to inform you of vehicle information. While there are a lot of hard plastics about, the quality of the cabin is very good and the build quality is what you would expect from a Japanese hatchback. But it can’t match the Volkswagen Golf for classy feel and straightforward, functional layout. Again if you like “different”, then you will probably adore the interior of the Civic.

Civic interior
Interior inspired by cockpit of race cars and jets - cool!

It is very comfortable inside and spacious with useful storage spaces dotted throughout. The boot is big and deep - 401 litres in addition to a 76 litre under floor compartment that brings the total volume to 477 litres. However, there is no spare wheel - the Civic instead comes with a tyre repair kit as standard. The rear doors open at 90⁰, handy for accessing the rear seats, and the rear seats can be folded down or rearranged in a variety of ways thanks to Honda’s innovative “Magic Seats”. You can even flip up the rear seat cushions to carry tall objects. The practicality puts some other hatchs to shame.

Honda Civic
Seats can be folded in a variety of ways

Driving

The new 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel engine has transformed the Honda Civic and the low emissions make it ideal for the Irish market. It’s an excellent engine, both exceptionally frugal (78mpg) and powerful (120bhp). It never feels under pressure and it’s easy to keep the car in its power band. And it’s quiet!

There is an enjoyable lightness to the steering and the Civic is as easy to drive on the motorway as it is in town. The Civic has a new suspension that soaks up the bumps in the road well while it still feels sporty and agile if you want to throw it around corners at the weekends. It stayed settled for me over some seriously rough roads and while it may lack some of the steering feel and preciseness that makes a rival Ford Focus sparkle in this department, it is still a lot of fun to drive when you match it to that powerful, smooth 1.6 litre diesel engine and a snappy six speed manual gearbox.

Economy

The official economy figure is an amazing 78mpg and the 1.6 i-DTEC engine comes fitted with fuel saving start stop technology as standard. The Honda Civic has been designed with fuel efficiency in mind and the diesel model even gets little gills on the rear wings to enhance air flow over the sleek body. The addition of an econometer in the driver’s line of vision that advises you on how your driving style is impacting fuel economy by changing blue to green when the car is being driven economically is further evidence that fuel efficiency was at the forefront of the engineer’s minds when building this car.

Honda Civic
Indigo illuminated dials are very nice to look at

Equipment

There are three trim levels available on the 1.6 litre i-DTEC Civic:  Comfort, Sport and Executive. Comfort models get Bluetooth, six airbags, alarm, remote central locking, air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, 16" alloy wheels, Hill Start Assist, electric front and rear windows and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

Sport trim adds dual zone air conditioning, auto lights/wipers, front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, cruise control and speed limiter, front fog lamps, leather steering wheel and gear knob and alloy pedals.

Executive trim adds leather interior, heated front seats, glass roof, and satellite navigation and colour touchscreen.

Verdict

The Honda Civic is a cool hatchback that deserves your attention. It's very practical but don't confuse that with boring. You can have a bit of fun with this and it's as enjoyable to drive as it is to look at. And the new diesel engine is real triumph, combining great performance with refinement and economy.

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Comfort
Price: 
€24,195 (Range starts at €21,895)
Engine: 
1.6 litre, turbocharged four cylinder diesel
Power: 
120bhp
0-100km/h: 
10.5 seconds
Economy: 
78.5mpg (3.6l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 
94g/km
Tax band: 
A2 (€180 per year)

Caroline Kidd


Ford Focus

Ford Focus: Confident & Competent Hatchback

The current Ford Focus has been around since 2011 but with a new model just around the corner why is it still one of the bestselling hatchbacks in its class? Let’s find out.Read more


Fiat 500L

Feeling Very European In The Fiat 500L

The Fiat 500L is Fiat’s five seat MPV that promises to deliver the style of the Fiat 500 city car and the space and versatility of an MPV. It might not be an obvious choice for a young driver but if as part of your lifestyle you often or occasionally need lots of space to carry people, IKEA flat packs or stuff for hobbies (you know adventure sports and that sort of thing), then trust me, the Fiat 500L is worthy of consideration. Here’s why.Read more


Peugeot 308 Wows With Style And Finish

The new Peugeot 308 has cruised into the medium sized hatchback segment with a smart new look and the European Car of the Year crown for 2014. It certainly has the looks to compete at the very top of this segment but will we want to drive it?Read more


Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta Gets An (Eco)Boost

Car Review: Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre (65bhp) non-turbo EcoBoost in Zetec trim

The Ford Fiesta was facelifted in 2013 and now sports a trapezoidal grille that makes it look like a baby Aston Martin. That’s a serious statement for a car that could be yours for just under €16,000. Ford says that the latest version of their long-serving supermini is like a new smartphone, combining contemporary style with state-of-the-art technology. Let’s find out.Read more


Pocket Rocket Peugeot 208 GTi

Hot hatches scream youth. The current breed of compact hot hatches - Peugeot 208 GTi, Ford Fiesta ST, Seat Ibiza Cupra and Renault Clio RS - are the hooligans of the car world. I took a closer look at the new Peugeot 208 GTi to find out if there is more to it than just flared wheel arches and an aggressive body kit?Read more