FORD last year launched a revamped Kuga in the hopes that it would make potential SUV buyers take a second look at the vehicle, which had been the pariah of the motoring industry the past couple of years.Apart from the new design and engine options, Ford also improved the Kuga’s specification and features across the range and Ford’s popular, userfriendly SYNC3 infotainment system is now standard on the Trend and Titanium models.The Kuga, as previously, comes in three specification levels – the Ambiente, mid-level Trend and the range-topping Titanium.It is available in 1.5 and 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines or 2.0 TDCi diesel. Buyers can also choose between front-wheel or all-wheel drive and manual and automatic transmission.The model test driven for this week’ Express on Wheels is the 1.5 litre Ecoboostmodel with automatic transmission in the Trend specification.DesignThe redesign of the Kuga exterior is most noticeable in the rear with its redesigned light clusters and new tailgate design. Twin exhausts round off the upmarket look. Its rear is more rounded than that of its predecessor and its profile a tad more athletic looking.The interior of the new Kuga exudes an air of comfort, roominess and luxury. Leather seats on the test model added to the classy feel. Other high-end features include electric seats, auto lights and wipers, steering wheel controls, electronic parking brake, keyless entry with a stop start button, plenty of stowage space, USB ports, as well as a rear camera and park assist.The electronic parking brake works swiftly and smoothly and ensures more space for stowage of loose items such as cellphones, remotes and keys.I enjoyed the high positioning of the gear lever and the very user-friendly Sync3 infotainment system. The eight-inch touchscreen is operated in much the same way as a smart phone and has large, easy-to-operate buttons.There is also good space for the backseat passengers who have a fold-down armrest with cupholders between them.They also have foldaway trays attached to the back of the front seats, that fold down in front of them – airplane style.RideThe new Kuga is offered in Ford’s 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine with a choice between six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions, as well as Ambiente and Trend specifications. Also in the range is a model sporting the 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine, mated with a six-speed automatic gearbox and in Titanium specification. For those who prefer diesel models, there are 2.0 TDCi turbodiesel engine options, producing 132kW and 400Nm torque. The diesel models, available in Trend and Titanium, are mated with a six-speed automatic transmission and are both all-wheel drive.While most of the revamps in the Kuga will be regarded as great improvements, the use of the 1.5 litre Ecoboost engine in a vehicle this big, is, in my opinion, probably not one of them. While this engine performs spectacularly in the significantly smaller new Ford Ecosport – which was test driven for a previous Express on Wheels review, the use of it in a vehicle of this size has resulted in a less powerful performance. In addition the auto gearbox was struggling at times when the accelerator is pushed too hard.The automatic model does, however, include paddle-shift controls that enable one to manually select gears.On the positive side, it handles very well, gives a comfortable ride around town, is not too bulky to park and offers a pleasant ride in a beautiful vehicle that has enough room and comfort features for all its occupants. SafetyStandard safety features across the range include seven airbags, as well as ABS brakes with electronic stability programme (ESP), trailer stability function, hill launch assist and rollover mitigation.An enhanced version of Ford’s Active City Stop with low-speed collision mitigation and avoidance has been introduced, which can be specified as with the driver assistance pack available as an option on the Trend and Titanium models. This pack also includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system (BLIS), Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Aid, as well as Advanced Active Park Assist.The new Kuga offers Perpendicular Parking functionality, in addition to the semi-autonomous Active Park Assist technology. PriceFord Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Ambiente 6MT FWD R384 900Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Ambiente 6AT FWD R398 500Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Trend 6MT FWD R423 500Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost Trend 6AT FWD R445 900Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Trend 6AT AWD R503 500Ford Kuga 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT AWD R518 500Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium 6AT AWD R526 900All models come standard with Ford Protect, including a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A five-year/90 000km service plan is included on the TDCi models, with 15 000km service intervals. The petrol Kuga models have 20 000km service intervals, and are sold with a four-year/80 000km service plan.