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First look: Ford Kuga is Territory cub

Small Ford: Euro-built Kuga SUV rides on sharp Focus foundations.

Finally, the Blue Oval presents its first compact SUV: the 2008 Ford Kuga

19 Jul 2007

IT’S been spied on, speculated about, sneak-previewed and, more recently, suggested as the secret third model that could be build at Broadmeadows - and now the beleaguered Blue Oval has officially revealed it in all its glory: Ford’s first small SUV.

Revealed tonight ahead of its worldwide public debut at the Frankfurt motor show on September 11, the all-new Ford Kuga will be built at Ford of Europe’s Saarlouis plant in Germany from early 2008 and hits Ford dealers across Europe by mid-year.

The eagerly anticipated compact Ford crossover may have shirked its expected X-Max moniker for another feline Ford name, but its appears to have retained much of the wild ‘kinetic’ exterior design language seen on the Iosis X concept that previewed it at Paris last September.

The press release that accompanied this single styling sketch of the Kuga is thin on detail, but says “a preview model of the production vehicle will be presented” at Frankfurt.

Ford is widely reported to have developed an entrant for the booming global compact SUV segment by employing components from its small Focus hatch/sedan – in much the same way Volkswagen has with its Golf-based Tiguan, which will also premiere at Frankfurt.

Like the Kuga, however, the Tiguan's future in Australia is unclear (see story below).

Ford’s own off-road brand, Land Rover, last month launched its Freelander 2 – Australia’s second small “premium” SUV after BMW’s X3. In Europe, Kuga is expected to be available in both (front) two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations, the latter via a part-time Haldex AWD system as used by Volvo, another Ford subsidiary.

While the Kuga isn’t likely to offer the Freelander 2’s more sophisticated full-time Haldex AWD system, it will also be priced far lower than both the X3 and Freelander 2 (from $49,990), and other upcoming premium off-roaders like Volvo’s XC60, the Mercedes-Benz MLK and Audi Q5.

Globally, Kuga will compete most directly with the likes of Toyota’s RAV4, Nissan’s X-Trail, Subaru’s Forester and the Honda CR-V from under $35,000. If sold here, Kuga’s entry price would need to undercut that of mid-size SUVs like the homegrown Territory and Holden’s Captiva, which is expected to be joined by a smaller Korean-built SUV from GM Daewoo, as previewed by the T2X concept.

No specifications have been given, however, expect Kuga to be powered by a range of Focus engines in Europe, including 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrol fours, 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre TDCi diesels, and the Focus XR5’s Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre turbo five.

"With the launch of the Ford Kuga, we will keep the promise that we gave at the Paris motor show 2006: to develop a stylish new model based on the stunning Ford Iosis X concept car in less than two years," said president and CEO of Ford of Europe, John Fleming.

"It represents the continuation of our design-led commitment to add emotion and desirability to our cars and we expect it to bring even more new customers to the Blue Oval brand as we continue our product-led transformation towards sustained business success."

Tiguan in doubt for Oz

THE much-anticipated Volkswagen Tiguan might not come to Australia.

Made to take on prestige compact SUVs from Land Rover and BMW, the Tiguan will go on sale in Europe early next year.

The Tiguan had been considered a walk-up start for Australia given the popularity of SUVs, but the car is yet to be confirmed for local duty.

“It is far away, if it is coming,” said Volkswagen Australia managing director Jutta Dierks. “We have not made that decision yet.”Ms Dierks said Volkswagen Australia was talking to its parent company in Germany in a bid to secure the new SUV for local sale.

“We are in constant discussions, but so far there is no decision whether we will bring the car in or not,” Ms Dierks said.

“We are keen to bring the car in as it would fit our range perfectly.”She said the decision was likely to be made within a fortnight.

It's believed that production capacity, price or a combination of both factors could be the reason the Tiguan has not yet been green-lighted for sale in Australia.


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