Remember the Maverick? Didn’t think so. Not many people do. The Ford 4×4 was introduced in 1997 and binned not many years after that. Problem was most buyers looking for a mid-sized SUV went for a Freelander instead and that pretty much killed the Ford.
That’s why the maker carried out far more taste tests with this, the cheeky Kuga. It should sell like hot cakes for on-the-shelf appeal alone – there’s no doubt it’s a looker and with Ford undergoing something of a design revolution at the moment, is this the best-looking of the lot?
It is, as you can probably tell, an SUV. A compact SUV, of the soft-roader, CR-V-competing, RAV4-challlenging sort. But it’s a damn smart one at that. The muscular toning gives a ready-for-action appearance, while there are bold wheelarches, sculpted sides and an angular face. Some SUVs are boxy and square; this is anything but. Derived from the C-Max compact MPV, it’s roomy too, though the tailgate-in-tailgate is a bit gimmicky.
Ford is only offering two trims – Zetec or Titanium. Both are fairly high-end; no toning things down with Studios and Styles here. They are both absolutely stacked with equipment too; the one main difference is that, in the Zetec, you get blue or orange interior trim detailing within the well-built, funkier-C-Max dash. In the Titanium, it’s more subtle graphite. A difference of £2k is what people will pay to take their choice – Zetec is £20,500, Titanium is £22,500.
It’s even easier with engines – there’s only one. A completely predictable 134bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel. Ford will offer a detuned version of the Ford Focus ST’s 2.5-litre five-pot turbo in time, but we can’t see anyone buying it. Diesel is what drives this sector.
And, to be fair, it drives perfectly well, revving smoothly and giving all its 320Nm of torque at 2,000rpm. Acceleration to 60mph in 10.7secs won’t win any records, but it’s perfectly adequate – and there’s even an amusing upshift light for gearchanges.
There is a benefit to this, too: remarkable economy. Efficiency plus a six-speed gearbox yield 44.1mpg combined. This puts it straight to the top of the SUV class for fuel efficiency, while emissions of 169g/km are admirable.
And this is despite Ford including standard four-wheel-drive. Factor in the Focus-derived underpinnings that we know perform so incredibly well, and you’ve one of the keenest-driving SUVs around. It’s not over-firm but still has real balance and confidence, with the all-wheel-drive allowing you to corner really hard in confidence.
You can even alter the weight of the steering via the dash computer, which is quite amusing. Off-road? It’s immaterial, but we’re sure it won’t bog down in a muddy field.
All told, it’s a class act, and one that’s likely to be much in demand. Ford only having 6-7,000 to sell in the UK this year won’t change that, either. Tasty? You betcha. A Maverick this is not!
By RICHARD AUCOCK