A new crossover vehicle from Europe that's not really that new, but pretty good all the same. Confused? You should be.
You might have heard quite a bit about the exciting new Ford Kuga, or Escape as it's called in some markets. It's another global model from the One Ford programme, packed with high technology and powered by the Blue Oval's latest EcoBoost engine range. Well, this isn't it. That car is still at least a year away, so this one - a kind of closing-down sale from Ford of Europe - is here to fill the gap and pave the way in both NZ and Australia.
This Kuga is actually the tail-end of the previous model - sold alongside the last-generation Focus in Europe (on which it is based), although not previously seen in New Zealand. If you want to put it in context, it's a replacement for the old Escape and a rival for the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Hyundai ix35.
So it's not the latest thing. It's our job to tell you that, although you'll figure it out yourself soon enough if you visit a Ford showroom and sit in one. The cabin architecture is attractive and it's packed with standard equipment, but the styling and operating systems are exactly like the previous Focus, and nothing like the current one. The new Focus - NZ Car of the Year as it happens - has made huge strides forward in comfort and quality, which makes it all the more obvious that Kuga belongs to another time.
That's not to say it's a bad thing, as long as you what you're getting. It's an exceptionally pretty car - perhaps the prettiest in its class, which is really saying something. It comes only in top Titanium specification and while it lacks the requisite diesel-engine option (it had one in Europe), it's not short on powertrain character. Under the bonnet is the ex-Volvo 2.5-litre turbo five-cylinder that formerly powered the hot Focus XR5, although for this application it's been detuned to 147kW/320Nm and matched to a five-speed automatic gearbox. It gurgles along quite nicely, although the convention automatic takes some of the edge away and it's not particularly green: Combined economy is 10.3 litres per 100km but frankly, you'll struggle to get that from what is a fun but characteristically quite thirsty engine.
No matter, it's a little bit sporty without opportunity cost in practicality. It's compact yet still spacious for the family, with a 60/40 split rear seat and separate-opening glass section on the tailgate.
Equipment includes high-grade leather upholstery, dual-zone climate air conditioning, fold-up tray tables for the kids in the back and Bluetooth connectivity with voice control.
So proceed with caution, because the Kuga is something of a long-lead runout. But curiously appealing and full of character next to rivals like the RAV4, Holden Captiva and Mitsubishi Outlander.