The wraps have just come off the hot Focus ST, but later this year, a new car that’s arguably much more important to Ford’s future will enter showrooms: the new Ford Kuga.

Due to arrive in dealers towards the end of 2019, the third-generation Kuga is being tasked with not only stealing sales from the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan and Renault Kadjar, but also assisting with reversing the brand’s fortunes in Europe and helping boost its profits in the region.

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The Kuga is Ford’s strongest-performing SUV on the continent; the firm sold 153,800 examples in Europe last year despite the car falling behind rivals in terms of comfort, refinement and availability of plug-in hybrid powertrains. But that is due to change with the Mk3 model, because it moves to a new platform that has electrification at its heart.

Beneath the skin the Kuga shifts to Ford’s new C1 architecture that first appeared on the latest Focus hatch. The C1’s flexibility will let engineers stretch the wheelbase to create a more spacious cabin than that currently found on the existing model.

The latest spy shots from the US, where the Kuga is known as the Escape, back that up, and clearly show the dramatic design overhaul, too. Prototypes seen testing outside Ford’s HQ in Detroit reveal a look that’s heavily inspired by the latest Focus. Our exclusive images preview how the finished Kuga could look.

It’s all set to change beneath the surface, too, because the newcomer will adopt Ford’s latest generation of engines. The firm’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit, which is a popular choice in the Fiesta and Focus, is not expected to be offered in the SUV due to its increased size and weight.

As a result the range will kick off with the larger-capacity 1.5-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost motor, which is related to the engine found in the Fiesta ST. Two versions are expected to be offered, with either 148bhp or a more punchy 180bhp. Both could have 48V mild-hybrid technology to help further reduce CO2 emissions.

Despite its relative slump in market share, diesel power still makes up a large proportion of sales in this segment, so the firm’s 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre EcoBlue engines will continue to be offered in the new Kuga.

But adding real substance to the brand’s range of electrified vehicles will be an all-new plug-in hybrid version of the Kuga. The SUV’s powertrain is expected to comprise Ford’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder motor backed up by a small electric motor to help deliver CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km.

At the other end of the range it’s feasible that a Kuga ST could be developed, giving the brand its first performance-based SUV in Europe. Ford Performance recently launched ST variants of the Edge and Explorer in the US, although neither model has made its way across the Atlantic. 

Ford SUV family: Mixed fortunes of current range 

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Ford’s jacked-up supermini corrected many of the old EcoSport’s failings, but doesn’t fit the bill as a proper SUV. It’ll be joined by a full B-segment crossover in 2020.

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Ford Focus Active - front

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Ford Kuga - front

Blue oval’s mid-size SUV is about to be replaced, but it has sold well for Ford. Despite losing ground to more modern rivals, it remains good to drive and packed with equipment.

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Future of the brand’s biggest SUV is in doubt; Mustang outsold Edge in Europe last year. Designed for the US market, it’s big, brash and thirsty – and there’s no seven-seater.

What do you think of our exclusive images of the new Ford Kuga? Do you like the look? Let us know your thoughts below…



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