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2009 Ford Kuga

Fordís new 2009 Kuga inspired by the 2006 Ford iosis X concept and previewed at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show, the production-spec Kuga debuted at Geneva as the brand's first European crossover. With a 2.0-liter Duratorq TDCi diesel engine and all-wheel drive, the Kuga gives drivers better traction and more room than its Focus platform mate, all while beautifully maintaining Ford's kinetic design language.

The Kuga's exterior features a light assortment of chrome accents, side vents, projector-style headlights and fog lights, rear parking sensors, dual exhaust outlets, and a "liftgate-in-liftgate" tailgate. Inside, the crossover's instrument cluster and audio/navigation systems are shared with the Focus, but each vehicle receives its own unique air vents and smaller design touches.

FORD KUGA 2009

Ford first showed the Kuga, its new for-Europe-only compact crossover, last year in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show in pre-production "concept" form. With all the details now ironed out and the factory ready to roll, the production Kuga was showed at the Geneva Motor Show.

The Kuga is based on the same C1 platform that underpins the S-Max compact minivan and European Focus. Only one engine will be offered, a 2.0-liter common rail diesel rated at 134 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Only one gearbox too, a six-speed manual.

Those unable to row their own gears need not apply. FWD will be standard, with a Haldex AWD system available as an option.

The Kuga rides on a 105.9 inch wheelbase and checks in at 174.4 inches long, 72.5 inches wide, 67.3 inches high, which is almost the same size as the U.S. market Escape.. The only notable size difference between the pair is the Kuga's wheelbase, which is 2.8 inches longer than the Escape's, though it's also a bit heavier. In FWD form, the Kuga weighs in at 3468 lbs, 101 lbs more than the FWD V-6 Escape. AWD models weigh 3556 lbs, 34 pounds heavier than its U.S. counterpart.

Stylistically, the kinetic design-styled Kuga is more stylish and modern than the Escape, which looks like a throwback to the second-generation Explorer, though the lower grille, which looks massive in comparison to the small upper grille, throws proportions off somewhat. The fender gill which has become an odd staple of Ford design makes its appearance on the Kuga and, as on the other cars its made its way onto, is completely unnecessary.

Where the kinetic design language falters is the rear end. Its not bad looking per se, but the words "derivative styling" come to mind - take off the badging and it looks like any other crossover on the road from the back. Only the diffuser-like lower fascia and the dual exhausts give the Kuga a feeling of individuality from the rear. The tailgate does feature a creative two-piece design Ford calls "liftgate in liftgate" that can be opened either in its entirety or just partially for access in close quarters.

The interior is unlike anything sold in a U.S. Ford in its design. Its more rounded and enveloping, with nary a hint of truck-based inspiration. Ford says that it is appointed with plenty of gloss finishes and leather trim pieces -- the center console appears leather wrapped and the seats are upholstered in a two-tone cloth/leather mix.

Available in two trims, base Trend and premium Titanium, the Kuga goes on sale in Europe shortly after its Geneva debut. It will not be making its way across the Atlantic , however, as the Escape was recently redesigned and is a solid seller. The next product cycle, however, should produce a vehicle that will be similar both here and in Europe that will have been developed under Ford's recently-introduced global development process.

2009 Ford Kuga

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