Ford S-Max:

Ford Adds Kuga to European Lineup

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Ford Motor Company is showing its all new European Focus-based Kuga Crossover SUV at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September. To be launched in early 2008, Kuga is a competitor to the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 (less the optional V6). Kuga adopts Ford’s new, distinctive kinetic styling cues and pulls them off very nicely.
Kuga Won’t Make it to the USA
This is another of Ford’s great looking European entries that we likely will not see in the USA. Kuga could slot in below the successful Ford Edge and Ford Escape Crossover SUVs in the American market. Likely, however, Kuga would prove to be too expensive to competitively position against comparable crossovers like CR-V and RAV4.

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There are now so many crossover SUVs on the market that it takes a truly distinctive effort to stand out from the crowd. The Kuga would have a chance. It has a distinctive front end appearance, tough and rugged looking grille and front fascia. It has muscular wheel openings and narrow gaps between the tires and the sheetmetal giving it a purposeful stance. Of course, Kuga has to have the front fender grills that have become de rigeur these days.
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Based on the European Focus platform (also Mazda3 and Volvo C30/S40/V50), the Kuga is available with FWD or AWD drive configurations. Powered by Ford’s European Durateq 2.0L 4-cylinder diesel engine, the Kuga promises good performance in European driving conditions. Having driven a Ford S-Max (large Crossover) in England and Wales for a week this summer, the 2.0L Durateq should be even sprightlier in the lighter weight Kuga.
Call Kuga a Crossover SUV
In Europe, Ford refers to the Kuga simply as a “crossover”. To our mind, this puts the vehicle in a netherworld where many customers will not be able to decide what it is… at least in the USA. In VehicleVoice parlance, we would have referred to the Kuga as a “Crossover SUV”. Sure, its a niggling point, but lets help the buying public categorize new ideas without thinking too much. In Europe’s defense, however, they have never had the super-strong SUV market we have had in the USA, so maybe simple “crossover” terminology is OK.
Ford’s Press Release on Kuga is shown below the fold.
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Ford S-Max – European Crossover OK for USA?

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I’ve been driving the Ford S-Max Crossover for about a week now through England and Wales. The S-Max is a derivative of Ford’s European Minivan – the Galaxy – and its European Mid-Size Car – the Mondeo. Very impressive vehicle in many ways. It was selected as the European 2007 Car of the Year as judged by 58 journalists across 22 European countries. Apparently, Alan Mulally, Ford’s new CEO is trying to bring the S-Max to the USA in 2009 or so. Will the S-Max work in America?

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Is S-Max a Crossover SUV, Minivan, Station Wagon or Something Un-Identifiable?
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First, what is it? We at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific have found that if a buyer cannot categorize a vehicle, i.e. figure out if it is a Minivan or SUV or Wagon, they will shy away from it. This is what happened to the Chrysler Pacifica and the Mercedes R-Type. Ford positions the S-Max as a Crossover SUV – a segment that is booming in the USA. At a glance, S-Max has little “SUV” ambiance. It is a very useful MPV – meaning multi-purpose vehicle – but where is the SUV DNA? S-Max has a very fast windshield with “canard” windows between the windshield and the A-Pillar. This gives a very sporty silhouette, but may yield a shape that is too Minivan-like.
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The S-Max is a seven-passenger vehicle with a small third-row seat. The third row easily folds flat for loading luggage. If S-Max were introduced in the USA, how would S-Max fit among the other Ford Crossover SUVs – the 5-passenger Ford Escape, 5-passenger Ford Edge, and the 7-Passenger Ford Taurus X (Freestyle)? It is not as SUV-like as Escape and Edge – maybe similar to the SUV DNA of Freestyle/Taurus X.
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S-Max, in some ways, comes across as similar to the Mazda CX-7 or a slightly smaller version of the Mazda CX-9. It does not come across as similar to the larger General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs like the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia or Buick Enclave.


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