AMSTERDAM -- Ford has designed its new Kuga compact SUV to look friendlier and less aggressive compared with the current model in response to customer feedback.
Ford unveiled the third-generation Kuga, the automaker's third best-seller in Europe after the Fiesta and Focus cars, at a press event here on Tuesday. The Kuga will go on sale at the end of the year in Europe.
The Kuga's engine options will include a fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid drivetrain, along with two diesel engines and a gasoline engine, and full- and mild-hybrid variants.
The new Kuga, which is sold as the Escape in the U.S., is lower than the outgoing model to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, said Ford of Europe's head of design Amko Leenarts.
It will be offered initially in three trim levels -- sporty ST Line, upscale Vignale and standard Titanium -- to bring it in line with a strategy that Ford rolled out with the new Fiesta and Focus to give its cars different personalities based on customer preferences. The different trims are differentiated by grille and bumper treatments.
Ford said it designed the Kuga to look sleeker and more in line with the Focus compact hatchback with a "more agile, less aggressive" appearance.
"We did not want to go for the warrior, get-out-of-my-way look. The customer didn't want that," Leenarts told Automotive News Europe. The SUV has a more confident, road hugging feel, he said. "The SUV is evolving into something that's much more honest, friendlier," Leenarts said.
The Kuga plug-in hybrid has pure-electric driving range of more than 50 km (31 miles) and CO2 emissions as low as 28 grams per km measured under Europe's new WLTP test cycle, Ford said.
The plug-in hybrid combines a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline running on a hybrid-optimized Atkinson combustion cycle and a 14.4 kWh battery pack feeding an electric motor. It has a combined output of up to 222 hp. The 'power-split' system is similar to the one that Toyota uses for its hybrid vehicle range.
The Kuga's mild-hybrid variant has a belt-driven integrated starter/generator fed by a 48-volt lithium ion battery pack to supplement the power of a 2.0-liter diesel engine. The combined power will be 148 hp Ford said.
The full hybrid Kuga brings together the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline and an electric motor fed by smaller lithium ion battery.
The Kuga's technology includes an embedded modem to enable customers to use the automaker's FordPass app, which allows owners to remotely lock or in the case of automatic models, start the engine to prewarm or precool the car.
A head-up display is available to show driver commands on the windscreen, while active safety equipment will include Stop and Go, which brings the car to a complete stop in traffic and automatically pulls away when traffic starts to move.
The Kuga also offers speed sign recognition. An 8-inch touchscreen display sits above the dashboard and runs Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system. A larger, 12.3-inch screen is available to replace the analogue instruments.
The Kuga is 89mm longer than the outgoing model to measure 4613mm end to end. It is also 44mm wider at 1828mm and 20mm lower at 1669mm.
Ford said the extra wheelbase gives the Kuga the biggest rear-seat legroom in its segment. The rear seats slide to increase either legroom or trunk space.
The interior can be made quieter with Active Noise Control, which monitors noise and applies opposing sound waves through the audio system to cancel out unwanted engine and transmission noises. It is standard on the Kuga Plug-In Hybrid Vignale, Kuga diesel EcoBlue Hybrid and Kuga diesel EcoBlue Vignale models.
The Kuga is the first SUV built on Ford's new C2 passenger car platform that also underpins the Focus. Ford will continue to build the Kuga for Europe at its plant in Valencia, Spain.
Sales of the Kuga in Europe increased 1 percent last year to 154,125, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers. Fiesta's volume rose 7 percent to 269,945 and Focus sales fell 8 percent to 194,097.
The Kuga was Europe's was the fourth best-selling compact SUV in 2018 after the Nissan Qashqai, VW Tiguan and Peugeot 3008, data from JATO Dynamics shows. Qashqai sales fell 6 percent to 233,026, Tiguan sales were down 5 percent to 224,788 and 3008 volume rose 26 percent to 204,197.