THE gloves are off in Australia's SUV fight. Ford will launch its new Kuga in April with prices starting from below $30,000.
Ford's expanded Kuga range will include three models - entry-level Ambiente, mid-range Trend and range-topping Titanium.
Under the bonnet will be a 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine standard, as well as the proven 2.0-litre Duratorq turbo diesel. Both will be available with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the expect a manual option on the entry level petrol variants.
Capped price servicing will also be available across the range.
It's a timely arrival for Ford, as other manufacturers are strengthening their SUV position.
The Kuga had a challenging introduction to the market, with the high spec Trend starting at $38,990 (followed by the $44,990 Titanium) struggling to gain momentum.
This new pricing point will bring Ford back into the SUV game - where sales are booming. It's the fastest growing segment in Australia.
And the big players have moved quickly to cash in. Mazda this week updated its popular CX-5 to add more punch to its petrol range courtesy of a 2.5-litre petrol engine, while Mitsubishi released its updated Outlander late last year, Subaru took the wraps off its new Forester last month and Toyota unveiled its fourth generation RAV4 last week.
Ford Australia marketing general manager David Katic said customers were asking for a smart utility vehicle that not only connected with their lifestyles but answered their every day needs.
"The all-new Ford Kuga delivers this in spades," Katic said. "We put more smart stuff in, so our customers can get more fun stuff out. It is by far the most advanced compact SUV Ford has ever developed."
One of the features that will be available is the hands-free automatic tailgate where you can open or close the rear tailgate by sweeping a foot under the rear bumper.
Using similar motion technology found in many video game systems, a kicking motion under the centre of the rear bumper activates, unlocks and raises the tailgate when the driver has the Ford Kuga key fob.
Further details and specific pricing will be announced closer to launch.