Ford's crossover car is given a good workout on Waiheke Island

If you'll excuse me for stating the obvious, the reason that crossover/SUV-type vehicles are so popular in New Zealand is that we are a nation of go-getting, active, outdoorsy lifestyle people.

That's what the television advertisements for these vehicles tell us and they're absolutely right. They certainly speak to me.

The editor is forever telling us Driven contributors to get out and do interesting and appropriate things with test vehicles. Heard and understood.

The newest entrant in the compact crossover class is Ford's Kuga - one of only two cars in the segment to come exclusively in all-wheel drive and surely a machine crying out to be involved in something bold and energetic.


And so it was. During my week with the Kuga, I took it offshore and participated in a coast-to-coast event.

On paper, the Kuga Titanium EcoBoost (priced from $52,990) looks like an urban warrior. As the flagship model, it's packed with technology such as cruise control that automatically keeps you the correct distance from the car in front, blind-spot warning, a boot that opens if you aim a kick at it, and even a self-parking function.

The 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is low on capacity for excellent fuel economy (7.7 litres per 100km) but boasts high output for equally excellent performance, with 134kW/240Nm. It's a brilliant drive and certainly a contender for class honours when it comes to handling and ride.

This is all very well for urban application, but the purpose of making Kuga my official coast-to-coast vehicle was to find out whether it really had the right stuff for the active lifestyle of somebodylike myself, who absolutely does not eat pies and really likes to exercise in extreme ways.

My mission: to traverse Waiheke Island from the southern coast at Omiha to the northern beach of Onetangi in one hit.

Once leaving the serene water view at Rocky Bay, Omiha, I was immediately thrown into hilly terrain and extreme changes in direction.

It was a tough couple of kilometres, but beyond Omiha the route really opened out into
sustained downhill running. By the halfway point, I found myself in a much more heavily populated environment, but that simply spurred me onwards towards the sea air and surf of Onetangi. It was a deeply satisfying experience.

Journey's end: time to tally the figures and assess performance. Coast to coast, Omiha to Onetangi, is a distance of 5.7km: completed at an average speed of 36km/h and fuel economy of 9.1 litres per 100km. A great result given the terrain and sometimes difficult

Actually, 5.7km is not that far if you think about it. Could have run or cycled it rather than driven, I suppose. But that wouldn't have been anywhere near as much fun.