Does it make sense to try and 'premiumise' a standard vehicle? I'm not at all sure that it does, writes Brian Byrne, but Ford are pressing ahead with their Vignale programme anyhow. With modifications in Ireland because, quite simply, the market just doesn't have enough scale for the idea here.
Or, another way, when Irish car buyers want premium, they want a premium badge. And however good a Ford is — and generally the company's products are very good indeed — it is always a Ford.
So in Ireland, Vignale is essentially becoming just another grade as the theme is rolled out through the model range, and made available through all dealerships instead of only the three 'Ford Stores' in Dublin, Cork and Limerick which still exclusively sell the Mustang and the Focus RS.
The other elements of Vignale will still apply, such as the concierge facility of having your car picked up and delivered back to your home or place of work when due for service.
In recent times I've driven a range of Vignale versions, including the Mondeo where it was begun, the S-MAX, and most recently the Kuga. I have truly enjoyed each of them, but have to suggest that the enjoyment was as much because they are seriously good cars as much as having the Vignale treatment.
Visually that comes from a distinctive grille design, an exclusive body kit and dedicated alloys, and high-end lights. Inside there's leather on the dash and full leather seats in a special design, power and heated seats, and the top-end Sony entertainment system. It all feels good.
At this point, I need to reiterate that the Kuga is one of my favourite cars, and definitely is a good example of Ford's ethos and engineering. Regardless of the grade, it drives with a rich mix of comfort and direct handling, and from the perspective of all occupants is a very pleasant place to be for short or long hauls. It doesn't need the Vignale treatment to be special.
The review car had the 150hp 2.0 diesel from Ford's powertrain options, with 6-speed gearbox and its effortless shifter which is a feature across all Fords. It was quiet, tractable, and maybe there's some extra soundproofing at this level, because the cabin did feel premium.
But, bluntly, Ford will never be a premium brand. It doesn't need to be. It produces the 21st century version of Henry Ford's original idea, cars for everyone, and very good cars for all of us. If you want Vignale, feel free. I'll be as happy with any other grade Kuga.
PRICE: Entry price for Kuga from €33,345, review car from €42,325; WHAT I LIKED: The honesty of the underlying car; RATING: 5/5.