Sports utility vehicles, 4x4s, harbingers of ecological peril -- call 'em what you like, but they're are often bulky and ugly. Bugly, if you will. Bugliness could be a thing of the past, however, if Ford gets its way. The company is working on a replacement for the Kuga, known as the Vertrek, which should bring this class of vehicle kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

It's certainly a bold-looking thing. We love the take-no-prisoners front bumper, sleek headlamps and the edgy nature of the overall styling. It's not all about looks, though. Ford says the car's appearance has been honed to be 5 per cent more aerodynamically efficient than cars such as the Ford Escape and Ford Kuga.

Despite its large proportions and bold styling, the Vertrek has the same underpinnings as the new Ford Focus, C-Max and Grand C-Max. Despite this, Ford says the Vertrek will have off-road capability, the ability to tow significant loads and plenty of cargo space.

This concept version of the Vertrek features some interesting tech additions. Its powered doors open automatically along with a step that protrudes from car's underbelly, helping passengers get in and out more easily. The Vertrek also ditches wing mirrors for rear-facing cameras and trades the standard mechanical dials for a virtual display showing vehicle speed, engine revs and associated trip information.

At this stage of development, the Vertrek is powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder Ford EcoBoost engine. We'll have to wait and see what sort of performance it delivers in the Vertrek, but paired with the Ford C-Max, the engine's good for 148bhp, 199lb-ft of torque, a 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds, 42.8mpg and emissions of 154g/km.

Having seen it in the metal, we approve. If this concept model maintains its progressive, edgy styling and drives well, Ford could be on to a real winner.

Check out the photos in our gallery for a closer look.

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