£20,845 - £32,245 Price range
38 - 64 MPG
This is the facelifted Ford Kuga – a car that has been fine-tuned to take on battle-hardened and extremely accomplished SUV rivals such as the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and, you guessed it, the seemingly evergreen Nissan Qashqai.
To do it the Kuga has been kitted out with updated driver assistance systems, a refreshed interior design and a new ultra-frugal diesel engine that promises a five-per-cent improvement in fuel economy compared to the old model.
Refreshed or not, the Kuga’s interior still feels dated compared to the inners of the aforementioned Korean challengers. The dashboard design remains conservative rather than ground-breaking but, on the upside, the new infotainment system is a welcome improvement, there’s plenty of space and a practical boot too.
Out on the road the Kuga is up there with the best in class. The ride quality of the standard model is perfectly judged, and ST-Line trim combines its crossover body with sporty looks and a more athletic driving experience. Great steering helps the car feel relaxed on motorways as well as nimble on twisty B-roads.
A new 1.5-litre diesel joins the existing engine lineup, so you can have a 2.0-litre diesel with either 148 or 178hp – capable of returning up to 60.1mpg – or a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol offering 118 or 180hp that manages up to 45.6mpg.
Changes to the Kuga’s safety systems are more significant. You can now get adaptive lighting that automatically adjusts the car’s bi-xenon headlights depending on speed, steering angle and distance from oncoming traffic. Furthermore, an improved version of Active City Stop can avoid crashes at speeds of up to 31mph, up from 19mph previously.
The aforementioned safety systems are reasonably priced options, but standard equipment is generous too, covering basics such as cruise control, air-conditioning and parking sensors covered.
Where the old Kuga felt its age the most was in the interior – the design was fussy and overwhelmed by too many buttons. Ford has addressed this with a new eight-inch touchscreen that caters for most of the car’s systems. Many of the materials you interact with have been updated to feel more upmarket and the new steering wheel, borrowed from the Focus, can be optionally heated for £125 for cold winter mornings and accompanying freezing fingers. That said, the Kuga’s interior design seems miles behind the one in the latest Peugeot 3008.
Ford Kuga infotainment
Standard on the mid-range Titanium model is the latest Ford infotainment system, called Sync 3. It has much of the functionality of your smartphone, meaning you can pinch and swipe through menus and choose from large, colourful icons. It can also be operated by voice commands that, according to Ford, are more conversational than ever before – light-hearted chats are, thankfully, out of the question but uttering the words ‘I need to park’ should have the sat-nav scrabbling for the location of a suitable spot.
All this sounds great, but in real use the system is laggy – like engaging in banter with your grandma – and the graphics aren’t anything spectacular, either. It’s completely eclipsed by the touchscreen in the Seat Ateca while the Mazda CX-5, despite using an older system, has a rotary dial controller (like BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI) so, mercifully, you don’t have to talk at all to operate it easily on the move.
Ford Kuga passenger space
What the Kuga has got going for it is loads of passenger space. There’s plenty of room upfront and a decent, if not class-leading, amount of space in the back where you can recline the seatbacks for a more relaxed position. The driver and front passenger also get plenty of adjustment for their seats and mid-range models get electrical adjustment, too. The seats themselves are more comfortable than supportive, but that’s in the standard Kuga – the ‘warm’ ST-Line model gets sportier seats with extra bolstering.
Ford Kuga boot space
The Kuga is a practical family car too with a 456-litre boot. It might be behind the Renault Kadjar’s 470-litre capacity, but fold the seats in the Kuga and the resulting 1,603 litres of total volume is actually more than the Renault’s maximum capacity of 1,478 litres. Another boon for the Kuga is the £450 power-operated tailgate that can be triggered by waving your foot under the rear bumper. The handbrake is now electric which has freed more cubby space in the centre console, but the rest of the numerous other storage areas remain largely unchanged.
The original Kuga stood out because it was pretty decent to drive for a family SUV. Most of those qualities have been carried over to the new model meaning you get the same great steering that’s feelsome and direct, letting you place the car on the road with confidence. This is still a high-sided SUV, so some body roll is to be expected, although you can sense Ford’s engineers have done their best to keep it contained. However, since the original Kuga was released rivals have had time to catch up and some – such as the Seat Ateca – are even more engaging.
Pick the sporty ST-Line model and you get lower and stiffer suspension that makes it even better around corners, but it’s quite firm, so don’t expect the same cosseting ride you’d find in a Nissan Qashqai. Other than that the Kuga is quiet on the move with only a little wind noise coming into the cabin at motorway speeds courtesy of the shovel-like door mirrors.
Ford hasn’t forgotten that some SUV owners like to occasionally get their Kuga’s tyres dirty, so a four-wheel-drive system is available with all but the most basic 1.5-litre engines. It has no clever off-road tech, but should provide you with peace of mind during the winter months.
When the facelift Kuga arrived in 2016 a new diesel engine replaced the outgoing low-power 2.0-litre TDCi. The 1.5-litre unit produces 118hp and is claimed to return fuel economy of 64mpg – beating its rivals from Kia and Hyundai and making it the most frugal choice in the Kuga range. Shop elsewhere, though, and you can do better – the clever people at Nissan manage to eke out 71mpg from the 1.5-litre Qashqai.
Ford Kuga diesel engines
Regardless of which one you go for, the diesel-powered Kuga models make the most sense because they have lower running costs and feel quicker than the petrols thanks to their low-down torque.
Only offered with front-wheel drive, the basic diesel isn’t the nicest sounding engine out there – a revelation, we know – but thanks to short gearing it feels eager at low speeds. It emits 115 g/km of CO2 emissions for cheap annual road tax of £30.
You can also have a 148bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel which was the best-seller in the previous Kuga. It’s the perfect all-rounder with plenty of torque for towing and cheap running costs – combined fuel economy sits at 60mpg and 122 g/km of CO2 emissions result in a £110 annual road tax bill.
The 2.0-litre is also available in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive forms, plus there’s a 178hp that drives all the wheels. It uses more fuel with a combined figure of 54mpg and CO2 emissions of 135g/km for £130 annual road tax.
Ford Kuga petrol engines
There are also two 1.5-litre Ecoboost engines to choose from which are hushed and refined. The problem is that their small capacity doesn’t produce much torque unless you’re revving the daylights out of them, in which case you can forget about decent fuel economy. Be careful, though, and you can get 45.6mpg from the low-power 118hp version while 143 g/km of CO2 will set you back £145 in annual road tax.
Go for the 180hp 1.5-litre and, although it may sound powerful on paper, it can only be equipped with an old-school automatic gearbox which saps power and results in combined fuel economy of 38mpg and a hefty £210 annual road tax courtesy of 171g/km of CO2 emissions.
Equipment levels are where the Kuga shines with even the most basic models coming with alloys, air-conditioning, cruise control with an active speed limiter as well as all round power windows.
Ford Kuga Titanium
The Titanium comes with all your family might realistically need in an SUV. Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with satellite navigation makes sure you’re on the right path, rain-sensing wipers make sure you have good visibility and the rear parking sensors help squeeze the Kuga into tight spaces. The application of partial-leather seats adds class but if you want the fanciest Kuga you should have a look at the Vignale model.
Ford Kuga ST-Line
The Kuga ST-Line is directed towards more adventurous buyers and gains sporty cosmetic tweaks and lower suspension. The front end loses its chrome flashes in favour of a black finish, which is also applied to the rear skid plate and roof rails. Buyers get a choice of either 18 or 19-inch wheel, both painted black.
The cabin gains a couple of sporty flourishes to distinguish it from other Kugas – most obviously the part-leather sports seats. Those seats also get contrasting stitching along with the gear lever gaiter and steering wheel, while black headlining and a special dark metallic finish on the dashboard complete the sinister look.
This new Kuga might not be the revolution some were expecting, but Ford has reasons to keep it familiar. You see, sales of the old Kuga have had a snowball effect up until the end of its production with 2015 being its most successful year with more than 100,000 Kugas being sold worldwide – anything too radical could have upset this.
However, even though the new Kuga has plenty of going for it such as a spacious interior and generous equipment levels, it’s outclassed by all-new rivals that not only have a more stylish design, but also engines that are cheaper to run.