This is the facelifted Ford Kuga – an SUV that has been fine-tuned to take on battle-hardened and extremely accomplished 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.
This is a spacious SUV with lots of kit, but rivals are cheaper to run
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.
Overall, 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.