Ford Kuga (2013-2016) Review

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.

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Ford Kuga (2013-2016): what would you like to read next?

Is the Ford Kuga (2013-2016) a good car?

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 it's not that cheap to run

Mat Watson
carwow expert

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.

What's it like to drive?

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, which is one of the better SUVs on the market for driving fun.

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.

The Kuga’s steering is 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.

What's it like inside?

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.

Next Read full interior review
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