Ford Kuga (2016-2019) Review
The Ford Kuga is an SUV that is surprisingly fun to drive for a large car. Trouble is, it doesn’t have the passenger and boot space that you might expect.
What's not so good
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The Ford Kuga is a great example of how you shouldn’t sacrifice driving enjoyment if your family has grown and you need a bigger car. The Kuga drives so well, it makes SUVs like the Citroen C5 Aircross feel like you’re driving a piece of soggy bread.
Sadly, the Ford Kuga can’t match the Citroen for funky interior styling and if you go for an entry-level Kuga you don’t even get touchscreen infotainment. On the other hand, build quality is slightly better than in the Citroen and if you go for a posh Kuga Vignale you get most of its dashboard wrapped in leather.
Up front, the Ford Kuga has enough space if you’re tall and the wide range of adjustment to steering wheel and seat make getting a comfortable driving position easy, but bear in mind that the optional sunroof limits headroom somewhat. Sunroof or not, the rear seats of the Kuga aren’t all that spacious for adults, but will be perfectly fine for kids. If passenger space is high on your list of priorities, a Skoda Kodiaq is better for carrying passengers.
The Ford Kuga also has a noticeably smaller boot than what you get in a Kodiaq, making the Skoda the more practical choice for carrying luggage. However the Kuga’s boot does have a practical square shape and the car’s height means you don’t have to bend your back when loading and there isn’t a load lip to lift luggage over.
Picking an engine for the Kuga is easy because all options are punchy and fuel efficient. Stick to one of the lesser two petrol engines and you’ll enjoy decent performance coupled with sensible running costs. The diesels only make sense if you travel long distances frequently and, if so, the 1.5-litre is the pick of the bunch – it has enough get up and go to transport a family and its luggage, yet is also economical.
The Ford Kuga is a great choice if you love driving – it’s one of the most enjoyable family SUVs to drive.
It’s only once you’ve loaded up and set off that the Ford Kuga reveals its true strength – it’s actually decent fun to drive. The Kuga likes to dart into corners like a much smaller car and the accurate steering lets you place the car on the road with confidence – it also has very little body lean in corners which helps if your passengers are prone to car sickness.
ST Line Kuga cars have lowered suspension and roll even less in bends but the payoff is less comfort when going over potholed roads.
Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because lesser models are comfy and all Ford Kuga cabins are otherwise quiet and relaxing at a cruise, with only a small amount of wind noise disturbing you on the motorway.
The Ford Kuga got a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP which is reassuring for a family car, but the test was done in 2012 when it wasn’t so stringent as it is now. For extra peace of mind, you can add automatic emergency braking to all but entry-level models for a sensible amount extra.
All in all, the Ford Kuga may not be the most practical or the most spacious family SUV but its ability to put a smile on any driver’s face gives it something not many SUVs can offer. To learn more, have a look at our interior and specification sections and check out our Ford Kuga deals to see how much you could save.
The Ford Kuga has more space than a small family car, but rear legroom is tighter and the boot smaller than in other SUVs
If there was a school for small SUVs, the Kuga would come home with a ‘must try harder’ report card in practicality… It just can’t mach newer SUVs for space
Passenger space is one of the main reasons you choose an SUV, so it’s a shame that it turns out to be one of the Ford Kuga’s weaker areas compared to similarly priced alternatives.
That’s even true of the front seats, which are low on headroom if you buy a model that comes with a panoramic glass roof. Steer clear, though, and you should be okay in the front, and getting a comfortable driving position is helped by the fact that the steering wheel has height and reach adjustment. Both front seats can also be raised or lowered and all but the entry-level Kuga’s driver’s seat has lumbar adjustment for extra support on a long drive.
Titanium X and ST-Line X cars have an electrically adjustable driver’s seat that’s less of an effort to move than the manual seats fitted to the rest of the range, although a memory function – that could remember two drivers’ seating positions – isn’t fitted.
The Ford Kuga’s relatively small back seats are a bigger issue, though. They compare well to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf but judged against similarly priced SUVs – chiefly the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan – they’re left wanting. Your passengers just don’t get the excess of knee and headroom they would get in the Skoda and VW, although the Ford’s back seats do recline a few degrees.
Stick three in the back and your passengers will feel squeezed for shoulder room, although the flat floor means everyone has somewhere to put their feet.
Interior storage is one side of practicality the Kuga does pretty well. The door bins are big enough for a litre bottle, as is the glovebox. You get a couple of cupholders in front of the gearstick – Titanium models and above get a rear centre armrest with two more – and under the front centre armrest there are a couple of charging ports for your phone.
The Skoda Kodiaq goes further to make your life easier, though – it has an umbrella hidden in its door and an ice scraper stowed under its fuel filler cap.
The Ford Kuga has a 406-litre boot that is pretty small compared to ones you get in the Skoda Kodiaq (720 litres), Volkswagen Tiguan (615 litres) and SEAT Ateca (510 litres).
That said, there’s no lip to lift luggage over, which makes loading easier, and you get hooks that you can secure your shopping with. It might not have the outright capacity of rivals, but the Ford Kuga has enough space for everyday items such as a baby buggy and will easily swallow a family’s luggage for a week or two.
If you need to carry more than that, the rear seats fold into the floor – increasing the Kuga’s total carrying capacity to 1,603 litres – although they do leave a lump in the floor that’s a pain when you’re trying to slide longer items into place. The back seats also split 60:40 as standard, so you can carry a combination of long things and passengers if you need to.
The Ford Kuga is surprisingly good in bends, yet has traditional SUV benefits such as a high driving position and consequently a great view out. But some models are expensive to run
The Kuga’s most powerful petrol engine is also the slowest – go figure that one
There are three different turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engines on offer, with 120, 150 and 176hp. Stick to the one of the lesser two power outputs and you’ll enjoy decent performance coupled with sensible running costs – the 176hp engine is quickest, but thirstiest with it.
On the diesel side you have the option of a 1.5-litre with 120hp, or a 2.0-litre with 120, 150 or 180hp. We’d suggest going for a diesel if you’re frequently driving on the motorway and the pick of the bunch is the 1.5, which has a enough get up and go to transport a family and its luggage, yet is also pleasingly frugal.
For four-wheel drive in a petrol Ford Kuga, you’ll have to go for the 176hp 1.5-litre petrol, or either the 150 or 180hp diesels, but fuel economy suffers in all cases. An automatic gearbox is available with the quickest 1.5 petrol and all three 2.0-litre diesel power outputs, but it isn’t as slick as the auto gearboxes in alternative family SUVs.
The Ford Kuga’s towing capacity varies greatly depending on the model you choose – the four-wheel drive 180hp diesel can pull up to 2,100kg, compared with the 1,200kg the front-wheel drive 120hp petrol manages.
Although the Ford Kuga is outclassed in a number of areas, it’s still one of the best-driving SUVs that you can buy for the price – only the Mazda CX-5 can compete with it.
Find yourself on your own on a country road and you’ll quickly discover the Kuga feels at home. Its well-weighted steering means it doesn’t feel nervous in bends, its body doesn’t lean excessively even if you corner quickly and the suspension is also pretty good at ironing out jiggly country roads.
Unless you go for the ST-Line or ST-Line X models that is, which have lowered suspension and big alloy wheels that skip over smaller bumps. They also make the Ford Kuga feel uncomfortable on the motorway, which is a shame because it’s a relaxing car to cover a lot of miles in with standard suspension, even if the Skoda Kodiaq is even better at keeping wind and road noise outside.
Newer models such as the Kodiaq will also be safer than the Kuga – the Ford scored five-stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the test is quite a bit tougher now. However you can boost safety with the Driver Assistance Pack, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition and headlights that dip automatically.
That pack’s a useful addition if you do a lot of town driving because it includes a blind spot warning system that warns of approaching vehicles that don’t appear in your mirrors. That said the Kuga’s height gives you a good view out over traffic and, although the steering is a little heavy, the rest of the controls are light enough to cause no problems when driving slowly.
Reversing into tight spaces is easier in Titanium cars and above that come with rear parking sensors as standard.
A high-spec Kuga comes with lots of plush leather and glossy plastic trims but entry-level models feel spartan inside – you don’t even get a touchscreen infotainment system