Ford Kuga review

Our Rating: 
2013 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Ford Kuga is a well built and capable mid-sized SUV that challenges the Mazda CX-5 for class honours

Big boot, clever tech features, competitive price tag
Not as sharp to drive as the old car, bland styling

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The Kuga is one of three SUVs offered from Ford. Occupying the space between the EcoSport and soon-to-be-introduced Edge, the Kuga is based on the same platform as the Focus hatchback and takes on the likes of the popular Nissan Qashqai, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5

When the Kuga was mechanically updated at the back end of 2014, a whopping 95 per cent of customer sales in the UK were diesel models. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine on offer is available in two states of tune; 148bhp or 178bhp. Both versions are more powerful and more efficient than the engines they replaced prior to the mid-life facelift.

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Despite diesel engines being the dominant powertrain, Ford also introduced a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol, which replaced the old 1.6-litre engine. Front-wheel drive models were offered with 148bhp, while the more powerful all-wheel drive version gets 180bhp.

A lot of buyers were also opting for top-spec models which prompted Ford into introducing a new flagship trim called Titanium X Sport. Below that are Titanium X and Titanium spec cars but even entry-level Zetec Kugas get 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless go, cruise control and hill-hold assist.

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Available with two or four-wheel drive, the Kuga offers buyers plenty of options. If you will ever be going off-road, or are concerned about icy winters then the all-wheel-drive models are a must. Alternatively, a front-wheel drive Kuga on winter tyres makes a pretty good alternative.

If the Kuga is too big for you then Ford does offer a small Fiesta-based EcoSport off-roader. In our experience, though, it's not particularly good. The quality isn't up to Ford's usual standards, nor is the handling or level of equipment.

Group test: Ford Kuga vs Honda CR-V & Mazda CX-5

Our choice: Kuga Zetec 2.0 TDCi 4x4

Engines, performance and drive


The previous generation Ford Kuga was excellent to drive - so much so, it felt more like a Ford Focus than a mid-sized SUV. The new model though, is less focused than its predecessor and it's beaten by the Mazda CX-5 for driving thrills.

Despite the body roll control system fitted as standard across the Ford Kuga range, there's still plenty of lean in the corners. This is primarily a result of suspension that has been tweaked for comfort rather than cornering ability.

Ford Kuga interior

The power steering system in the Ford Kuga is now fully electric and while it saves on running costs, it has sacrificed feedback and feels very light. The new shape also makes the Ford Kuga bigger and harder to drive through tight gaps than the previous model.

The 4x4 versions of the Ford Kuga have a clever off-loading system that gives it plenty of grip in most conditions.

The engines available include a 148bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, which uses a six-speed manual gearbox or a dual-clutch PowerShift automatic - although the auto isn't worth going for as it's prone to selecting the wrong gear for the situation.

You can also get a 180bhp version of the same engine, but most should go for the 148bhp or 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel models as they offer the best combination of power and efficiency. Both versions are well isolated from the cabin and deliver decent in-gear pace. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs


If running costs are your priority, then go for the front-wheel-drive Ford Kuga with the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDCI diesel engine, as it returns 53.3mpg and emits 139g/km of CO2.

Even the more powerful 2.0-litre TDCI engine with 161bhp (available on Titanium models upwards) returns a respectable 47.9mpg, plus emissions of 154g/km of CO2 thanks to features such as a grille that closes at higher speeds.

The Ford Kuga with the 1.5-litre petrol EcoBoost engine comes with either 148bhp or 180bhp, both of which have with eco-friendly start-stop technology. The 148bhp variant does 45.6mpg and emits 143g/km of CO2, while the 176bhp engine returns 38.2mpg and CO2 levels of 171g/km.

Four-wheel-drive isn't available throughout the Ford Kuga range, and only cars with the 180bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, and the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel units benefit from the extra traction.

Interior, design and technology


Before the new engines, the Ford Kuga received a visual update in 2013, and it's now bigger than the previous incarnation. What's more, it serves as two cars in one – on the European market it replaced the old model, and in the United States, it replaced a more utilitarian Ford 4x4.

Where the Ford Kuga has got bigger, its looks have been slightly compromised. The Ford family face remains but an upswept crease and windowline running along the side of the car means the latest Ford Kuga doesn't look quite as sporty as the older version.

The Ford Kuga's interior is modern and feels like good quality - but it does have too many buttons.

There are four specifications in the Ford Kuga range: Zetec, Titanium, Titanium X and Titanium X Sport. Even on the entry-level Ford Kuga Zetec models, 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, daytime running lights, cruise control and keyless go are standard.

Go for the Ford Kuga Titanium and you get a gloss-black grille surround, part-leather seats, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, the Ford SYNC phone voice-control system and a DAB radio.

The range-topping Ford Kuga Titanium X trim adds 18-inch alloys, LED tail-lights, bi-xenon adaptive headlamps, a panoramic roof and leather upholstery.

The newest trim level in the Ford Kuga range, the Titanium X Sport, features body coloured bumpers and wheel arches, a rear spoiler, a silver skid plate on the front and 19-inch alloy wheels. Plus, it adds tinted windows, sat-nav, a Sony DAB Radio, Active Park Assist, and a rear-view camera.

From the Titanium X level upwards, all Ford Kuga models get a neat ‘hands-free’ tailgate, which can be opened by waving a foot under the bumper - perfect for when you need to load heavy objects.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


The previous generation Ford Kuga was a bit tight on boot space but the 2013 model saw this increase by 82-litres. Boot space is now up to 442-litres and the Ford Kuga is more competitive in this respect.

The Ford Kuga has more boot space than a Volkswagen Tiguan, but less than a Honda CR-V. Furthermore, the spare wheel option decreases boot-space to 406 litres, giving it 97 litres less than a Mazda CX-5.

You can fold down the rear seats in the Ford Kuga to increase the space to 1,928 litres, which is actually 600 litres more than before. There's a low loading lip as well, so getting items in and out is easy. There's plenty of head and legroom inside, and all the seats can be reclined for extra comfort and space.

Ford offers a towbar as a £600 option on the Kuga, and there's also the option of an automatic tailgate, which can be opened by waving your foot under the rear bumper (as long as you have the key in your pocket).

Reliability and Safety


The Ford Kuga scored a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test result, making it one of the safest mid-sized SUVs on the market.

Every Ford Kuga gets driver, passenger, knee, side and curtain airbags fitted as standard, along with ABS, ESP, active city stop and a lane keeping aid. A blind spot monitoring system is also available as an option. Plus, the four-wheel-drive system should stop you getting into trouble in the first place.

The Ford Kuga's platform, engines and tech are all proven in other Ford models, and a large dealer network means keeping your Kuga on the road should be simple.

Ford finished 25th out of 32 manufacturers in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey – exactly the same position it logged last year. It’s not a brilliant performance, and as it finished 24th in our poll for reliability, there’s certainly room for improvement.

Disqus - noscript

Qashqai is spared for now
It looks bigger than the old Kuga. Better? I am not sure. The current Kuga is quite a likable car. Looks good in white. This new one looks a lot like VW Tiguan from some angles, first picture front for instance.
The new model brings only marginal improvements over the current in terms of passenger and luggage space, engine refinement and efficiency.
Price puts it sqrarely in the same bracket with CRV, RAV4 and CX5. Qashqai is spared for now.

I'm upset with the pathetically small sat nav. Ford sell the Escape in the US with a great 7 inch touch screen Sony unit. In Europe they're clearly trying to off load a job lot of 5 inch game/watch screens which are recessed 7 inches away from the dashboard at the end of a tunnel for no apparent reason other than budget sales. This has stopped me (this alone) from spending £30k on another fully loaded Kuga. Big shame but that's their mistake not mine. Goodbye Ford, liked it whilst it lasted.

I completely agree with Steve. When most of the cars and SUV's in that price tag offer a decent sized infotainment screen and display, it's silly to have a small one like this Kuga and Focus too! New Mondeo will feature an 8" screen hopefully : )

Same with the Focus ST, that has the huge display in the USA but the low end one in the UK and you cannot even choose it as an optional extra.

"The four-wheel-drive model, which costs around £1,500 more than the equivalent two-wheel-drive model, also gets a touchscreen sat-nav fitted as standard."
This is incorrect. 4wd models do not get sat-nav as standard. Also the factory-fit sat-nav option in the UK is non-touchscreen.

Fords new family face, dreadful. The 2013 Fiesta actually has a much better designed nose, why have Ford ruined the Kuga? I loved the previous Kuga nose, the whole body shape was gorgeous, but the 2.5 Ltr petrol engine in the old model was unacceptable. Now we get a new version with the right petrol engine and Ford go and ruin the nose. Sorry, Ford you've lost another sale because of American blandness.

I spoke to Ford about the pitiful satnav units and this was there response:

"With regards to your query Ford will be introducing the Sync screen (touch) in Europe approximately early 2015. There has been a delay as when the Ford Sync is released in Europe, we will be dealing with a multitude of different languages rather than one for America.
I have also been advised that the Ford Sync will be gradually merged within new product lines. This feature cannot be added to existing vehicle lines.

However due to the delays we have no confirmation on the launch dates of this or any further updates at present. I would recommend checking our Ford social media pages to check for any specification updates in the future."

So we may see bigger touch screens in 2015, but probably not on the current models. What a royal project management mess.

That statement about factory fitted sat nav is not true - i wa sin one the other day and it had a touch screen

No, it does nothing for me. I don't like the Chinese looking front end or the silly rear windows - probably made in China anyway for about £10k costs plus £5k to ship it and fix it here and the rest is margin for Ford and the Dealers. Awful!

The last Ford to have stylish looks was the 1972 Granada ghia fastback!

Not the greatest looker but from a family point of view its fantastic, the one we messed with had all the boot opening, the sync etc and it made it so easy to use all the gizmos and imagine coming back with a pram with 2 kids, shopping, dogs etc the boot opening is going to be a god send and something others will adapt quickly.

Still looks better than anything VW make.

Looks are definitely up over the last model and it is still a much better looking car than anything in the dull VW line up.

We are trying to decide on a smaller SUV it is now between this and a Sportage. We started with everything, X1, Tiguan, CRV, Sportage, Kuga, Mokka and it was pretty easy to knock some out straight away (X1 and Mokka for both been dam ugly and in the case of the BMW woefully spec'ed and the CRV went in the end just because it was, well, dull) Anyway we had it on test for a few hours and I was very impressed with it tbh. Engine was strong enough and no where near as rattly as the Tiguan or Kia. The drive on all the cars wasn't exactly great but surely no one buys an SUV thinking it will handle like a sports car, who would be that dumb! In the Titanium X spec we were looking at it had pretty much all the toys you could need, saying that so does the Kia, the VW does not unless you want to dive deep in to your pockets for extras. We have 2 little lads and this could swallow the double pram and everything that comes along with them with ease, the Kia did struggle a little more (the VW was dismissed by this point for been outscored on every category). Obviously in a just a few hours its hard to say what the overall economy will be like but anything will be an improvement over the Mrs' Omega!

Just have to decide between the ford and kia now! Well she thinks she gets to pick but we shall see about that! ;)

Great review on the Ford Kuga, I think it looks and great and will be a big competitor against similar cars like the Qashqai and the Juke. - James, The Car Loan Warehouse

What idiot chose the name "Cashcow" for a car name?! And what IS the point of a 4x4 - that is only two wheel drive? There are some mighty gullible people out there...

British made Qashqai is the vehicle most Europeans want. Every Nissan engine comes with bomb proof reliability, Why would you ever buy this American Escape, that has been the subject of non-stop recalls in the USA.

Europeans know quality when they buy a car.

EUROPEAN SUV SALES CHART 2013 first 10 months.

No 9 Nissan Qashqai 177,392

No 15 VW Tiguan 115,728

No 38 Nissan Juke 91,758

No 44 Kia Sportage 77,505

No 51 Hyundai ix35 74,198

No 56 Dacia Duster 69,640

No 59 Ford Kuga 54,079

Bomb proof reliability of the British Sunderland made Qashqai seems to be the SUV most Europeans really really want to BUY,

The Kuga is not as 'out there' as the qashqai or the Juke but it is a good looking car with plenty of kit and will no doubt build on the MK1's reputation, I don't think that "bland" is a good description, mind you I'll bet the designers of the Ecosport are wishing someone would use a word as nice as 'bland' to describe their "monstrous carbuncle"

I have a 2013 kuga all I want to say about this car its the worst car I have ever owned in fifty years I have been driving.

What are they are like at pulling things

I had a Kuga for a week. Liked most things about it. Only thing that made me reject it was it's economy. Bad at 34mpg. The inferior in every other way crv did over 40.

Last updated: 6 May, 2015