Ford Kuga review
The Ford Kuga is a well built and capable mid-sized SUV that challenges the Mazda CX-5 for class honours
Ford’s second-generation Kuga might lack the outright driving precision of its predecessor, but it brings more of what people really want in this marketplace. Specifically, space. The Kuga now has an interior and boot that are competitive with all but the roomiest rivals.
Smart styling, that spacious interior and plenty of standard equipment count in its favour, though the Kuga’s infotainment system isn’t the easiest to operate, with plenty of buttons compared to the easy touchscreen set-ups in rivals. Challenging the Mazda CX-5 for class honours, the Ford Kuga is a well-rounded package and comes competitively priced, too.
The Kuga is the middle child in Ford's SUV lineup, occupying the space between the Fiesta-based Ecosport and the recently introduced Edge. The Kuga is based on the same platform as the Focus hatchback, and takes on popular crossover rivals like the Nissan Qashqai, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5.
Front- and four-wheel drive models are offered with the 4x4 cars getting Ford’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, which diverts power to the wheels that can best use it.
In the engine bay there’s a choice of Ford’s EcoBoost turbo petrol and Duratorq TDCi turbo diesel engines, the latter making up the majority of UK sales. There’s a choice of a twin-clutch PowerShift automatic or manual transmissions - depending on which engine you choose.
There are four specifications in the Ford Kuga range. Zetec open’s proceedings then there’s Titanium, Titanium X and Titanium X Sport. Technology highlights include a hands-free tailgate, Active City Stop autonomous braking and Ford SYNC, which can read text messages aloud and offers voice control functionality.
Engines, performance and drive
When the Kuga was mechanically updated at the back end of 2014, a whopping 95 per cent of sales in the UK were of diesel models. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TDCi engine on offer is available in two states of tune, 148bhp or 178bhp, with the lower output version offered in either front- and four-wheel drive - the more powerful unit is four-wheel drive only. Both versions are more powerful and more efficient than the equivalent engines they replaced prior to the Kuga’s mid-life facelift.
Despite diesel engines being the dominant powertrain, Ford also replaced the old 1.6-litre engine with a 1.5-litre EcoBoost option. Front-wheel drive petrol models are offered with 148bhp, while the more powerful all-wheel drive version gets 180bhp.
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.
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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.
All Kuga models feature torque vectoring to help deliver a responsive, engaging drive and the Kuga features a comprehensive list of electronic driver aids, with options like Active City Stop, Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Keeping Alert offered as part of a Driver Assistance Pack.
The 148bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is mated with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a dual-clutch PowerShift automatic. Although, we prefer the manual as the auto is prone to selecting the wrong gear for the situation.
For extra performance you can also get a 180bhp version of the same petrol 1.5-litre 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 are smooth with noise levels 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
The Ford Kuga is 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, while 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 window line 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 for our liking.
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.
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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.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Kuga’s info and entertainment system isn’t the most user-friendly out there. The entry-level Zetec comes with Bluetooth and USB connectivity as well as a DAB radio but it’ll take time to come to terms with the controls. At least the phone pairing process is not too fiddly and once it’s done the system should remember your phone.
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More upmarket models gain sat-nav, but again it’s not the most intuitive system to use. Sound quality on all models is decent, if not exceptional.
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.
The driving position is excellent, the steering wheel moving for height and reach, while the pedals are well positioned, as is the gearstick for the standard manual transmission. Stowage is good, if not class leading, you need to go for Titanium trim and above to gain a useful centre console cubby with a 12-volt plug socket.
The Kuga doesn’t feel too big compared to its rivals, its height giving you a useful view over traffic ahead. It feels longer than most, looking a bit like a tall estate car rather than a chunky SUV or crossover. That’s to its benefit in traffic, where you feel more confident threading it through gaps.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Passenger space in the Kuga is good for four adults but the fifth middle seat is a bit of a squeeze unless you’re all very friendly. Headroom and legroom are good too but the panoramic roof - standard on some models – could be a problem for taller passengers. Visibility is generally decent all round.
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Comfort levels are high, the seats supportive with lots of adjustability, and the rear seats can be reclined for greater comfort in the rear. Isofix child seat mounts feature on the outer two seats if you’ve little ones to fit in.
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 the capacious 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 60/40 split rear seats in the Ford Kuga to increase the space to 1,928 litres, which is actually 600 litres more than before.
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There’s a compartment under the floor in the boot for secreting away items out of sight. If that floor panel is in its high position and the seatbacks down the load space is flat, the seats themselves folding in a simple one-hand operation across the entire range. There's a low loading lip as well, so getting items in and out is easy.
Ford offers a tow bar as a £600 option on the Kuga and towing weights range from 1,600kg to 2,100kg depending on you choice of engine and transmission. 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 - if you don’t you’ll just look ridiculous).
Reliability and Safety
A five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating should reassure you if you’re buying the Kuga as a family vehicle. The standard safety equipment list is lengthy, with ABS, Emergency Brake Warning, driver and front airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, front side impact airbags and front and rear curtain airbags all as standard.
All Kugas also get tyre pressure monitoring and two Isofix child seat mounts. Check the right options boxes and you can add Active City Stop - which helps prevent slow-speed accidents by autonomously slowing the car down if you don’t brake - and blind spot monitoring. Also available are Traffic Sign Recognition, Adaptive Cruise control and Lane Keeping Aid as part of the optional Driver Assist package.
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Quality inside and out feels and looks to a high standard, but the Kuga placed 110th on the 2015 Driver Power survey, lower than both its Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai rivals. Worse still, it’s listed as 154th for quality, pipping the Qashqai by one place, but far behind the Mazda.
These days Ford’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty looks pretty ordinary compared to the five and seven-year offerings from rivals like the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. In the first year of ownership there is unlimited mileage UK and European roadside cover and unlimited paint cover and a 12-year unlimited mileage perforation warranty is standard.
The Kuga needs servicing every 12,500 miles or annually, whatever comes soonest, with major services every two years or 25,000 miles.
Ford offers a fixed-price servicing package, with two- and three-year deals offered for £390 and £590 respectively. After that Ford offers a £125 annual minor service, or £195 major service package via Ford Motorcraft 4+ service options.