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