Ford Kuga review
The second-generation Ford Kuga takes on the Mazda CX-5, with efficient engines and lots of space
A new top-spec model was added in 2013, along with a few updates to the model range to make it better value overall. The new top-spec Titanium X Sport comes with plenty of standard equipment, but even the entry-level models are get decent specification.
As you can see in our winter tyres video, the Kuga is available in both two and four-wheel drive form, with plenty of extra traction provided by the extra driven wheels. However, if you need to keep the cost of motoring down then go for the two-wheel drive model, as running costs can suffer with all-wheel drive.
When it comes to engines, you can choose between a 1.6-litre petrol Ecoboost petrol engine or a 2.0-litre TDI diesel in a range of power outputs. Although the Kuga can't match the Toyota RAV4 for interior space, it is bigger than it was previously and matches the Mazda CX-5 in that regard.
Go for a high-spec Titanium model and you also get Ford SYNC, which is a solid voice activation system for your phone while in the car. Good-value Zetec models have a low starting price and lots of equipment, too. If the Ford Kuga is too big for you, you might want to wait for the Fiesta-based Ford Ecosport, which will go on sale in early 2014.
Our choice: Kuga Zetec 2.0 TDCi 4x4
Thanks to a 2013 update, the Ford Kuga is bigger than before and serves as two cars in one - it replaced the old model in Europe and a more utilitarian Ford 4x4 in North America. The increase in size has compromised the looks a bit, but the Ford family face remains on the front of the car, meaning it's unmistakably still a Kuga. Thanks to an upswept crease and windowline running along the side of the car, the new Ford Kuga doesn't look quite as sporty as the previous model, though.
The interior is modern and feels like good quality, as it's borrowed from the new Ford C-MAX MPV - but it does have too many buttons. There are four specifications in the range: Zetec, Titanium, Titanium X and Titanium X Sport. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, daytime running lights, cruise control and keyless go.
Go for Titanium and you get gloss-black grille surround, part-leather seats, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, Ford SYNC and a DAB radio. The range-topping Titanium X trim adds 18-inch alloys, LED tail-lights, bi-xenon adaptive headlamps, a panoramic roof and leather upholstery.
The newest trim level, 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.
Higher-spec 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. Safety equipment includes parking assist tech, a blind spot warning system and Ford’s Emergency Assistance system.
The previous Ford Kuga was a great small SUV to drive, feeling much like a Focus on the road, but a bit higher up. This new one, however, is less focused than the old one, meaning it is beaten by the Mazda CX-5 on driving fun. There's lots of body roll thanks to suspension tweaked for comfort rather than cornering ability, too.
The power steering system is now fully electric, which saves on running costs but sacrifices feedback, and it feels very light. The new shape makes the Kuga feel bigger and harder to drive through tight gaps than the original model, too.
Thanks to a clever off-loading system the 4x4 versions have lots of grip in most conditions. The engines available include a 148bhp 1.6-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 getting the wrong gear for the situation.
You can also get a 178bhp version of the same engine, but most should go for the 138bhp or 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel models as they offer the best combination of power and efficiency.
The Kuga has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test result, with the best result ever scored by a mid-sized SUV. All Kugas come with 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 Kuga's platform, engines and tech are all proven in other Ford models, while a large dealer network means keeping your Kuga on the road should be simple. The previous-generation Kuga finished 44th in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey, with strong results in the handling, comfort and ride quality categories. However, the new car has already been the subject of a recall in the US.
In Auto Express' top 100 cars of 2013 survey, the Kuga placed 59, with owners finding issues in the braking, practicality and build quality. In our 2013 Driver Power Customer satisfaction survey of manufacturers, Ford finished 23rd - not bad, but not great for such a major player as Ford.
The old Ford Kuga was a bit short on boot space, but thanks to an increase of 82 litres - now at 442 litres - the Kuga is competitive in the market in this regard. It's got more boot space than a VW Tiguan but less than a Honda CR-V. However the spare wheel option decreases space to 406 litres, making it 97 litres less than the Mazda CX-5.
You can fold down the rear seats 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 the car and all the seats can be reclined for extra comfort and space.
For £600 you can add a towbar, and there's the option of an automatic tailgate as well, which can be opened by waving your foot under the rear bumper (as long as you have the key in your pocket).
Go for the 138bhp 2.0 TDCi diesel engine with front-wheel drive if you're after low running costs, as it returns 53.3mpg and emits 139g/km of CO2. However even the higher-powered version of the same engine returns 47.9mpg and emits 154g/km of CO2. Thanks to features like a grille that closes at higher speeds, the Kuga is more aerodynamic than before, improving economy for both petrol and diesel engines.
Only the manual petrol versions get stop-start, and the 178bhp petrol can only be had with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox - meaning it's not cheap to run. Do think carefully about four-wheel drive - it comes at a higher price and will cost you more in tax and fuel.