Ford Kuga review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The second-generation Ford Kuga takes on the Mazda CX-5, with efficient engines and lots of space

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

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The Ford Kuga features a practical interior and stylish looks at a good-value price point, and rivals crossovers such as the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan.

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

Styling

3.8

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.

Driving

3.8

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.

Reliability

3.8

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.

Practicality

3.5

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).

Running Costs

4.2

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.

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.
COMPLETE RUBBISH

Last updated: 10 Dec, 2013

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