New Ford Kuga

18 Dec, 2012 (All day) Tom Phillips

Our verdict on the bigger, more practical new Ford Kuga, as it arrives in UK showrooms


Turning the European Kuga into a global model makes business sense for Ford, as it enables the brand to offer a stylish, practical and highly desirable mid-size SUV for a more competitive price than ever. For that it deserves to do well. But while the car is bigger, better equipped and more hi-tech than its predecessor, it’s neither as sharp to drive nor as cool as the original.

More than 45,000 Ford Kugas have found homes in the UK since its 2008 launch. Now there’s an all-new model which, instead of being sold only in Europe, joins the Focus as a One Ford product that will be marketed in over 100 countries worldwide. But does the push for global appeal mean the Kuga no longer has the sharp drive and sleek style that made it a hit?

With its swept-back headlights, creased shoulder line and sharp, upkicked C-pillar, the new car is still recognisable as a Kuga. It’s 8mm lower and 4mm narrower than before, but the extra 81mm grafted on to the car’s length to add luggage space means that it appears considerably bigger than its predecessor – particularly when viewed in profile.

Still, while it remains a stylish, sporty-looking SUV, thanks to that rising shoulder line, creased bonnet and aggressive bumper, the proportions are less satisfying than those of the taut original.

Part of the design compromise stems from Ford’s need to counter criticism of the old car’s small boot. Plus, in the US the new Kuga replaces the Escape model, which was larger and more utilitarian. The result is a 71-litre increase in luggage space – to 481 litres – if you have the new reclining rear seatbacks set upright. That’s more than in a VW Tiguan, and the low lip makes it easy to load.

The rear seats now fold flat, too, and the boot floor has two levels – although on its lower setting, there’s a big step between boot floor and seats. Either way, the maximum capacity is 1,653 litres.

The Kuga has the option of an automatic tailgate. Wave your foot under the rear bumper and, provided you are carrying the key, the hatch door whirrs open. Perfect if your hands are full!

In the back seats there’s plenty of leg and headroom, even if you’re more than six feet tall and the driver has their seat set back. The rear squabs are firm, but the front seats are more comfortable.

In the front, the dash and centre console are made from a patchwork of different plastics, ranging from hard, grained material near the windscreen to classier, softer-touch and gloss black trim as you move down between the seats. But while the new One Ford cabin looks and feels good in the facelifted Fiesta, in the Kuga the finish trails on quality.

That said, there’s plenty of tech, including the SYNC voice-activation system on all but the entry-level Zetec. If you opt for four-wheel drive, you also get a useful graphic between the dials which shows which axle the engine is feeding power to.

Although there is now the option of Ford’s powerful 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, most UK buyers will opt for the 2.0 diesel Kuga with a six-speed manual box. The 161bhp version in our car isn’t the quietest engine, with a pronounced rattle at
low speeds which smooths out as the revs build. There’s wind noise from the A-pillars at 70mph, but otherwise the Kuga is quiet and refined. The box is slick, too, which makes it easy to keep the diesel on boost.

The outgoing car was renowned for being great to drive – it felt like a high-riding Focus rather than an SUV. But the shift to meet global tastes has compromised this sharpness. As the power-steering is now fully electric, it’s light and free of feedback. It also feels dead about the straight-ahead, particularly if you drive a higher-spec car riding on 18-inch rims, like our Titanium model.

Body roll is more of an issue, too, despite the fact that the Kuga still has a relatively firm ride. And although the new car weighs the same as the original, you can feel its weight more obviously under braking than before.

Disqus - noscript

Correct me if I am wrong but, bar the boot space, the review stopped short of saying that the model being replaced is much better than the new one (looks, handling, ride, breaking feel). What a bad start...

the old one looked good. this one stinks of no imagination just trying to fit too many things. ford does this, it goes from hit to duff every now and again. i expect its marketing profile lead not design

This is the classic example of how to ruin a brand.... let the beancounters take over from the car guys. Without the "competitive advantage" of handling (in this case) it becomes a commodity, another grey model on the automotive landscape. Toyota has just woken up to this and is starting to move towards the product side of the equation....... Ford on the other hand.....

Another dull-as-ditchwater roughty-toughty pseudo-SUV. The design lacks the coherence of, for example, the S-Max, or the Fiesta. In fact, fitting a 4WD option to the S-Max may have been a better idea than producing this slab of meh.

Just plain 'orrible! It looks as if it's been thrown together by some bored kids at a high ranking Dearborn party!! Get a grip Ford - in Europe!!

Visually this is another abomination, like about 99% of all SUV's! Between the dull and the abominable there seems very little in between at the moment.
More importantly, the thing has got bigger. I know that this offshore island is short of space compared with other countries but the Germanic design school seems to have been scoffing the metaphorical potatoes a bit too much lately. This middle aged spread is bad.

Wow. It looks like the bastard love-child of a C-Max and a Santa Fe which inherited all the worst traits of both parents. Ford's successor models are always worse than their launch models - Focus New Edge lost all of its impact as the successors launched, same with Mondeo. Now Kuga joins the orphaned children.

This is what happens when Ford of Europe allow Ford USA to dictate strategy and design policy for its who world market, you end up with the automotive equivalent of a washing machine, but not a very good one, and Tom Phillips, I dont know how much Ford are paying you, but "stylish, practical and highly desirable" it isnt..

Marginal improvements

The old Kuga was a rather likable car. This all-new global model offers only marginal improvements over the current Kuga 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 safe for now.
I would like to hear more about the 1.6L turbo charged petrol engine. How does it manage to haul this rather large car?

Agree with some of the comments about this cars looks - it looks like a backward step from the previous model. Not sure whats going on with Fords design department these days. I see they've also managed to ruin the looks of the Fiesta which used to look great. That said Fords are always good from behind the wheel.

Another ugly duckling from Ford.

While it's no oil painting I'd hardly call it ugly! Looks to be a better car in pretty much all areas, seems like natural progression to me. How ever the space in the front could be better, passenger doesn't get a lot of leg room, an issue with the Focus and C-Max too. Other than that, it looks fine to me.

It looks more aggressive than the current Kuga. The current one is a bit dated. A huge leap forward from ford!

Big improvement from ford!!! Looks like an Audi from the front.

What are you going on about? It looks the same you idiot.

The interior is a huge improvement over the old car. The current one is just out of date with silver painted plastic.This is a much better car!!

So much better, I love the sleek head lights and the LED's with in them :)

The dashboard and clocks are a really creative design and the boot is huge.I would get this over Volkswagan any day.

Another lovely design from Ford ;)

At £25,545 it will get blown away in 2013 by the more reliable excellent value for money Dacia Duster that costs a fraction of the price, watch Kuga UK sales slip in 2013.

Brilliant motor far superior to the other shite on the roads lots of technogly in this one more gadgets than you can shake a stick at even in the lesser models, how the qashqai ever became as popular i'll never know i've worked on both and the ford is far far cheaper to maintain.

I own the original Kuga and was looking at replacing with the new 2013 model, however, some features that were available on the Zetec are now no longer available unless you fork out considerably more for the Titanium. Having done that, all the 'tech' selling points are all optional extras which adds up to a 'hard to swallow' price tag !! Add to that the fact that the spilt tailgate (most useful feature for me) has been completely dropped, the handling has gone downhill (love the electro-hydraulic system of old for road feel) ... I consider this a massive step backwards. Looks like I'll be keeping my current Kuga for a while yet !!!

Drove one today - awful. Shame on Ford of Europe for letting FNA design this. The interior is shockingly cheap, and the rear end looks like a well, an escape. Power - well there was non. What a shame as the boys in Europe are trying their best to keep their head above water but clearly when the rich parents are the ones paying the bills....... What a shame.

Key specs

  • Price: £25,545
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power/torque: 161bhp/340Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 123mph
  • Economy: 47.9mpg
  • CO2: 154g/km
  • Equipment: SYNC system, climate control, part-leather upholstery
  • On sale: Now