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Ford Kuga vs Vauxhall Grandland: a mid-size SUV skirmish

SUVs are the must-have models for buyers these days. How do our rivals’ mid-size offerings shape up?

Ford and Vauxhall remain fiercely competitive in the family hatchback class, but neither quite tops the rankings (in sales or ability) when it comes to their mid-size SUV offerings. 

The Kuga and the Grandland each fly below the radar, with alternatives such as the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Skoda Karoq stealing the limelight. But within a crowded market, the Kuga has unique appeal, which makes it our favourite here. 

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There’s a recurring theme among all of the Fords on this list, and it’s that they’re fantastic to drive. Most cars in the family SUV class are set up to merely deliver safe, predictable handling; Ford has achieved that, but sprinkled a little of the magic you’ll find in a Focus on the Kuga, too. 

Under the bonnet, there’s a choice of three powertrains. At one end of the spectrum there’s a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine with 148bhp, and at the other a 222bhp plug-in hybrid

Between them sits this full-hybrid model. The transition between petrol and electric modes isn’t as smooth as in some HEVs, but linear acceleration and a muted engine note mean that once it’s in the groove, performance is decent enough. Better still, it didn’t take too much effort for it to top 50mpg in mixed driving – an excellent number for a car of this type.

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Elsewhere, the Kuga is more of a mixed bag. The cabin is functional, but feels cheap when compared with the Grandland, and it still soldiers on with an older version of Ford’s SYNC infotainment system, rather than the slick touchscreen you get in the Focus. Further back, rear kneeroom is fantastic – one of the roomiest cars in its class, and there’s a sliding rear bench to boost space if needed – but headroom is among the tightest in this segment. While comfort is a subjective thing, we didn’t find the seats as supportive as those in the Grandland, either. 

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Once again, the Vauxhall manages to feel just a little more special inside, with a widescreen infotainment system sitting beside a similarly large digital driver’s display.

Headroom is excellent, and even though kneeroom can’t match the Kuga’s, it’s still spacious for four or even five adults. At 514 litres, the boot is fairly generous, but that’s only for pure internal-combustion versions. Go for a plug-in hybrid – like the car here – and that figure drops to an underwhelming 390 litres. 

In the case of this car, that PHEV powertrain takes the form of a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol and a 108bhp electric motor. The stats are remarkably similar to the Kuga’s plug-in option. Both produce 222bhp (although the Ford uses a larger 2.5-litre non-turbo petrol to achieve this) while both cars’ batteries store around 14kWh of energy. 

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WLTP EV ranges of up to 41 miles in both allow them to just sneak into the eight per cent Benefit-in-Kind bracket for company car taxpayers. In contrast to the Kuga, the Grandland feels a little flat-footed, and there are alternatives that are more comfortable and refined.

Results

Our choice: Ford Kuga

The Kuga wins here mainly due to its unique talents in this class. While both of these crossovers are very capable, the way the Ford drives makes it stand out from the vast range of rivals. It pairs that appeal here with a frugal hybrid powertrain, decent practicality and a price that’s competitive with the class best.

ProsCons
Fabulous to driveDated cabin and tech
Rear legroomRear headroom

Runner up: Vauxhall Grandland

Although the Grandland doesn’t have any significant flaws, its downfall stems from the fact that there are other rivals that manage to offer many of the same things, but to an even better standard. Practicality, safety and powertrain choices all count in its favour, but while it’s a dependable family SUV, it isn’t a winner here.

ProsCons
Standard equipment levelsSo-so boot space
Several plug-in hybrid optionsUnderwhelming to drive

Figures

 Ford Kuga ST-Line X Edition FHEV

Vauxhall Grandland Ultimate 225 PHEV

On-the-road price£39,825£44,160
Powertrain4cyl in/2,496cc, 1.1kWh batt.4cyl in/1,598cc, 14.2kWh batt.
Power/torque187/200bhp/Nm222bhp/360bhp/Nm
TransmissionCVT auto/FWD8-speed auto/FWD
Length/wheelbase4,614/2,710mm4,477/2,675mm
Height/width1,678/1,883mm1,609/1,856mm
Boot capacity (seats up/down)411/1,481 litres390/1,528 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,701/514/1,600kg1,807/503/1,250kg
Turning circle/spare wheel11.5 metres/£15010.7 metres/repair kit
Basic warranty/recovery3 yrs (60k)/1 yr3 yrs (60k)/1 yr
Driver Power manufacturer position28th24th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars92/86/82/73/5 (2019 )84/87/63/60/5 (2017)
0-62mph/top speed9.1 secs/122mph8.9 secs**/140mph
WLTP economy/EV range50.4mpg/NA201.8mpg/36 miles
Claimed CO2/tax bracket129g/km/30%32g/km/12%
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/cam.Seven/two/f&r/yesSix/three/f&r/360
Lane keep/blindspot/AEBYes/£1,100*/yesYes/yes/yes
Climate control/cruise controlYes/yesYes/adaptive
Leather/heated seats/metallic paintNo/yes/£600No/yes/£600
LEDs/keyless entry & go/pwr tailgateYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
DAB/connected servicesYes/yesYes/yes
Satellite navigation/digital dashYes/yesYes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto£150/yes/yesYes/yes/yes

Ford vs Vauxhall

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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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