Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium

Can a trendy SUV really fit the bill as sensible family transport?

Ford bills the Kuga as the greenest compact SUV around. With CO2 emissions of only 169g/km this claim rings true – but does the 4x4 have what it takes to rival a traditional road car as daily family transport?

In terms of pure desirability, the Kuga is arguably in a league of its own here. Not only is it the newest model, but its sharp looks and chunky proportions are trendier than any rival’s. At only 4.44 metres long, it’s the shortest car of this quartet, and it is narrow, too, so it takes up less road space.

The compact proportions do come at a price, though, because the Kuga’s load space lags behind its competitors’. On the face of it, 360 litres is reasonable enough. However, the boot is short and narrow, so carrying long objects such as pushchairs will require careful packing – and you have to lift items up over the high lip, too. Climb aboard and you’ll find rear legroom is limited by the handy picnic tables fixed to the front seats. However, the upright SUV seating position ensures that there’s still sufficient space. The tall body also makes it easy for parents to strap in child seats, which is sure to win bonus points with growing families.

Up front, that lofty ride height brings another welcome benefit in terms of visibility: you can see further ahead, which makes driving much less stressful. The contoured bonnet also serves as a constant reminder that you’ve chosen not to follow the crowd and buy a traditional hatchback. Thanks to its four-wheel drive, the Kuga is perfect for venturing off-tarmac, too. Rural dwellers or anyone who’s ever experienced a rain-soaked campsite will no doubt see the appeal of its go-anywhere credentials. The extra traction comes with few compromises, as the Kuga feels remarkably car-like from behind the wheel. Sharp steering and tight body control make it the best-handling model in its class. And what it lacks in outright off-road ability, it compensates for with the most entertaining dynamics of any compact SUV. The 2.0-litre TDCi engine is a perfect match for the chassis and combines strong performance with reasonable economy.

Even so, 33.9mpg economy and £170 road tax rank the Kuga behind both the Mondeo and Focus in this test. With a two-model line-up starting at £20,500, the 4x4 is also pricey to buy, and judging by our research, running costs are likely to be on a par with, if not slightly higher than, its stablemates’. Can stylish looks and 4x4 versatility offset the lack of luggage space and higher costs?

Details

Price: £22,500Model tested: Kuga 2.0 TDCi TitaniumChart position: 4WHY: One of the best-driving SUVs around, yet its versatility could help win the day here.

Economy

At £22,500 the Kuga is expensive, but it has the strongest resale value here. With the freshest face – as well as the most fashionable – our experts predict an impressive retained value of 52.2 per cent. As a result it should be worth more than the S-MAX after three years and 36,000 miles, despite costing £1,545 less to buy new! The rest of the news isn’t so good, because the most expensive insurance plus road tax of £170 will stretch budgets.

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