Ford Kuga 2.0-litre TDCi

High-powered diesel completes superb SUV package

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

This new diesel offers buyers the best of both worlds, and gives the Kuga the potential to be the best car in its class. The unit is efficient, smooth and punchy, and works well with the SUV’s excellent chassis. Our only criticism is the high price tag – this puts it out of the reach of most buyers, and means the lower-powered diesel remains the pick of the range.

WITH a winning blend of style, comfort and class-leading driving dynamics, the Ford Kuga has found more than 20,000 homes in the UK since its launch in 2006. Now, the company has added a 161bhp turbodiesel to the range. Does it bring anything new to the already impressive off-roader?

This is one of two engine updates in the Kuga – it’s joined by a lower-powered version of the 2.0-litre diesel with 138bhp, which is 4bhp more than before. The latter also slashes CO2 from 169g/km to 159g/km in four-wheel-drive guise.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Ford Kuga

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Impressively, the 161bhp oil-burner in our car promises the same emissions as the less powerful unit. Fuel economy is identical, at 47.1mpg combined. Significantly, Ford’s Powershift twin-clutch box is now available as an option on four-wheel drive diesel models, although buyers who specify it are hit by higher CO2 emissions and a significant drop in fuel economy – not to mention a £1,400 price premium.

If you’re willing to pay that, though, you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly smooth box which changes gears almost unnoticed. The sprint from 0-62mph takes three-tenths longer than it does in the manual, at 9.9 seconds.

But out on the road, the Kuga feels much quicker than that, thanks to the impressive 340Nm of torque available from between 2,000 and 3,250rpm. Engineers have worked hard to ensure the engine is more responsive at low revs, too, with 250Nm produced at a mere 1,250rpm. The result is that the diesel engine is smooth, but can provide a real kick when needed.

In corners, the Kuga suffers a little from body roll, yet there is plenty of grip, while the well weighted, responsive steering makes the car a blast to drive.

Enhancing this impressive performance is the electronically controlled 4WD transmission. This sends as much as 50 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels when it’s needed, although the car remains in front-wheel drive most of the time.

And while few owners will ever venture off the beaten track, the 80mm increase in ride height over the Focus – coupled with maximum approach and departure angles of 21 and 25 degrees repectively – means the newcomer is capable in the rough.

The Kuga is a practical choice, too. Its rear seats are spacious enough to comfortably seat three adults and, although the boot isn’t as large as some of its rivals, it will be big enough for most people’s needs. The seats fold 60:40 to increase load space to 1,355 litres.

Buyers wanting the 161bhp diesel can only get it in top-spec Titanium trim, and prices start from a hefty £24,495. Although the efficient and punchy engine fits perfectly with the Kuga’s great on-road dynamics, that may be too expensive for some people.

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