Road tests

New Ford Kuga Hybrid 2021 review

Ford’s hybrid technology is a useful addition to the Kuga SUV range with the 'FHEV' model offering a sharp drive and plenty of kit along with strong economy

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Ford’s full-hybrid Kuga absolutely delivers on its potential as an efficient family SUV, offering low running costs for those that don’t want to make the step to life with a plug-in vehicle just yet. However, while it’s practical and is still one of the best-driving SUVs on sale, powertrain refinement isn’t its strongest trait. The infotainment is starting to look a little old as well, even if the Kuga does feature lots of tech as standard.

Ford is pressing on with its roll-out of electrified models with this new Kuga Hybrid. It sits below the plug-in hybrid model, with a more limited electric range, but also a more affordable price tag.

The Ford Kuga FHEV (Full Hybrid Electric Vehicle), as Ford calls it, starts from £33,595 compared with £36,555 for the plug-in hybrid. However, in high-spec ST-Line X Edition trim tested here, it’ll cost you £34,735.

For that you get a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine working in conjunction with an electric motor that’s fed by a compact 1.1kWh battery. Together, the power sources deliver a maximum of 187bhp (Ford doesn’t quote a total torque output), which is good enough for a 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds.

Electric-only running is possible, but it’s much more limited than in a plug-in hybrid; think very short distances at low speed. The electric motor is there more to assist the petrol engine, lightening its load to help boost efficiency.

It does a very good job of that too. Our car’s trip computer was actually showing 49.5mpg, more than the Ford’s official fuel economy claim, so it should be cheap to run. On ST-Line X Edition’s larger 19-inch wheels CO2 emissions stand at 133g/km.

The Kuga has always been one of the more rewarding family SUVs to drive and this model tips the scales at 1,701kg so the small battery and electric motor don’t add too much extra weight over a pure petrol or diesel alternative. This helps to ensure that the FHEV still handles sweetly.

Precise, quick steering and good grip mean you’ll be able to enjoy this Kuga on twisty roads. The ride is a little on the firm side - we’d call it taut, but it’s far from uncomfortable.

The CVT transmission is more of an issue. Toyota has proven that CVT gearboxes in full hybrids like its Corolla and RAV4 models (to name but a few) can really work, contributing to a relaxing feel on the move. In the Kuga, though, the gearbox feels a little sluggish. 

By their nature CVTs send the revs high when you need more performance from the powertrain, holding them there to give you a good boost of acceleration, but the engine’s sound signature from inside the Kuga is a little rough. While there’s not much to complain about when it comes to performance, we’d expect more refinement from an electrically assisted SUV like this. At least the fact that it does deliver on its fuel economy potential makes up for this to some degree.

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You get plenty of equipment for the money in this Ford Kuga and it represents better value than top-spec Vignale trim too, even if more affordable models a little lower down the range look like the sweet spot. ST-Line X Edition features larger alloy wheels, as we’ve mentioned, a panoramic roof, heated front and rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.

On top of this you also benefit from sporty looks, full LED lights, keyless operation, a powered tailgate, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a 12.3-inch digital dash, a B&O Premium stereo, a rear-view camera, wireless phone charging, autonomous braking, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, plus sat-nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as part of the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

Much of this is standard on other models, including the SYNC3 set-up, and while the multimedia unit’s menus are logically laid out, the responses sharp and the graphics good enough, the eight-inch screen now feels a little on the small side compared with rivals that offer bigger units. Car interior design has moved on a lot in a few years, and while the Kuga is fine, it doesn’t really have the flair that can be found elsewhere in this sector.

There’s enough space inside though, while with up to 526 litres of boot space when all seats are in place (depending on where the sliding rear bench seat is set) there’s enough load volume too.

Model: Ford Kuga 2.5 Hybrid ST-Line X Edition
Price: £34,735
Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol
Power/torque: 187bhp/N/A
Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 9.1s
Top speed: 122mph
Economy/CO2: 48.7mpg/133g/km
On sale: Now

Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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