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New Ford Kuga facelift 2024 review: sensible SUV gets a bold new face

The revamped Ford Kuga is still an appealing choice for families, but it’s not quite a class-leader

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The Ford Kuga was already a pretty strong family SUV package that offered a reasonable amount of space and surprisingly good driver engagement for a car of its type. Now, a fresh batch of updates has given the car a much sharper appearance, along with some new trim levels, in order to keep it competitive against an ever-growing range of rivals. While petrol power is still an option, the hybrid powertrains promise temptingly low running costs, but the trade-off is a CVT transmission that takes away from the fun.

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It’s fair to say that Ford knows how to build a good SUV. The supermini-based Puma was the UK’s best-selling car last year, and it has continued to dominate the charts well into 2024. Its larger sibling, the Kuga, certainly isn’t an uncommon sight on our roads, either.

The mid-size SUV sector is a tough one, though, and new rivals continue to arrive at an unrelenting rate. The third-generation Kuga first arrived in 2019, so the time has come for a big mid-life refresh in an attempt to keep it ahead of the young’uns.

The biggest and most obvious update is on the outside. A brand-new gloss-black grille, redesigned adaptive headlights and an LED light bar bring the Kuga’s front end more into line with other members of Ford’s line-up, with an overall design that’s not dissimilar from the Focus hatchback or even the Transit Custom van.

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A few exterior styling tweaks can be found elsewhere, too, but these are more subtle. The ride height has been raised slightly in order to give the Kuga a bit more of a muscular stance, the rear bumper now sits lower. There are five new alloy wheel designs to choose from, too.

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The changes are more than skin deep, however, as the Kuga’s analogue dials, switchgear and old SYNC 3 infotainment system have been ripped out and replaced with a setup that’s almost completely digital. The instrument cluster is now a 12.3-inch screen, while the eight-inch central touchscreen has been replaced with a much bigger and clearer 13.2-inch SYNC 4 unit. While this isn’t the most eye-catching software on the market, it’s sufficiently responsive and easy to navigate. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are thrown in as well.

Music lovers don’t need to worry, though, as the Bang and Olufsen speakers have been left alone. We only wish we could say the same about the physical climate controls; you guessed it, these are no buried within the screen.

It’s certainly more of a tech-fest, but the interior is still a bit marred by some dark, cheap-feeling plastics. These aside, the Kuga is a rather nice car to sit in, particularly when fitted with the opening panoramic sunroof and red-stitched sports seats that could be found in our ST-Line X test car.

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On the subject of trim levels, there are now four to choose from: Titanium, Active, ST-Line and ST-Line X. Even if you do opt for the entry-level car, there’s still a pretty generous amount of kit including alloy wheels, front and rear sensors, keyless entry, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and a rear-view camera.

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When it comes to power, there’s the choice of a 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol engine, a 2.5-litre plug-in hybrid powertrain or a 2.5-litre full-hybrid producing either 178bhp with two-wheel drive or 180bhp with four-wheel drive. It’s the slightly more powerful 4x4 hybrid that we’re testing here.

This hybrid powertrain remains quiet and smooth enough when driving the Kuga at consistent cruising speeds, although the petrol engine is perhaps a bit too eager to kick in at times. This won’t be good news for those hoping to achieve maximum fuel efficiency but, fortunately, the transition between the electric motor and engine isn’t very noticeable.

However, place a bit too much pressure on the right-hand pedal and the petrol engine is quick to remind you that it’s mated to a single-speed CVT gearbox. Any attempt to really press on is rewarded with a lot of revs and not much else.

Although it has a quoted 8.3 second 0-62mph time, the Kuga hybrid doesn't feel like a particularly quick car, not even by mid-size SUV standards. There is enough grunt to keep things comfortable on motorway runs, but don’t expect to be blown away by blistering straight-line speed.

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Things improve in the corners, though, where some of Ford’s typical sporting flair can be found. Body roll is kept in check and the steering is fairly direct for a car of the Kuga’s stature. 

The upside of the Kuga’s full-hybrid powertrain is that it claims up to 48.7mpg in 180bhp form (depending on spec), and this figure rises to 52.3mpg in the 178bhp variant. Alternatively, a 2.5-litre plug-in hybrid is also available with up to 43 miles of pure-electric driving. If you want to sacrifice the electrification and lower the list price, the 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol still offers a reasonable figure of 44.1mpg.

If you’re looking at the Kuga as a potential family car, as most buyers probably are, there’s ample legroom for five passengers, but taller occupants may feel a bit snug in the back seats due to limited headspace. 

The 536-litre boot should take on shopping and luggage with ease, and this is more space here than you’ll find in some rivals like the Vauxhall Grandland or Nissan Qashqai. However, the Ford falls short of the Hyundai Tucson, which boasts a massive 620 litres with the rear seats in place.

Model:Ford Kuga ST-Line X
Price from:£42,365
Price as tested:£44,915
Engine:2.5-litre 4cyl petrol, hybrid
Power180bhp
Transmission:CVT automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph8.3 seconds
Top speed:122mph
Economy/CO2:47.1mpg/136g/km
Size (L/W/H):4,722mm/1,882mm,1,673mm
On sale:Now
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Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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