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In-depth reviews

Ford Kuga review - Engines, performance and drive

Petrol and diesel choices, but it’s the 2.0 TDCi that makes up the majority of sales, for good reason

The Ford Kuga used to be one of the better small SUVs to drive, but these days it's merely up to par rather than outstanding. It's not bad to drive, but the SEAT Ateca is a more composed and agile SUV in the bends. The steering is better weighted than in rivals and feels more precise, while stiffer suspension on ST-Line models mean they don’t roll as much in corners, either. 

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Torque vectoring helps to rotate the car while you’re turning by braking the inside wheels, which makes it feel more agile as well – and Ford’s four-wheel-drive system helps send grip where it’s needed for improved traction. Sport mode in the Kuga adds some steering weight and holds on to gears in the auto model, and the Ford also gets shift paddles behind the steering wheel.

Stiffer suspension helps the Kuga control its mass in corners, but it results in a firm ride, especially at low speed. It’s not uncomfortable, because the driving position is pretty good, but rivals are smoother. The Kuga features a comprehensive list of electronic driver aids, with options like Active City Stop, Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Keeping Alert offered as part of a Driver Assistance Pack.   

Engines 

The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TDCi engine on offer is available in two states of tune, 148bhp or 178bhp, with the lower output version offered in either front- and four-wheel drive - the more powerful unit is four-wheel drive only. There's also a 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel, as well as a 118bhp petrol EcoBoost engine of the same displacement, with 148bhp and 180bhp petrol options also available.

The 148bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is mated with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a dual-clutch PowerShift automatic. The manual gearbox is well-weighted and pleasing to use, so while the auto isn't bad it isn't ideally suited to this engine choice.

Most should go for the 148bhp or 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel models as they offer the best combination of power and efficiency. Both are smooth with noise levels well isolated from the cabin and deliver decent in-gear pace, with either manual or automatic gearboxes.

Less impressive is Ford's Powershift gearbox. The six-speed unit delivers smooth and rapid shifts when cruising, but at low speed, it trips over itself and struggles to find the right gear. On the plus side, there are now handy gearshift paddles instead of the old car’s tiny, lever-mounted rocker switch.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.5 EcoBoost 120 Zetec 5dr 2WD
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £22,765

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.5 EcoBoost 120 Zetec 5dr 2WD
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £22,765

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 EcoBlue 190 Zetec 5dr Auto AWD
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £31,205
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