"Bigger, cleaner and better value than before, the Kuga has what it takes to rival the best in class."
Ford was a little late to produce a mid-size SUV when it launched the original Kuga in 2008. However, over 45,000 have since found homes in the UK, proving that the Kuga's blend of stylish looks, economical engines and sporty drive was more than enough to lure drivers from the Volkswagen Tiguans and Honda CR-Vs. This time around, rather than just being sold in Europe, the Kuga is one of Ford's global cars to be marketed in over 100 countries, so it has to meet the differing demands of many more drivers, while not compromising what made the Kuga a success in the first place.
The Kuga was a hit in the UK because it drove like a car, despite offering the tall driving position that SUV buyers love. Despite being the same weight as before, the new Kuga feels heavy and less precise to drive. The steering remains direct, but the car pitches and rolls more than before. The new design takes some getting used to, as it's hard to judge the car's extremeties, which all adds up to the Kuga being overtaken by the Mazda CX-5 as the driver's choice in its class. The petrol engine is a little noisy, but two-wheel-drive versions are sharper to drive, while the best bet is the smaller diesel as it has the same torque as the larger unit, giving the same impressive acceleration, but mixed with better fuel economy.
The Kuga is larger than before, and that's really helped interior space, with a bigger boot and plenty of room in the rear seats, even if you’re sitting behind a tall driver. Up front, the dashboard is full of buttons, but it will be very familiar to anyone who has driven the latest Focus, albeit with the addition of a higher driving position. The ride is softer than before, which helps over potholes, and the sports seats are very comfortable. Engine and road noise are well suppressed, although the petrol engine can sound coarse when revved hard, and there's a rustle of wind noise from around the sides of the windscreen at higher speeds.
Not only did the Ford Kuga receive the full five star Euro NCAP safety rating, but it also holds the accolade as the safest car tested in its class. All Kugas come well equipped with safety equipment, including active city stop, hill start assist, ESP and Ford's useful Easy-Fuel system, which prevents you from putting petrol in a diesel car and vice versa. The Kuga uses the same chassis, engines and infotainment technology as the Focus and C-MAX, so comes with a proven reliability record.
The major criticism of the old Kuga was that it had a particularly small boot. That's changed this time around. The Kuga is 81mm longer than before, and boot space has risen by 96 litres to 456 litres, if you opt for a tyre repair kit instead of a spare wheel. The capacity drops to 406 litres if you stick with the spare, making it 97 litres less than the Mazda CX-5. The hatch opens wide, and the boot floor is also low and flat, making it easy to load. The rear seats also fold flat, albeit not at the same level as the boot floor. The rear seats recline for more comfort, while space for passengers both in the front and the back is excellent. A novel feature is the optional auto tailgate. Providing you have the key in your pocket, wave your foot under the rear bumper and the tailgate automatically swings open – perfect if you have your hands full.
Value for money
The Kuga was once just sold in Europe, but now it's a global car sold in over 100 countries. This is good for Ford as it cuts development costs, and good for buyers, too, as the economies of scale mean better-equipped, cheaper cars. The entry-level petrol model is now £1,000 cheaper than before, while the UK's top-selling model, the 161bhp diesel, is £355 less. Three equipment levels are available – Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X – and all cars get more equipment than their predecessors, include air-conditioning, sports seats, cruise control and large alloy wheels.
The new Kuga uses the same 2.0-litre diesel engines as before, but thanks to a more aerodynamic body, the engines now return 10 per cent better fuel economy, at 53.3mpg and 47.9mpg for the 138bhp and 161bhp versions, respectively. Ford has added the 1.6-litre turbo petrol EcoBoost engine to the line-up, too. But while the low power 148bhp version makes sense, as it comes with stop-start, a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive only, the high-power 178bhp version can only be had with four-wheel drive and an auto gearbox, giving high fuel consumption and CO2 figures. For best economy, the two-wheel drive, lower-powered diesel is the best bet.