Ford Kuga SUV
Price: £20,995 - £33,245
- Good value and well equipped
- Economical diesel engines
- Spacious interior
- Inferior automatic gearboxes
- Too many buttons inside
- Not fun to drive as Mazda CX-5
"Bigger, cleaner and better value than before, the Ford Kuga is a solid option for SUV buyers."
Even though the Ford Kuga was a late entrant to the mid-size SUV market in 2008, you can’t argue with more than 45,000 sales since then. It was the Kuga's mix of stylish exterior, economical and efficient engines, and a sporty drive that proved appealing enough to win over UK customers and grab sales away from the Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan.
The Kuga has moved beyond the European market to become part of Ford's global offering, so it will be made and marketed to more than 100 countries around the world and will have to meet the differing demands of many more types of drivers, roads and terrains, while not compromising on what made it successful in the first place. It feels mostly like Ford has done a good job.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Downsized petrol and efficient diesel engines lessen costs
Ford has improved the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engines brought over from the old Kuga so that they now return 10 per cent improved fuel economy. The improvement is also down to the car's more aerodynamic shape. The Kuga is now capable of returning 53.3mpg and 47.9mpg in combined fuel economy for the 138bhp and 161bhp versions respectively. There's also a new 1.6-litre turbo petrol EcoBoost engine - while the lower-powered 148bhp model is worth considering because it comes fitted with stop-start technology, a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive only, the higher-powered 178bhp version is only available with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, which increases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. For the best economy, we’d recommend the two-wheel drive, lower-powered diesel model.
Interior & comfort
Bigger, roomier and fairly comfortable
The latest Kuga's larger dimensions mean more room inside, more space in the boot and more comfort in the back for anyone tall – even sitting behind a tall driver. Like the Fiesta on which it's based, the dashboard is rather cluttered by too many buttons but the higher driving position compensates with its improved visibility.
The ride is more cushioned and comfortable than before, with potholes and bumps getting ironed out nicely. It's all pretty quiet inside the cabin, with road, wind and engine noise well dampened down - though the petrol engine does get a bit loud if you work it hard. Wind noise does noticeably increase around the side of the windscreen but only at motorway speeds.
Practicality & boot space
Longer body gives extra space for luggage
One thing Ford has corrected in the latest Kuga is the amount of boot space. The Kuga is now 81mm longer than the old model, increasing capacity by an extra 96 litres to 456 litres with all the seats in place (provided you go for the tyre repair kit instead of the spare wheel). The capacity drops to 406 litres if you choose to have the spare, putting the Kuga 97 litres behind the Mazda CX-5. Thankfully, the boot opening is wide and the floor is low and flat, so loading heavy or bulky items is very straightforward.
The back seats fold down flat too, just not to the same level as the boot floor, which can be inconvenient. The rear seats recline for extra comfort, while passenger space in the front and back is excellent overall. You can also get an optional automatic boot lid, where, as long as your keys are in your pocket, you can wave your foot under the rear bumper and the boot automatically swings open – perfect if you’ve got your hands full.
Reliability & safety
Platform, engines and technology all proven in other Ford cars
Ford clawed back two places in the manufacturer rankings of the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, placing 23rd out of 32, but it has a lot of work to do to match its market status. At least it can take some comfort in beating arch-mainstream-rival Vauxhall. As for the Kuga, it fell 15 places in the list of the top 100 cars, ranking 59th – but it is due to be replaced, so it's a respectable showing for an aging car. In fact, the Kuga actually got a higher overall score than in the 2012 poll but the competition has markedly improved in the last couple of years.
The Kuga uses the same chassis, engines and infotainment technology as the Focus and C-MAX, so comes with a proven reliability record and tried-and-tested technology. All Kugas also come fitted with safety equipment that includes active city stop, hill start assist, electronic stability control (ESP) and Ford's useful Easy-Fuel system, which stops you from putting petrol in a diesel car and vice versa. The car achieved the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, where it also holds the honour of being the safest car in its class.
Engines, drive & performance
Rivals as fun to drive as the Kuga
The Kuga sold well in the UK because it had a SUV-like high driving position but drove like a car. The latest version is the same weight as its predecessor but in reality feels heavier and less precise thanks to its larger size – the steering is still direct but the car somewhat squirms around and there's more body roll when driving through corners.
It can also take some time getting used to the Kuga's extremities and judging its dimensions when parking, which all means that the Mazda CX-5 is the driver's first choice in this class.
The sharpest engine in the Kuga is the two-wheel-drive petrol – if you can stomach the noise levels – but we’d actually go for the smaller diesel because it offers the same good acceleration with better fuel economy.
Price, value for money & options
Better equipped and cheaper than before
The Kuga's new economies of scale have been good news for the UK because of cuts in development and manufacturing costs, which have been passed on to the customer in the form of cheaper, better-equipped cars across the range. The entry-level petrol model is now £1,000 cheaper, while the UK's top-selling model, the 161bhp diesel, is also £355 less expensive.
The Ford Kuga comes in four main specifications – entry-level Zetec, mid-range Titanium and Titanium X, and top-of-the-range Titanium X Sport. All cars come fitted with more equipment and accessories than their predecessors, including air-conditioning, sports seats, cruise control and large alloy wheels. The top-spec model gets a sporty exterior too.
What the others say
"Ford has listened to customers and answered the few complaints they had with the old Kuga. And the new 4x4 is now a much better all-rounder as a result. It's much more spacious inside and easier to live with – but it's still great to drive and good looking. New features such a the automatic tailgate and Ford's SYNC system are welcome additions too, leaving the potentially steep price for top spec models as our only reservation. Apart from that, this is a great compact SUV."
Last updated: 17 Dec 2013