Ford Kuga SUV - Engines, drive & performance
The Ford Kuga is one of the better family SUVs to drive
It’s safe to say that previous Kugas have been a mixed bag to drive. The first-generation car was more fun than almost all of its rivals, but Ford tried to make the next one appeal to a wider audience, and it lost some of its sharpness as a result. We’re happy to report that the latest car is a return to form; it’s more agile than you might expect and doesn’t roll too much if you take a corner quickly.
The downside of that is a slightly firm ride. You’ll notice the imperfections in the road more than you would in a Volkswagen Tiguan, but we didn’t find it uncomfortable and most bumps were absorbed without any fuss. The car can start to feel fidgety at higher speeds but that’s mainly noticeable on rougher surfaces. Picking the biggest wheels, like the ones on our test car, makes the issue a little worse, so we’d stick to the 17 and 18-inch alloys.
We found the steering light but it still has a lot more feel than plenty of other SUVs. The manual gearbox, standard with the 1.5-litre petrol engine, is precise and great to use. The brakes are strong without being grabby.
Ford Kuga petrol engines
Two 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engines were been carried over from the old Kuga, but the entry-level 118bhp engine has now been discontinued. The 148bhp version can get from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds and has a top speed of 121mph. It's fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive as standard.
The Kuga is available as a normal hybrid (Ford labels it as FHEV) and as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), which we've also tested separately. Both use a 2.5-litre petrol engine, an electric motor and a battery. The normal hybrid uses engine power and kinetic energy to charge the battery, whereas the PHEV can be plugged in, either at home or at a public charger.
In both models, the Kuga will move off in near-silence thanks to the electric motor. Power is instant and delivered smoothly, and the hybrid’s small battery doesn’t ruin the Kuga’s impressive handling. The regular hybrid produces 187bhp and reaches 0-62mph in a fraction over nine seconds, as does the 222bhp plug-in hybrid.
Both cars use a CVT gearbox. This is different to a normal automatic as there aren’t any individual gears as such, so when you put your foot down it tends to bring revs up, causing an unpleasant droning noise as the car accelerates.
Diesel engines were discontinued in the Ford Kuga in November 2021, following a decline in sales and Ford's decision to move away from the fuel. When offered, the 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine was the only Kuga available with the choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. The entry-level version's 118bhp never felt like it had quite enough power in the Kuga, and 0-62mph takes 11.7 seconds for the manual or 12 seconds for the automatic. It’s around a second quicker than the same engine in the Mk2 Kuga, but still a bit pedestrian. Especially so in Eco mode, which saps all the power to save fuel to the point where quick exits from junctions might be a nervy experience. The 118bhp diesel engine can also be quite loud, even when you’re not accelerating hard.
The diesel sweet spot was the 148bhp 2.0-litre engine, which was upgraded to feature mild-hybrid technology - improving fuel efficiency and giving the engine welcome extra grunt. It’s efficient and its 9.6-second 0-62mph should be sufficient for the majority of buyers who can find a lightly used example. Above that, there was a 187bhp 2.0-litre engine without the mild-hybrid assistance, reducing the acceleration time to 8.7 seconds. This engine only came with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.