In-depth reviews

Ford Kuga SUV - Engines, drive & performance

The Ford Kuga is one of the better family SUVs to drive

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

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.

Hybrid engines

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

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.

Recommended

New Ford Kuga Facelift: prices, specs, and release date
Ford Kuga front testing
Ford Kuga SUV
22 Jun 2022

New Ford Kuga Facelift: prices, specs, and release date

Ford Kuga SUV review
Ford Kuga Titanium
Ford Kuga
18 May 2022

Ford Kuga SUV review

Used Ford Kuga review: 2012 to 2019 (Mk2)
Ford Kuga Vignale studio front
Ford Kuga SUV
27 Jan 2022

Used Ford Kuga review: 2012 to 2019 (Mk2)

Have You Considered

Hyundai Kona Hybrid SUV review
Hyundai Kona Hybrid SUV
Hyundai Kona Hybrid
9 Jun 2022

Hyundai Kona Hybrid SUV review

Renault Captur SUV review
Best Small Family Car: Renault Captur
Renault Captur
31 May 2022

Renault Captur SUV review

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers
Facelifted Volvo XC60 driving - front
Deals
1 Jul 2022

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers

Engine management light: top 5 causes of amber engine warning light
Engine management light: top 5 causes of amber engine warning light
Car technology
22 Jun 2022

Engine management light: top 5 causes of amber engine warning light

New MG 4 is an affordable electric hatchback
2023 MG 4 - front
MG
29 Jun 2022

New MG 4 is an affordable electric hatchback

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
23 Mar 2022

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
5 Nov 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Car buying
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
20 Jun 2022

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2022
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022
Ioniq 5
Best cars
25 Apr 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022
Nissan Leaf front
Best cars
3 May 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022
Audi RS 3 driving - front view
Hot hatches
24 Jun 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022