Ford Kuga SUV (2012-2020)
"The Ford Kuga has recently been facelifted to keep it competitive, but its dashboard still lags behind some rivals"
- Good value and well equipped
- Economical diesel engines
- Spacious interior
- Too many buttons inside
- Outshone by several rivals
- Inferior automatic gearboxes
The Ford Kuga has proven very successful since its launch in 2012 and now a third-generation model is due in showrooms later this year. The Ford Focus-derived SUV has increasingly stiff competition in the shape of the stylish Peugeot 3008, ever-popular Nissan Qashqai and excellent Skoda Kodiaq and SEAT Ateca. Ford certainly couldn't afford to fall behind the pack, so the outgoing, second-generation Kuga was heavily updated in 2016.
The Kuga looks nothing like the original, which had Fiesta-influenced styling. It has a more imposing road presence, influenced by the now-discontinued Ford Edge. This gives the Kuga an eye-catching front grille and aggressively shaped headlamps. However, the mechanical package hasn't changed much, consisting of a range of EcoBoost petrol and TDCi diesel engines and front-wheel drive, with the option of four-wheel drive on all trim levels.
The 1.5-litre EcoBoost develops 118 or 148bhp in front-wheel-drive models, while a 174bhp version is offered with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. Our favourite of these is the 148bhp; it offers a reasonable 9.7-second 0-62mph acceleration time, while still returning up to 35.8mpg. It's actually faster than the heavier four-wheel-drive 174bhp version, as well as being considerably more economical.
If you expect to cover more than about 12,000 miles a year, the 2.0-litre diesel may be more suitable. Our favourite, the 148bhp version, can manage up to 43.5mpg and isn't much slower than the 178bhp model. Alternatively, there's a 1.5-litre 118bhp diesel, but it feels a little underpowered and takes a sluggish 12.7 seconds to reach 62mph from rest.
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Choose one of our preferred engines and the Kuga is a pretty enjoyable car to drive, too. Thanks in part to its mechanical similarities with the fine-handling Focus, the Kuga grips firmly, steers precisely and resists body lean in corners better than some SUVs, and this has been achieved without sacrificing ride quality. The ST-Line version is a little less smooth with its sports suspension, but makes up for this with more feel in its steering.
Like most rivals, there’s no seven-seat option, but four adults can sit comfortably with enough headroom. The boot isn’t class-leading, but it’s wide and flat, with rear seats that fold flush when not in use to provide a good load space. The dashboard is starting to look dated, however – it’s a shame the facelift didn’t update it more comprehensively.
Trim levels are Zetec, Titanium Edition, Titanium X Edition, ST-Line, ST-Line Edition and Vignale. Even the entry-level Zetec gets handy features like Ford’s ‘Quickclear’ heated windscreen, DAB radio and cruise control. Titanium Edition will suit technology fans, thanks to its SYNC 3 infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen, while the Titanium X Edition is more luxurious.
ST-Line trim looks good thanks to a blacked-out grille and sports bodykit, along with unique alloy wheels, while the Edition version adds a panoramic roof and red brake calipers. For the ultimate Kuga, you’ll need the Vignale, with unique leather trim and access to a concierge service.
The Ford Kuga finished 34th out of the 100 cars ranked in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK, although it has done better in previous years, coming 32nd and 14th place in our 2018 and 2017 surveys respectively. The Kuga also has a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, although this does date back to 2012 when the test was less stringent. Still, safety features like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and blind-spot monitoring are available, so the Kuga is safer than ever.
With attractive styling, decent practicality and an impressive safety record, the Kuga is a convincing family SUV. It can't quite match the extremely high all-round standards of some of its latest rivals – the SEAT Ateca in particular – but for the right deal it's worth considering, especially as Ford will be keen to clear remaining stock of the second-generation model before the new one arrives.