“The latest Ford Kuga is great to drive, good value and practical, so it should prove to be a very popular family SUV”
The Ford Kuga is a family SUV that’s an alternative to models such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda Karoq and Hyundai Tucson. Ford has two other SUVs, the EcoSport and the Puma, and the Kuga is larger than both of them - and costs more to buy.
If you’re looking for a medium-size SUV, there’s also the Toyota RAV4, the Peugeot 3008 and many more. Almost all the big car manufacturers offer a model like this, as they’re so popular. The Ford Kuga has its own appeal, though, which helps it to stand out.
Best family SUVs
The Kuga’s biggest strength, and the aspect that will appeal most, is the way it drives. The original Kuga was known for being the best car to drive of its type when it came out, and while this new model isn’t quite so far ahead of the competition, it’s still really enjoyable to spend time behind the wheel.
There are plenty of engines to pick from; there are two 1.5-litre petrol options, three diesels, a petrol-electric hybrid and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model with an official economy figure of over 200mpg. This version can drive for 35 miles on electricity alone, which is how it manages that incredible figure. One of the diesel engines (the 148bhp 2.0-litre model) also features mild-hybrid assistance to boost economy, though it can’t drive on battery power alone.
You’ll recognise the interior as Ford has carried over most of the parts from its other SUVs and hatchbacks. While it hasn’t got quite the same visual appeal as a Peugeot 3008 or Mazda CX-5, it’s logically laid out and the standard-fit eight-inch touchscreen controls a lot of the features. High-spec cars get a crisp 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster for the first time.
There are five trim levels to choose from, with the line-up kicking off at the Zetec model. Considering its entry-level position and low price, it’s rather well-equipped with sat nav, wireless phone charging, auto headlights and keyless start, plus a lot of standard safety kit.
Titanium adds LED lights, two-zone climate control and a premium speaker system, plus that 12.3-inch digital dial display. Then there are the sporty-looking ST-Line Edition and ST-Line X Edition pair, and the range-topping Vignale with unique styling touches and even more equipment.
A family SUV wouldn’t be much use if it wasn’t practical, but the Kuga impresses in this respect too. The rear seats slide fore and aft so you can prioritise legroom or boot space, and there are 526 litres to fill with the seats pushed forward. That compares well to the SEAT Ateca’s 510 litres and the 472 litres offered in the Renault Kadjar.
The Kuga has already gained a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, which should be reassuring. However, Ford will hope the new Kuga improves the company’s position on our Driver Power survey; it came 24th out of 30 manufacturers in 2020.
Ford Kuga SUV - MPG, running costs & CO2
The Ford Kuga has economical engines and maintenance costs should be very competitive
Ford still has faith in diesel power, despite a fall in sales. In the Kuga there are three to choose from: a 118bhp 1.5-litre, a 148bhp 2.0-litre with mild-hybrid assistance and a 187bhp version of the 2.0-litre, which goes without the mild-hybrid tech. The mild-hybrid engine returns up to 57.6mpg and is expected to be popular with higher-mileage drivers, while the smaller diesel offers up to 60.1mpg with the manual gearbox (53.3mpg with the automatic) and the 187bhp engine can manage up to 49.6mpg. It’s the only model with four-wheel drive, so that figure isn’t too bad.
The two petrol engines both return between 42 and 43mpg, so won’t be too costly to run for low-mileage drivers. The normal hybrid model can return up to 51.4mpg. Provided you keep the battery topped up and drive mostly on electric power, the 2.5-litre PHEV model could offer the best economy; Ford says up to 201.8mpg is possible, but we’d recommend taking that with a pinch of salt. On longer journeys when the petrol engine will be the main power source, you’ll likely get an MPG figure in the mid-forties.
Perhaps more relevant is its claimed 35-mile electric range, as it will allow many commuters and families to complete their daily journeys without using a drop of fuel if the battery is fully charged. The PHEV will also appeal to business drivers, as its 32g/km CO2 emissions figure means a Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate of just 10% from April 2020. That compares to a 30% BiK rate for most petrols (the normal hybrid is 29%) and 30-32% for the front-wheel-drive diesels. VED costs £150 for petrol and diesel models, while the PHEV qualifies for a £10 annual discount.
Insurance groups cover a relatively wide spread in the Kuga range but it shouldn’t be too expensive to insure.The entry-level petrol model sits in group 10, while the lower-powered diesel is in group 12. The range moves up to the most expensive PHEV model, which is in group 21.
For comparison, the Skoda Karoq starts in group 10 and the Peugeot 3008 spans groups 11-24.
Ford has the largest dealer network in the UK, with a garage in most towns, and servicing doesn’t tend to be too expensive. Your dealer will be able to advise on service plans, which will cover a couple of services for an upfront fee or monthly payments.
Like all new Ford cars, the Kuga features a three-year/ 60,000-mile warranty. That’s about average, but the Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson both have five-year warranties, and the Kia Sportage and MG HS offer an impressive seven years of cover.
Engines, drive & performance
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.
We found the steering light but it still has a lot more feel than plenty of other SUVs. The manual gearbox, standard in all but the 187bhp diesel and the plug-in hybrid, is precise and great to use.
Ford Kuga petrol engines
The two 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engines have been carried over from the old Kuga, but the entry-level 118bhp engine (only offered on Zetec models) is now almost a second quicker from 0-62mph. It still takes 11.6 seconds to hit that threshold, though, and we’d recommend going for the 148bhp version instead. It’s both more economical and quicker, hitting 0-62mph in a much more reasonable 9.7 seconds. Both these engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive.
Also carried over from the old car is a 1.5-litre diesel engine, and it’s the only engine with a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. Its 118bhp doesn’t feel quite enough to power such a big car, 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.
The diesel sweet spot is the 148bhp 2.0-litre engine, which now comes with mild-hybrid technology - improving fuel efficiency and giving the engine welcome extra grunt. It’s the most efficient diesel and its 9.6-second 0-62mph should be sufficient for the majority of buyers. Above that, there’s a 187bhp 2.0-litre engine without the mild-hybrid assistance, which reduces the acceleration time to 8.7 seconds. At present, this only comes with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox.
The Kuga is available as a normal hybrid (Ford labels it as FHEV) and as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Both use a 2.5-litre petrol engine, an electric motor and a battery. The normal hybrid uses engine power 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.
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.
Interior & comfort
Ergonomic if a little unimaginative, the Ford Kuga’s interior shares much with other Fords
The last Kuga was generally quite refined but was a little noisy on the motorway. From our drives so far, it seems that its replacement is better in this regard. The 2.0-litre diesel with mild-hybrid tech sounded a little vocal under hard acceleration but it settles down when cruising.
We found that the bases of the sports seats fitted to our Titanium-spec test car were a little flat for our liking, making them uncomfortable on longer drives. Otherwise, the Kuga features plenty of equipment to take the stress out of the daily commute; lane-keeping assistance, all-round parking sensors, cruise control and hill-start assist all come as standard.
Ford Kuga dashboard
Ford has decided to keep things simple, giving the Kuga the same interior as the Fiesta, Focus and other models. A Peugeot 3008 certainly has more design flair inside, but the Kuga’s interior is simple and intuitive, whether you’re familiar with Ford interiors or not. Besides, the cabin design is a marked improvement over the old Kuga, which was really showing its age having been around since 2012.
An eight-inch touchscreen sits on top of the dashboard, plus a 12.3-inch digital dial display on Titanium models and above. Beneath that is a panel for audio controls, the air vents and the heating controls, with a few extra buttons each side of the gearlever.
The material quality is good in the places where you’ll touch, but there are cheaper, scratchier materials lower down. It all feels well-built, though, so it should stand up to years of family life.
Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is fitted as standard and provides plenty of connectivity. It includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing your phone’s apps to be displayed on the screen, plus DAB radio and Bluetooth. Voice control is also part of the package, so you can access the screen’s functions without taking your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.
Buyers have a choice of five trim levels. Zetec is the entry point, and includes luxuries like keyless start, auto lights and wireless phone charging. It also gets sat nav, cruise control and a handy heated windscreen, but you need to step up to Titanium in order to get dual-zone climate control and auto wipers. Titanium also brings LED headlights, keyless entry, a 12.3-inch digital dial display and a premium B&O sound system, too.
ST-Line gets sporty detailing inside and out, plus sports seats and cornering LED fog lights. ST-Line X models can be distinguished by larger alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof. There’s also heated seats in the front and rear.
The top-spec Vignale model aims to look elegant rather than sporty, and has lots of equipment to offset its high price. You get metallic paint as standard, along with a different grille, leather upholstery and a full set of heated seats.
Once you’ve picked your trim, you can then select from a number of options including a Technology Pack (upgraded headlights and a head-up display - £400), a winter pack (heated front seats and a heated steering wheel - £400) or a tow bar for £625. We’d recommend spending £100 on a space-saver spare wheel instead of the standard-fit tyre repair kit.
Practicality & boot space
The Ford Kuga can compete with the class leaders on practicality
The latest Ford Kuga is bigger in most respects than its predecessor, with a little more space freed up inside. It’s still strictly a five-seater, like many of its rivals, but Ford doesn’t offer a seven-seat SUV in the UK - just the S-MAX, Galaxy and Grand Tourneo Connect MPVs. This seems like a missed opportunity, as the seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008 and Nissan X-Trail SUVs have all proven popular.
Ford Kuga interior space and storage
We expect that the Kuga will be bought by people who have outgrown the Focus or other cars of that size, and it’s usefully more spacious. Adults will have more than enough space to stretch out in the rear seats, and should be comfortable on long journeys.
The glovebox and door pockets are a good size, and there are a couple of other little cubbies and storage areas on the centre console. All cars get an electrical charging point in the back of the front armrest, which will keep your passengers’ phones or tablets powered.
The Kuga has handy sliding rear seats, so you can position them to prioritise legroom or boot space. Even when slid all the way back, most Kuga models offer 475 litres of space - 100 litres more than the Focus - and this increases to 526 litres with the seats pulled forward (measured to the parcel shelf). With the rear seats flipped down and out of the way, you’ve got up to 1,534 litres to fill. A Skoda Karoq is slightly more practical, offering 479-588 litres with the seats up and 1,605 litres with them down, but the difference is unlikely to make you rule out the Kuga.
Because of where the battery pack’s placed, the plug-in hybrid models get a slightly smaller boot. Wherever the seats are, the boot is about 50-60 litres smaller than petrol and diesel variants. Compared to some other PHEVs, that’s not a huge drop in luggage capacity.
If you plan on towing regularly, make sure you pick the right engine, as all have different maximum towing capacities. The 118bhp diesel can tow a braked trailer weighing up to 1,500kg, increasing to 1,600kg (118bhp petrol), 1,800kg (148bhp petrol), 1,900kg (148bhp diesel) and 2,100kg (187bhp diesel). Not all PHEVs can tow, but the Kuga plug-in can manage up to 1,200kg. Speccing a tow bar costs £625.
Reliability & safety
The Ford Kuga has a full five-star safety score but reliability is unknown
Ford Kuga reliability
The Ford Kuga is too new to feature in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but the previous model scored quite well; it placed 44th out of the top 100 cars ranked, and only 8.5% of buyers told us about a fault in the first year of ownership. However, Ford came a meagre 24th out of 30 brands in our manufacturer list. With the new Focus, Puma and Kuga now all on sale, we expect Ford to climb up the rankings in the next couple of years.
Independent testers Euro NCAP put the Kuga through its paces before it even went on sale, and it passed with flying colours. Receiving a five-star score, the Kuga scored 92% for adult safety, 86% for child safety, 82% for pedestrian protection and 73% for the array of safety kit on board.
Standard safety features include lane-keeping assist, hill-start assist, auto emergency braking and intelligent speed assist. A Driver Assistance pack costs £1,000 and adds kit such as blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and front and rear cameras.