The Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid is good to drive, it can deliver up to 35 miles of electric range, and it’s good value compared to many SUV PHEV rivals.
Ford has been relatively slow to bring electric and plug-in hybrid models to market compared to some other brands but you can now buy a Ford Kuga PHEV – so should this be on your shortlist?
The Ford Kuga PHEV has a 2.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor powered by a battery, which can be charged by plugging it in.
It looks like a sporty SUV, which is what car buyers seem to want, and it’s got a decent amount of space inside, with up to 1,530 litres for luggage, so it’s practical.
The interior design will be familiar to anyone who has driven a Ford over recent years.
The headline is that the Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid is good to drive. It feels lighter and more agile than some rivals, which is strange, because it weighs a quite hefty 1,844kg.
As with most plug-in hybrids, it’s best driven around town on electric power, when you can benefit from smooth, instant torque and good refinement (and the slightly over-assisted steering helps here). However the Kuga PHEV also has a comfortable ride and decent handling, so it’s happy on the motorway and on country roads.
The car is front-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive as you might expect from an SUV, so you’re likely to experience more wheel spin from the front wheels in the wet than you would with an all-wheel drive model.
The Kuga PHEV has a CVT transmission; it’s perfectly fine in normal use, but things can become a bit revvy if you need to make quick progress.
There’s no traditional gear selector – instead there’s a rotary dial with P, R, N and D. There’s a button in the middle where most manufacturers put ‘Park’. However Ford has instead decided to put ‘L’ here – pressing this button increases the amount of brake regeneration. There’s no ability to change gear – perhaps not surprisingly because it’s a CVT.
There are a range of EV modes accessed by a button on the dashboard: Auto EV, EV Now, EV Later, EV charge. There’s a very small symbol in the main instrument cluster to tell you what EV mode you’re in, but it’s very small and not very clear.
There are also a number of drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Deep Snow/Sand. If you’re in Sport, you can’t access EV mode.
The infomedia features reasonably clear satnav mapping, but there seems to be no obvious way to access the main touchscreen controls when in Car Play. However there are separate ‘traditional’ buttons for the climate controls, and radio, which is good.
There’s a head-up display however the information isn’t as clear as on some rivals, and there seems to be no easy way to adjust its position.
One of the first things we had to do with the Kuga PHEV after delivery was to drive up a motorway in a massive rain storm. When changing lanes to avoid massive pools of water on the road, the Lane Departure Warning system was wrestling the steering wheel out of our hands and re-directing the car into flooded areas of the road surface, which is obviously not very safe. Eventually the button was found at the end of the left-hand steering wheel stalk to switch off the LDW system, when the car became massively better to live with. Virtually all new cars have Lane Departure Warning systems, so this isn’t just a Ford issue, but this is an example of how such systems can be unsafe.
The Ford Kuga PHEV’s official combined WLTP fuel economy is 201.8 mpg. Did we get that in real life? No. Will you ever get that in real life? Unlikely. What you will get in real life obviously depends on how much time you spend on electric power compared to how much time you spend on petrol power. Overall after a week of mixed driving (comprised of all week on electric power and one motorway journey on petrol power) we averaged 60.6mpg – which is very good. However a key figure for us is what economy a PHEV manages at 70mph on the motorway, when the Kuga achieved 43mpg, which again is good. A factor here is likely to be the 2.5-litre petrol engine – plug-in hybrids with larger petrol engines are more economical during motorway driving than PHEVs with smaller engines.
Another key figure is the electric range of a PHEV – the Kuga has an official electric range of 35 miles, and it typically managed 34 miles in the real-world, with a total range of 500 miles on petrol and electric.
Ford quotes charging times for the Kuga PHEV as 3 hours 30 minutes from a wallbox and 6 hours from a domestic socket.
The Ford Kuga 2.5 ST Line Edition PHEV CVT Auto FWD costs £36,555. Our test car had the options of driver’s assistance pack (£1,100), Lucid Red paint (£850), technology pack (£550), and mini spare wheel (£100), taking the total price of our test car to £39,155.
The Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid is available in ST-Line Edition, ST-Line X Edition and Vignale trims.
The Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid joins an increasingly wide range of plug-in hybrid SUVs and it offers a more sporty driving experience than some, as well as sporty looks. Our test showed that it came close to its official 35 miles of electric range in the real-world, and averaging 60 miles per gallon over a week is an improvement on the 30-40mpg that a petrol SUV of this size is likely to achieve, even if it’s (predictably) short of the official 201.8 mpg figure. The Kuga PHEV is more affordable than some rivals, but it’s only front-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive. The Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.