The new Ford Kuga offers family-friendly levels of space with the reassurance of four-wheel drive grip; taking the driving experience and economy into account, is it a good overall package?
This is the second-generation Ford Kuga, and one of the key differences compared to the previous model is an increase in boot space and therefore length. So does the new Kuga deserve your consideration?
Design & Engineering
The previous Ford Kuga model looked chunky but it didn’t have enough boot space, so the new model is longer and appears more sleek – although the boot is now larger, it’s still not the largest in class.
On the inside, it’s a familiar Ford interior, with lots of curved features on the dashboard. Overall this is a good thing, although in models near the top of the range in this class of SUV you come to expect a large screen with satnav – but not in this car. The dash also has a number of fiddly buttons.
The test car colour was ‘Ginger Ale’. Colours are a subjective thing, but we actually liked the military feel of it.
Under the skin of the Kuga there are tried and tested Ford mechanicals, in the case of our test car, the 163PS 2.0-litre diesel engine with Powershift automatic transmission, mated to all-wheel drive.
Ford Kuga Driving Experience
Overall the Kuga offers the sort of driving experience that people want from an SUV, including the high driving position, the chunky looks and feel, the space, and the generally comfortable ride resulting from the suspension’s ability to deal with most challenges that UK roads can conjure up. It even has decent handling and reasonably responsive steering.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Kuga was fitted with decent mud and snow-type tyres, and this meant that the car even performed well off-road – something that isn’t always guaranteed with family-friendly SUVs.
One thing that we didn’t rate particularly highly was the Powershift automatic transmission. There are many excellent automatic transmissions around today that are virtually always in the right gear at the right time, and shift almost imperceptibly. In comparison the Kuga’s transmission always seemed to be hunting around for the right gear, it was often slow to change – and you could feel the changes when they happened. The initial response when, for instance, pulling out of junctions, could be slow. This was the case with both ‘D’ and ‘S’ modes on the transmission, although ‘S’ was more responsive overall. You can also change gear manually, but this is done by two small buttons on the side of the gear shifter, which is an unusual system, and one that doesn’t work particularly well.
The engine performs reasonably well overall but at times could be on the noisy side, and the Kuga isn’t immune to the tendency of most tall 4x4s to exhibit a degree of body roll in corners.
Ford Kuga Economy and Emissions
The starting point for the Kuga’s economy – the official combined figure of 45.6mpg, together with 162g/km CO2 emissions – isn’t class-leading. Some cars that don’t have class-leading official economy perform well in real-life, however the Kuga didn’t do that either – our overall test economy figure of 34.5mpg is disappointing.
Some manufacturers are now bringing cars to market that have better economy figures from the automatic transmission option than the manual. This isn’t the case with the Kuga – the combined economy figure with the manual transmission is 47.9mpg. The automatic transmission only has six speeds – whereas other manufacturers have eight-speed autos, and the Range Rover Evoque is now available with a nine-speed auto – which helps with economy and emissions. We’d have to recommend the manual transmission for the Kuga both from a driving and economy point of view.
The most economical model in the Kuga range is the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre 140PS TDCI which returns 60.1mpg on the combined cycle (along with 139g/km CO2).
Price, Equipment and Model Range
The Ford Kuga Titanium 2.0 TDCI 163PS Powershift Auto AWD – yes it’s a bit of a mouthful – costs £27,045. Our test car had options of metallic paint (£545), appearance pack (£350), city pack (£400) and driver assistance pack (£900) – taking the total price of the car to £29,240.
If you went for the manual gearbox, which we would recommend, then this brings the price down to £25,550.
As well as the 163PS 2.0-litre TDCI engine, there’s also a 140PS version, along with 150PS and 180PS 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engines. The lower powered petrol and diesel engines are available with two-wheel drive.
There are three trim levels, base Zetec models, Titanium and Titanium X. Our Titanium-spec car had good levels of equipment and you can specify various items of new technology that are designed to provide greater levels of safety and convenience.
The new Ford Kuga is a likeable package overall, but one that does most things well without being outstanding in any particular area. It has decent amounts of space and a reasonably attractive interior and exterior. The overall driving experience is generally refined, and if fitted with tyres similar to our test car, it’s even capable off-road. We weren’t wild about the automatic transmission, and the real-life economy was also disappointing. If buyers who like Fords want a 4×4 then the Kuga will probably satisfy their needs perfectly well. All this translates to a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.