When the first Kuga was launched in 2008 it was something of a revelation for Ford. Here was a family SUV with sharp looks and even sharper handling; only it’s limited model range and high price stopped it from taking the sector by storm. But while the limited engine range remains, the firm hopes the latest model’s blend of excellent dynamics, sharp looks and strong performance combined with lower running costs and more space for growing families will be enough to eclipse the competition. We reviewed the £25,545 Kuga 2.0TDCi 163 PS AWD Titanium on and off-road to see if it lives up to this new promise.
There was little wrong with the old Kuga, the five-year old design still managing to look sharp and fresh amongst the very latest competitors. So it’s no surprise that this MK2 model hasn’t changed much, so much so you could be forgiven for mixing up old and new. The front end is now crowned with the current family face while the tailgate features sharper wraparound rear lights. Compared to the play-it-safe Nissan Qashqai and the distinctive, but opinion-splitting, Skoda Yeti there’s no doubt in our minds that the new Ford offers the most style in the sector.
The new Kuga has more room, both for passengers and luggage. The boot space is now rated at 438 litres (28-litres more than before) though the adjustable seat back and boot floor means this can be stretched to 481-litres. The Kuga is longer (by 81mm), narrower (by 4mm) and lower (by 8mm) than before, but the wheelbase remains the same as its predecessor at 2,690mm. Even so there’s still plenty of passenger space, and adults can comfortably sit in the rear – making the Kuga perfect for those with growing families.
Performance & handling
The Ford Kuga was previously the sharpest drive in the sector, and that hasn’t changed – at least not for the worst. In fact the new Kuga boasts even better road manners than before, learning some of its tricks from the current Focus. Refinement is high, regardless of engine choice, and though there’s some expected bodyroll through tighter corners there’s plenty of grip, direct and feelsome steering and a firm but comfortable ride.
Choose the 2.0-litre diesel engine and the Ford Kuga will sprint from 0-60mph in 9.9 seconds, thanks to its 161bhp and 340Nm.
Ford is more concerned with ease of use and refinement for this model and the Kuga scores highly in both areas. And for those brave, or mad, enough to use the car off-road the good news is this Ford is even more competent than before. There’s no hill-descent control or low-range gearbox, but ground clearance is good and there’s a new four-wheel drive system. Certainly on the, admittedly relatively tame, off-road section of our test route there was never any worry about getting stuck, even on normal road tyres.
Economy & environment
There’s no special economy version of the new Kuga, at least not yet, but nevertheless all versions have a bent towards saving the planet. The sole petrol is a 148bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost which emits 154g/km and returns 42.8mpg – though it’s worth remembering it’s front wheel drive only.
A pair of 2.0-litre diesels produce 138 and 161bhp each, and are available with both four and front wheel drive chassis – the most economical figure being the 53.3mpg and 139g/km 138bhp FWD model. At the other end of the scale is the four wheel drive automatic 161bhp model emitting 162g/km and returning 45.6mpg – the same as the 138bhp 4WD auto so there’s no penalty for the extra power.
Equipment & value
The new Kuga has more technology than any other Ford sold in Europe, and it shows the instant you step inside the cabin. Many of the gadgets are optional but if you tick enough boxes you can enjoy adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, active city stop, lane departure warning, blind spot information system, rear view camera, active park assist, SYNC, auto high beam and driver alert. It even has a hands free tailgate – if your hands are full of bags, babies or other luggage, then kicking your foot under the rear bumper opens the tailgate allowing you to put it all inside, without having to put your stuff down first.
The new Ford Kuga’s yet another family SUV with a five-star EuroNCAP test rating, but it also deserves special mention for its 100 per cent result in the safety assist category – in contrast the Skoda Yeti only achieved 71percent. Likewise it’d be remiss to forget about the active city stop, a system that prevents drivers having low-speed impacts when not paying attention to traffic up-front.
The Ford Kuga has always been something of a niche player in the family SUV market, its high price and limited range regularly holding it back in the face of the competition. But it looks like this latest model might have the ability to change all that. Don’t get us wrong; there are cheaper SUVs available, and the range remains slightly limited. But while some others are more economical, better off-road or even better-equipped the new Kuga expertly straddles a line somewhere down the middle. Add to that a chassis almost as dynamically engaging as the Focus it’s based on, and for fun-factor alone the new Ford Kuga scores very highly indeed.
Model tested: Ford Kuga 2.0TDCi Titanium
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Acceleration: 0-62 in 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 123mph
Emissions: 154g/km CO2