Ford Kuga SUV (2012 - ) review
Read the Ford Kuga (2012 - ) car review but Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drivesThe Auto Trader expert verdict: 3.4 The Ford Kuga doesn’t entertain on the road like other Fords do, but with good comfort and refinement, it has plenty of other attributes. It’s also well-equipped and comes with some cracking diesel engines.
- A fine balance of comfort and control
- Strong, refined diesel engines
- Generous kit list
- Boot is smaller than many rivals’
- Low-spec version looks a little functional inside
- Styling will divide opinion
At a glance
Like most current Fords, the Kuga’s front end is festooned with sharp angles and interesting shapes. It’s perhaps a bit surprising, then, that the styling doesn’t really stand out a whole lot from the rest of the cars in the class, but it’s a smart-looking thing nonetheless. As you progress up the range of four trims, the outside of your car gets more and more chrome bits, maybe a bodykit, as well as different sizes and designs of alloy wheel, but there’s not a vast difference in visual impact between the range-topping cars and the bottom-end ones.
Buy a high spec Kuga (Titanium upwards), and the interior feels impressively classy thanks to the dense soft-touch materials on display. There are issues with the stereo and infotainment system, though. It lags behind rivals in terms of ergonomics, graphics and how it looks. It's a mess of buttons, whereas many rivals get much slicker touchscreen, or much simpler button-operated systems. The more lowly versions get a different stereo that looks even less swish, and it has a surprisingly big effect on the cabin ambiance. It doesn’t have much effect on ease-of-use, though, as both systems are annoyingly unintuitive. The driving position is spot on and has lots of adjustment, but rear visibility could be better.
The Kuga caters very well for passengers, with lots of head- and legroom surrounding all five seats. There’s easily enough space for tall passengers to stretch out comfortably. Luggage isn’t so well catered for, though, because the boot is fairly small by the standards of the class. The back seats fold down easily to extend the load area, but the load area you’re left with is slightly sloped. Top-of-the-range Titanium X Sport models do come with a variable boot floor, however which flattens this out.
Ride and handling
The Kuga delivers a good blend of comfort and control. The ride is smooth and stable at high speeds, and although it’s a touch more pattery at lower speeds - especially on the larger wheels that come in the higher trim levels, it’s plenty comfortable enough. The handling is crisp and controlled thanks to effective suppression of body roll and plenty of grip, while the steering feels alert and well weighted. That said, it doesn’t quite have the fun-factor that other Fords do, but that's hardly surprising, given how heavy and tall it is.
There are four engines to choose from, two petrols and two diesels. Both petrols are turbocharged 1.5-litre units that give either 148bhp or 180bhp. They perform well in other Ford models, but we haven’t yet had a chance to try them in the Kuga and petrols sre generally less well-suited to this type of car than oil burners. The diesels are 2.0-litre engines that give 148- and 178bhp. Both feel strong and smooth, but the lower-powered unit is so good that there’s little point in upgrading to the brawnier engine. Both the throttle and brake peddle are nicely weighted, but we found the clutch pedal to be surprisingly hefty and it springs back at you with really quite a lot of force. Similarly, the gearchange on the six-speed manual isn't up to Ford's usual standards, either. It's heavy and clunky to use, while also not filling you with confidence that the gear is engaged, either.
The most efficient version of the Kuga is the 148bhp diesel with front-wheel drive (it’s also available with four driven wheels). It’ll return an official average of 60.1mpg, while the 4×4 version only manages 54.3mpg, and that’s the next best performer. This is matched by the 180bhp diesel with a manual 'box, while the automatic version returns 52.3 - the same as the 148bhp 4x4 with the auto 'box. Avoid the petrols if you value economy, because neither of these will crack 46mpg - with the more powerful one struggling at 38.2mpg. Purchase prices are fair-to-middling for the class, and while residual values are so-so, they’re not bad for a Ford.
The Kuga feels very solidly assembled, which gives you confidence over how well it’ll stand the test of time. The car features lots of parts carried over from countless other Ford models, in which they’ve been tried and tested over a long period. Even more encouragingly, Ford currently sits near the top of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings.
The Kuga’s standard safety equipment includes stability control and no less than seven airbags, including one to protect the driver’s knees. That’s a big part of why the car has achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. Optional equipment includes various lane-keeping assistants and a system that applies the brakes automatically if the car senses an imminent low-speed impact.
You have four trims to choose from, Zetec, Titanium, Titanium X and Titanium X Sport. The base trim gives you plenty, including alloy wheels, four powered windows, cruise control, air-con and a stereo with digital radio, Bluetooth and voice control. However, we reckon it’s worth the upgrade to Titanium due to its swankier interior ambiance alone, and you also get climate control and automatic lights and wipers. The Titanium X is rather pricey, but comes with powered and heated leather seats and a panoramic sunroof, while Titanium X Sport adds a slightly niftier infotainment system with a 5-inch screen, rear privacy glass and a bodykit.