The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
Ford is renowned for producing some of the finest-driving cars of their type, and when compared with other compact SUVs, the Kuga is no different. It does a great job of treading the fine line between comfort and engagement, especially when specified on the ST-Line chassis, maing it the perfect tool for even the bleakest Monday morning school run. No matter which Kuga you go for, you’ll be getting a robust, comfortable and very usable compact family car. Voted for by the public as the 2018 winner of Auto Trader’s New Car Award for ‘Best Car for City Driving’.
Reasons to buy
- A fine balance of comfort and control
- Strong, quiet diesel engines
- Generous kit list
At a glance
Running costs for a Ford Kuga
Purchase prices are fair-to-middling for the class, and while resale values are so-so, compared to a Volkswagen Tiguan, the Kuga is one of Ford’s most desirable models, so they’re stronger than you might imagine. That’ll also help reduce monthly payment for those buying on finance. By and large, fuel economy and CO2 emissions are pretty competitive as well, although some rivals - like the Nissan Qashqai - are considerably cleaner.
Reliability of a Ford Kuga
Although not the plushest SUV, the Kuga still 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, so they are tried and tested. If anything does go wrong, it shouldn’t be too expensive to put right. Even more encouragingly, Ford currently sits near the top of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings, and performed well ahead of the industry average in the 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study.
Safety for a Ford Kuga
The Kuga’s standard safety equipment includes stability control and seven airbags, including one to protect the driver’s knees. You don’t get autonomous emergency braking (a system that applies the brakes automatically if the car senses an imminent low-speed impact) as standard, where most rivals do, but it is an affordable option. And if you’d like to maximise safety, you can also specify a pack that includes that, plus a lane-keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, automatic high-beam headlights, a blind spot information system and active cruise control.
How comfortable is the Ford Kuga
The Kuga provides a decent amount of head- and leg-room for four, but as with almost every car in this class, if you’re demoted to the middle of the rear bench, your foot space will be compromised by a large central tunnel running down the length of the car. Although the rear bench doesn’t slide back and forth like in the Volkswagen Tiguan, you do get a reclining backrest to help ease your passengers’ neck muscles, should they fancy a bit of shut-eye. As for the boot, it’s a decent size but not as big as many newer rivals, so you might have to fiddle around a bit to get a baby buggy to fit. There is a flat floor and a flush loading lip, however, so it’s a reasonably simple task to slide larger items in and out. Although the back seats fold down smartly enough to allow you to extend the load area, you are left with a slightly sloped load floor when they are folded, which only gets steeper in the Vignale models thanks to the extra padding stuffed into their leather seats. Some versions get a powered tailgate, which will no doubt come in handy if you regularly struggle with arms full of shopping and fractious toddlers.
The cabin doesn’t have the sophistication or quality of a Volkswagen Tiguan or Peugeot 3008, but the infotainment system features rapid responses for both voice and touch commands, while the sharp graphics do help you feel like you are piloting a contemporary vehicle. What’s more, the Kuga’s driving position is absolutely spot-on, thanks to neatly arranged pedals and a vast array of seat and steering wheel adjustment. A big part of the Kuga’s appeal is its commanding SUV driving position. The view over the bonnet is a bonus, although the chunky windscreen-pillar mounted mirrors do tend to obscure traffic approaching from the right, so an extra degree of care is required when arriving at roundabouts. Equally, a small rear screen and large rear pillars tend to make reverse parking a little tricky.
The Kuga is first and foremost a family car, so we don’t expect it to be flung around with unbridled abandon. That said, if a car handles, responds and engages with the driver, then it is all the safer for it. In this respect, the Kuga is right up with the best. All models deliver a good mix of comfort and control, but the ST-Line models feel especially polished. The steering is very sharp, delivering excellent feel and there’s loads of grip and solid body control. This is a car that is light and easy to drive in town, yet flows along twisting country roads with an ease that would put many sportier cars to shame. That said, the Kuga is not the quietest of SUVs and no matter which model you choose, you’ll notice a fair bit of wind- and road noise at motorway speeds.
Features of the Ford Kuga
The base Zetec trim gives you plenty of toys, including alloy wheels, four powered windows, cruise control, remote locking, air-con and a stereo with DAB, Bluetooth and voice control. However, we reckon it’s worth the upgrade to Titanium as you get climate control, automatic lights and wipers, part-leather seats, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Titanium X adds full leather, powered and heated front seats, a powered tailgate and a panoramic roof. The ST-Line gets sportier styling and suspension settings, while the ST-Line Edition version adds some extra styling bits and the panoramic roof. Range-topping Vignale versions, meanwhile, get all sorts of swanky styling revisions inside and out, along with a premium sound system, upgraded leather trim, a rear-view camera and a self-parking function.
Power for a Ford Kuga
Currently, the vast majority of Kugas are powered by diesel engines, and in many respects, the 1.5-litre diesel engine with 120 horsepower is the pick of the range. It can be a wee bit hesitant when driving off the mark, followed by quite a pronounced mid-range power surge, but once you’ve learnt to moderate your accelerator inputs and quickly move through the sweet-shifting gearbox before the revs get too high, it becomes a strong and rewarding performer. Buyers also have a choice of a 2.0-litre diesel engine that’s available with 150- or 180 horsepower and four-wheel drive.
Finally, there’s the option of a 1.5-litre petrol engine that comes in three states of tune, including 120-, 150- and 182 horsepower versions. The most powerful version is linked to a standard six-speed automatic gearbox and a weight-inducing four-wheel-drive system, so despite its more-than-respectable-on-paper power output, it never feels like it’s about to win any traffic light sprint races. It’s not a bad engine by any means, but it does need a pretty stiff kick to get it motivated, and the automatic gearbox is also prone to slurring its lines, so it feels like the engine revs are speeding up but not much else is happening.