Car review: Go green and stylish with new Ford Kuga

THE new Ford Kuga is a medium-to-large SUV that majors on practicality, driving experience and value, writes Steve Berry.

An ideal family-lugger that looks pretty smart too, it comes in five trim-levels and offers a range of engines including petrol, diesel, mild hybrid and plug-in-hybrid (PHEV).

Most Kugas will be front-wheel-drive only but the most powerful diesel also offers all-wheel-drive.

I’ve been driving the next-to-entry-level Titanium model equipped with a 120PS, 1.5 TDCI diesel engine, and a six-speed manual gearbox that comes in at £28,760 on-the-road. Add another £600 for the metallic Chrome Blue paintwork.

The entry-level Zetec model can be had for just £26,440 OTR and is equipped with a 150PS EcoBoost petrol unit and six-speed gearbox.

A maxed-out Kuga would be the Vignale PHEV with a 225PS petrol/electric power unit, a CVT gearbox and all the toys you could possibly wish for – except all-wheel-drive, which in only available in the oil-burner. It would set you back just shy of £39,000.

This Mk.3 Kuga is, unsurprisingly, a vast improvement on the old model when it comes to kerb appeal.

The rounded front end with the familiar Ford grille and headlights that slip sleekly back into the bonnet is much more reminiscent of a sporty family hatchback than the rather stunted and dull front end of the previous model.

It’s the same story at the back too where the new Kuga now looks bang up-to-date with LED rear lights and that wide-stencilled lettering across the middle of the hatch.

If you want your Kuga to look even sportier then you could go for the ST-Line or ST-Line X model which start at £30,140 and £31,565 respectively and include a larger rear spoiler, red painted brake calipers and an ST-Line body-styling kit along with sportier suspension.

If you’re familiar with any modern Ford cockpit, then you won’t find any surprises up-front in the new Kuga. Everything is well laid out and easy to reach with plenty of adjustment in both seat and steering wheel.

I found the seat to feel quite high, even on its lowest setting, but this wasn’t a problem for me, although taller drivers may feel it a little strange. Visibility is good but you may be thankful for the rear-facing camera when manoeuvring; the rear pillars are on the thick side.

The 8in touchscreen is ideally placed, high in the central dash, with sensible controls when it comes to volume and temperature control, courtesy of physical dials.

The contrasting stitching in the black upholstery looks great and you’ll find soft-feel surfaces on the dash-front and the door tops.

There are some lower-grade plastics scattered around the lower areas of the cabin but generally you’ll find the interior of the Kuga feels airy, smart and modern.

There will be no complaints from the rear passengers either as there is loads of leg room with the sliding rear seats pushed all the way back. Headroom is good and two kids would be perfectly happy on even the longest journey.

Boot space is better than most rivals at 645 litres, although if you opt for the hybrid Kuga that drops to 581 litres. The boot opening is wide though and the 60/40-split rear seats fold down flat, making shoving larger objects in easy.

Titanium trim includes a Bang and Olufsen sound system with 10 speakers and a sub-woofer which does sound very good indeed and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard across the range.

In fact, there are many features worth mentioning that are standard, such as the Quickclear heated windscreen, Keyless Start/Stop, rear sliding seats that can increase the already large boot capacity, Sat Nav, Wireless Charging Pad, Cruise Control, Selectable Drive Modes, Pre-Collision Assist, Lane-Keeping Aid, Front and Rear Parking Sensors.

My Titanium model scores over the entry-level Zetec with 18in alloys, LED Reflector Headlights with Auto dipped-beam, hands-free Power Tailgate, LED front fog lights, Automatic Wipers and interior Ambient Lighting.

The driving experience has always been Ford’s strong point and the new Kuga doesn’t disappoint with a sharpness to its driving dynamics that can be lacking in its rivals.

Body-roll is well controlled and pot-holes are taken easily without too much harshness.

The ST-Line models have a stiffer suspension that many not suit everyone but I found the Kuga Titanium to be an excellent all-rounder.

The 120PS diesel unit sounds a little gruff under load but performs adequately although I found it wasn’t as forgiving as some diesel units if you were lazy with the gear selection. I would prefer the 150PS EcoBoost petrol unit to add a little more refinement and eek the most enjoyment out of the 6-speed manual gearbox.

I covered mostly A-roads and dual-carriageway during my week with the Kuga and it performed very well, never leaving me wishing for more power. Noise levels were decent too, although I suspect the petrol and hybrid models would be more so.

The new Ford Kuga is a must-try option when it comes to larger family SUVs. It’s so well-equipped, even in base Zetec guise, it can seem like a real bargain.

Spacious and practical with proven EcoBoost and EcoBlue engines (including a mild-hybrid diesel) the Kuga is also available as a Plug-in Hybrid that can provide around 35 miles on electric power only.

RATING: *****

AT A GLANCE: KUGA 1.5TDCI (EcoBlue) TITANIUM 5DR 120PS FWD 6SP
OTR Price: £28,760
Engine: 1.5 Turbo Diesel
Power: 120PS
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
0-62mph: 11.7 secs
Top Speed: 112 mph
Combined economy: 58.2 mpg
C02: 124 g/km

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