Having been around since 2012, the current-generation Ford Kuga feels a little dated. Sure, it’s had a facelift here and there, but the underlying body is showing its age.
The most exciting-looking Kuga at present is the ST-Line X. By treating it to a sporty body kit and gloss black bits – such as the grille, alloy wheels and rear valance – Ford has filled those wrinkles. In fact, this Kuga looks decidedly sporty.
Finished in metallic ‘Magnetic’, my test car looked stealthy, whilst maintaining enough contrast to distinguish those black design features. And thanks to body-coloured side skirts, aggressive bumpers and 19-inch alloy wheels this particular Ford Kuga has street cred.
It looks good parked outside the local shops, and you can admire its looks when you head back to it in a car park. I wouldn’t call it a ‘head-turner’, so don’t expect the local youths to be craning to catch an admiring second glance as you drive past.
At the front, you get LED daytime running lights and honeycomb lower grilles. The corners are broad and angular, giving the Ford Kuga a muscular look. The steep rake of the A-pillar can’t be hidden: this is a very tall car indeed.
At the side, both the roof rails and window surrounds are black. My test car had privacy glass as part of the Style Pack (£1,125) which added a premium look.
At the back, twin exhausts sit either side of a gloss black bumper valance with diffuser. An optional large spoiler (part of Style Pack) finishes off a sporty exterior. Black rear light surrounds are subtle yet effective.
Whilst the exterior styling on the ST-Line X hides the car’s age, sadly the interior does not. In a market where extravagant and contemporary design is rife, stepping inside the Ford Kuga is a little underwhelming.
At the centre of the cabin are the seats. They are finished in a lovely blend of leather and alcantara. Look closely and you’ll spot the rather large side bolsters. But that’s exactly the point. You have to look closely because, nice materials aside, the seats are rather plain.
Conversely to the exterior, the cabin lacks contrast. There’s a lot of black plastic and black leather, which blends together. Even the finisher is gloss black. There’s no brushed aluminium or patterned trim. And the plastics themselves are plain and, in places, cheap.
The dials are simple: analogue with a blue needle against a black background. There’s a small multifunction display in the middle. It looks a far cry from some of the brilliant TFT digital cockpits that are available nowadays.
Similarly, the SYNC3 8-inch touchscreen is nice and vibrant. But the housing is clunky and cumbersome. In fact, it’s so unnecessarily big that the screen itself feels small.
The gear knob in the Ford Kuga is mounted halfway up the dashboard. Given the height of the car, this puts it within easier reach. The downside is that it’s one of the first things you notice when you look inside. It’s in the way of all the heating controls too.
There are several engines available in the Ford Kuga: both petrol and diesel. Our test car had a 2.0-litre diesel, which is the most powerful of the lot.
‘Most powerful’ may be over-selling it actually. Offering 180PS and 400Nm, it is never going to set your pants alight. Our test car had the 6-speed PowerShift automatic gearbox. A 6-speed manual is also available.
The performance figures don’t make the most interesting read: 0-62mph in 10.0 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. That being said, the engine has plenty of torque, such that it feels reasonably nippy once you’re on the move.
Another advantage is the intelligent all-wheel drive system, which shrugs off the power with minimal effort. Under normal driving most of the power is sent to the front wheels, but the system can shunt some to the rear axle when grip is less readily available.
As a result you can at least use all 180PS, all the time. And when the road conditions are wet and miserable, there’s still no drama. That’s one of the reasons we buy SUVs, and is reassuring from behind the wheel.
The engine itself is as you would expect from a 4-cylinder diesel engine. Plenty of torque from 1,500-3,000rpm, noisy and lethargic the more you get past it. The PowerShift gearbox selects gears to best use that torque, but you can select manual mode and use steering wheel paddles should you feel you could do it better.
On the motorway, the Ford Kuga is quiet. Overtaking power is there, but overall the ST Line X deserves a bit more. There is a 210PS diesel engine available in the Ford Edge, and it’s hard not to feel this level of power would be perfect for the Kuga.
We expect, and often rightly so, that SUVs are inherently poor-handling vehicles. It’s in their design; tall, heavy cars struggle to change direction with grace.
The Ford Kuga doesn’t have any clever adaptive damping, or technical magnetic suspension. But somehow it handles alright.
Ford has clearly invested some time in the chassis, and it has paid off. Lateral control is good, and whilst body roll is present it wasn’t to the point where you worry about falling out of the window.
The suspension is well-balanced, and with big 19-inch alloy wheels it needs to be. The result is a ride that is firm enough for the ST-Line X without being too harsh to be practical. You feel lumps and bumps, but without discomfort.
Steering weight is spot on, as is the case with most Fords. There’s no real feeling to it, but that doesn’t really matter in the Ford Kuga. With only 180PS and an intelligent AWD system, the car goes where you point it, so you don’t need to feel the road through the steering wheel.
Even with a trailer or, dare I say it, caravan in tow the Ford Kuga is composed and stable. It makes a great tow vehicle, and having the assurance of all-wheel drive when pulling a trailer is great.
Whilst the power figures of the Ford Kuga are not so impressive on paper, the opposite is true of the economy figures.
Even with its all-wheel drive system, large stature and 1,716kg kerb weight the combined fuel consumption is 54.3mpg. Granted, you can drastically reduce this figure if you drive everywhere like Lewis Hamilton. But that’s true of every car.
There are several factors as to why the Ford Kuga is efficient. Firstly, the intelligent all-wheel drive system means that for a significant proportion of time it is running as front-wheel drive, which is more efficient.
The PowerShift automatic gearbox ensures you are in the best gear to make use of the torque curve, so you don’t waste any of the engine’s power.
Start/stop technology helps save fuel in traffic, however a diesel engine firing back into life can hardly be described as ‘seamless’.
CO2 emissions are 134g/km. Road tax when you purchase the vehicle is £205, and £140 in subsequent years. Most Kugas will remain under £40,000 and will therefore avoid the ‘expensive car’ surcharge. A fully-loaded Kuga Vignale may just about tip over this threshold.
As far as a utility vehicle goes, the Ford Kuga is up there with the best of them.
Thanks to its sizeable stature the cabin is spacious in terms of both head and leg room. Adults will be comfortable in the back, and the kids will have enough of their own space to avoid fighting (well, hopefully).
The boot is huge, partly down to the height of the car. With the optional dog guard as fitted to our test car, it is the perfect space for a couple of Labradors. Our Miniature Schnauzers could practicality run around back there.
The other advantage of the dog guard is the ability to load the boot up to the roof without the worry of a suitcase dropping on your passengers’ heads. This is great when you need load space and rear seats on the same journey.
Towing capacity is an impressive 2,100kg braked, and 750kg unbraked. That makes the Ford Kuga an ideal car to tow the caravan or car trailer with. A significant number of rivals do not boast such impressive towing capabilities.
The optional tow bar is a semi-automatic retractable one, so when not in use it can be hidden underneath the rear bumper. Not only is this great from a style point of view, but it means you don’t shatter your shin bone every time you load and unload the shopping.
The high driving position gives great visibility of the road ahead. All-wheel drive means you can keep going whatever you are faced with. When we get our usual 12mm of snow and the rest of the country grinds to a slow halt, the Ford Kuga will keep going.
‘ST-Line’ is the sporty model of the Ford Kuga. Despite this, it still comes generously equipped.
Active Park Assist is standard, which is automatic parallel and perpendicular parking. So if you were worried about being able to guide the Kuga into a space, you needn’t worry.
Automatic lights and wipers are a great convenience. You also get Dual-zone Electronic Automatic Temperature Control, allowing you to set different temperatures for driver and passenger.
The ST-Line ‘X’ is a little added luxury. A panoramic roof is a brilliant feature in the cabin, guaranteed to impress passengers. 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat makes finding the ideal driving position a doddle, but the lack of memory function is a nuisance.
For added convenience, the X gets keyless entry. Simply grab the door handle with the key on your person to open the car. Once inside simply hit the engine start button and you’re away.
For cold winter’s mornings, heated seats are a welcome luxury, although the alcantara finish means they never get as cold as leather seats anyway.
Optional extras can give you even more luxury or style, but the list of available options isn’t too long. In some ways that’s a good thing, because it shows that the Ford Kuga comes reasonably well equipped as standard.
But I think there’s a little more to it than that. This is one area where the Ford Kuga is showing its age. The specification is good, but the latest technologies are omitted. There is no fancy TFT instrument cluster, nor is there a wireless charging pad for your phone.
In terms of safety equipment, this is contained within the Driver’s Assistance Pack – Active City Stop, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Alert and Blind Spot Information System. Excellent value at just £550.
Value For Money
The Ford Kuga range starts at £23,225. The ST-Line X with the 180PS diesel and 6-speed PowerShift automatic starts at £35,625. Extras and all, our test car came in at £38,970.
At a price of almost £40,000 there is a lot of choice, which opens the Kuga up to comparison and criticism.
At that level, the cheap interior plastics are harder to forgive. And there are bigger, more powerful engines than the 180PS offering in the Ford Kuga.
There is no denying that the ST Line X looks great on the outside, and the family will have no complaints should you buy one. So in that sense it is a good value family car.
The standard specification is good, and the options list is reasonably priced. This means that you could happily live with the car as it comes. Should you want to add extra creature comforts, you can pick and choose without spending silly money.
For example, a heated steering wheel is £125. The Family Pack, which comprises a 3-pin plug socket in the back and power child locks, is £150. The retractable tow bar is £625 and a rear-view camera, should you want one, is £300.
The options list is also missing the latest technology: Virtual cockpit, wireless charging pad, upgraded stereo. Further proof that the Ford Kuga is due a refresh.
Ford are often running promotions, so it’s worth contacting your local dealer if you’re thinking of buying one.
The other consideration is value retention. It is likely that the value of a Ford Kuga in 3 years’ time will fall significantly short of the £39,000 new cost. Great if you’re looking on the used market, not so great for those who bought new.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel|
|Drivetrain||6-speed PowerShift automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||60 litres|
|Fuel consumption||54.3mpg, combined cycle|
|Towing capacity||2,100kg braked / 750kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||406 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£38,970|