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The Top Gear car review:Ford Kuga
For:Safer, more affordable, more spacious and more convenient than before
Against:Not as fun as it used to be. It's grown up and got some proper trousers...
2.0 TDCi 180 Titanium 5dr
Replaced after just four years, the Kuga is now a truly global car. Which is nice. But we’re still wondering what was wrong with the old one…
Next version of Kuga gets better kit and higher-quality materials. Ford gives the Germans a headache.
Entertaining little sleeper to bother boy racers in, but can we recommend it over the excellent diesel? Nope.
Late to the party, the Kuga still impresses with its looks and drive, if not its off-road ability. Yet another soft-roader.
What we say:
All new Kuga isn't as sharp or as fun as the original. But is is bigger, safer and, um, more sensible
What is it?
After just four years on sale, when most cars would be refreshed, Ford’s junior SUV was instead killed and replaced with this all-new version. Which is a shame, because we rather liked the old car, especially the way it looked and the way it went down the road.
For this, we can blame the Americans. Because when the time came to replace the shoddy – but popular – Escape, they took one look at the Kuga and decided that would do nicely. But new Fords must now be global, and the Kuga was very much a Euro thing, and so it was decided that an all-new one would be built. It had essentially become a victim of its own success.
Like the new multinational Focus, the Kuga has lost some of its old magic in favour of a less playful driving experience. There’s a full roster of safety stuff, from lane assist to ‘active nibble compensation’, which counteracts little tugs and pulls through the steering. The old Haldex 4x4 system has gone, replaced by Ford’s own torque vectoring system. You’ll probably notice the difference up an icy driveway, but you’d have to be driving bravely to feel it at speed.
Ford revised the Kuga’s engine range last year. Following the modern downsizing trend, the 1.6T becomes a 1.5T, gaining efficiency along the way; take it in either 150bhp or 182bhp guise (yes, that engine is destined for the Fiesta ST). The 2.0-litre diesel has also been improved, now producing up to 180bhp and gaining a big slug of torque along the way. Efficiency is up too: it can now average more than 54mpg. Take the 150bhp FWD model and it now cracks 60mpg.
On the inside
What the Kuga loses in dynamic sparkle, in gains in space and value. The boot is up to 200 litres roomier than before, depending on how you position the rear seats, which now recline to give your passengers a more relaxed posture. Up front, the dash is smarter too, if also rather fiddlier. And although it’s not strictly on the inside, there’s an optional, kick-operated tailgate – just swing a leg under the rear bumper and it springs open. Useful when you have armfuls of toddler. We’ve seen this on more upmarket things such as the Audi A6, but it’s now becoming a feature on more affordable cars.
It’s a Ford, so expect costs to be reasonable. It’s around a grand cheaper than the old model, spec-for-spec. But think carefully about 4WD: it is more expensive to buy, and you’ll pay more in tax and fuel. Ford says it will find 10-12,000 annual buyers here, but while it’s better than before, we’d still look at the excellent Mazda CX-5 before joining them. There’s also a facelifted Kuga coming soon (which means there will be deals to be had), so we’d think twice before buying one right now.