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 outgoing 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, where there’s not enough power to give it a workout.
Choose 4WD and you’ve got two engines to pick from: a 178bhp petrol or 161bhp diesel. The diesel feels strong and well-mannered, but the petrol feels a bit out of place, especially with the torqueconverter auto that kicks down if you even look at the throttle. Perhaps the lighter front-wheeldrive versions will feel sweeter, though you’ll have to make do with less power: 138bhp in the diesel, 148bhp in the petrol.
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.