Handling, choice of powertrains, space, easy-to-use tech
Bland looking outside, blander and dowdy inside, diesel could be more refined
What is it?
The third Ford Kuga – and, inevitably, the first to be offered as a hybrid. Lots of hybrids, in fact. You can have a ‘full’ hybrid (FHEV) that juggles petrol and electric power like a Prius, a petrol plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that can run for up to 31 miles of electric power alone, or mild-hybrid (MHEV) petrol or diesel with a tiny bit of electric boost.
Or if none of those appeal, you can simply have plain petrol or diesel power. This big crossover SUV is unlikely to not offer a powertrain that fits your needs.
BIG, YOU SAY? JUST HOW BIG ARE WE TALKING?
Quite a lot bigger than the old Kuga, which Ford says adds up to the most occupant space in the class. We’re inclined to agree – the Kuga feels half a size bigger inside than something like a Nissan Qashqai or Kia Sportage. Which is great, until you come to park it, of course.
There again, Ford reckons the Kuga can tech its way out of a problem, with a fleet of sensors and driver aids, including self-parking for parallel and end-on spaces. Nothing new for the class – or for Ford – but if you’re upgrading from the old Kuga, the Mk3’s going to seem a heck of a lot more advanced.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
Beyond the fleet of bang-up-to-date engines and growth spurt, the headlines continue with the promise of a 90kg weight saving versus the old Kuga, in an effort to save fuel and maintain the Kuga’s uncanny reputation for being about 53 times more fun to drive than it actually needs to be. Just like the truly top-of-the-class modern Fords – the little Fiesta, and its taller Puma cousin – the Kuga handles with responses it really has no right to. You could almost call it fun. Even the hybrid.
Most of the time, it’s just a very sensible family car, that does nothing a Focus Estate wouldn’t manage, but does it with more ride height, more headroom, and more look-at-me-in-my-SUV zeitgeisty panache. Which is what folks want, from their Renault Capturs right up to their Rolls-Royce Cullinans. And even their Fords – there’s a pseudo-lux Kuga Vignale atop the range, though most UK buyers plump for sportish ST-line trim.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Kuga is extremely rounded – notwithstanding its rather blobby styling. It’s well-equipped, much more grown-up inside, but retains some verve to how it goes down the road. However, its engines have caught up to and in many cases overtaken the range of powertrains offered elsewhere in the class – it feels like a very futureproofed bit of kit.
You can envisage Ford killing off one or two of the powertrains as time goes by and sticking with where the mass-market goes, whether that be with diesel, mild or plug-in hybrids. Ford’s sold a million Kugas since 2008 and it’s the Blue Oval’s third-biggest seller in Europe, but this is the first time it’s really felt like it’s a class challenger rather than another competitor.