The original Ford Kuga was among the first SUVs that were actually fun to drive. Its Mk2 (up to 2019) and Mk3 (from 2020) offspring continue in that vein, with the modern day Kuga more adept at negotiating heavy traffic than heavy mud. Crucially, it still has the upright driving position and semi-muscular styling that supermarket shoppers and school-run drivers crave.
While the Mk1 Kuga had the rugged looks and abilities you’d come to expect of an SUV that had to fight it out with the Volkswagen Tiguan and Nissan Qashqai, more recent models are different.
This ‘de-ruggedising’ has simply helped to broaden the Kuga’s appeal, at a time when the popularity of SUVs shows no sign of waning. The fact you get the same ‘4x4’ styling regardless of whether your Kuga sends its power to all four wheels or just the front ones (the majority of models) is also a bonus.
The big grille, chunky bumpers and slim headlights make a strong impression.
What’s it like to drive?
SUVs have a higher centre of gravity than conventional cars, and most tend to lean more when negotiating roundabouts and twisty roads. The Ford Kuga is better than most, with decent body control. In addition, its steering is geared so you don’t have to spin the steering wheel like a DJ when cornering, which also helps when parking in town.
Speaking of which, town is where the plug-in hybrid model is most at home - it can run for around 30 miles on electric power. All engines – even the 1.5 Ecoboost – are capable of keeping up with motorway traffic and none of them feel sluggish in any situation.
The Ford Kuga is better than most, with decent body control
There may be more spacious large SUVs (we’re looking at you, SEAT Ateca), and others that feature more upmarket materials throughout (well done, Volkswagen Tiguan). But the Mk2 and Mk3 Kugas are pleasant things to spend a long drive to the beach in – especially the most recent model.
Everyone gets a good view of the countryside flying past, although the angle and thickness of the front and rear pillars can make life tricky for the driver at times. There’s enough head and legroom for four to stretch out - and even a third centre rear passenger will be happy on a long-ish trip.
The dashboard majors on function rather than flair, with nearly all models getting a central touchscreen (with SYNC 3 on the latest version) and analogue dials in front of the driver.
All versions get air-con, DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control and a heated windscreen. Higher trims add dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, an upgraded sound system, panoramic glass roof, heated steering wheel and more, depending on which version you’re looking at.
The Mk2 Kuga’s dashboard isn’t exactly smothered with buttons, but it’ll take you a little time to work out what they all do. The Mk3 car did away with some of those buttons for a less cluttered look.
A large glovebox, door bins and cupholders should be able to handle all of your on-the-go oddments, while the boot on the Mk3 Kuga can hold up to 526 litres – about six standard-size suitcases – with the rear seats in use (thanks to them sliding to maximise legroom or boot space). This feature isn’t available on the Mk2 Kuga, but its boot holds a still-respectable 456 litres (or four suitcases).
Fold the rear seats flat and it’s a different beast completely. The older Kuga can take 1,653 litres versus the newer car’s 1,534 litres – there’s no need to be the world’s greatest Tetris player to make your suitcases fit here.
Running costs and reliability
There are three hybrid options for the Mk3 Ford Kuga, and it’s the PHEV (with its 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor) that’s the most economical because it can run for up to 35 miles on electric power alone.
Diesel fans opting for the 1.5 EcoBlue may be able to get close to 60mpg on average (depending on you drive), while the 1.5 EcoBoost petrol will be in the low 40s for mpg.
What cinch loves
The Kuga is perfectly suited to family life, whether that involves fetching a week’s worth of family shopping, picking up the kids from school or being used as daily commuter transport.Both the Mk2 and Mk3 Kuga have been awarded the maximum five stars from crash safety experts Euro NCAP.
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The Kuga proves that you can have your SUV cake and eat it, thanks to great driving manners. Like many modern SUVs, it’s not really designed for proper off-roading, even in four-wheel-drive guise, but is more than capable of taking the family and their luggage on holiday in complete comfort.
This review was