There are four engines on offer in the Kuga, and the option of two- or four-wheel drive. The 2.0-litre diesel comes in 138- and 161bhp outputs, with latter only available as four-wheel drive. We haven’t tried the lower-powered version yet, but the 161bhp engine is smooth and responsive. The 1.6-turbocharged Ecoboost petrol engine is also available in two outputs, and is free-revving and economical in entry-level form. The stronger of the two is only available with a poor automatic gearbox.
The Kuga soaks up bigger bumps and imperfections well at higher speeds, though it does become a bit fidgety and harsh around town. The steering is responsive and nicely weighted, whilst body roll is noticeable but well restrained in normal driving. Overall, it’s not the sharpest handling car in the class, but it’s relaxing and confidence-inspiring nonetheless.
The 2.0-litre diesel engines are impressively settled at low revs. True, the noise picks up when you put your foot down, but it never becomes overly intrusive. The petrol engine is even quieter and more settled at idle and at low speeds, but makes its presence very known when you accelerate hard. More noticeable is the wind noise that comes off the side of the car.
The Kuga sits in the middle of its class for purchase price – cheaper than the likes of the VW Tiguan, but pricier than the closest Mazda CX-5. The 2WD models are the cheapest to buy and run, but none of the versions are anything better than average for the class. It holds its value well for a Ford, but there are still rivals that offer better economy and residuals.
Interior finish differs dramatically depending on trim. Titanium and Titanium X models get a Sony system that dominates the cabin with piano black fascia, five-inch colour infotainment screen and an explosion of fiddly small buttons to control it. Base Zetec models get a slightly more drab finish and cheaper-feeling materials. The Kuga was given an average reliability rating in the 2012 JD Power survey.
Some Kugas offer the reassurance of four-wheel drive, but all have a stability control system that helps to keep you on the road if conditions are tricky. There are seven airbags, and Ford offers an Emergency Assistance system that alerts the emergency services in case of a crash. A sophisticated alarm is fitted as well as the mandatory immobiliser.
The Kuga’s wheel, supportive, low-set seat and spacious forward cabin offer a wide scope of adjustment that allows drivers of all sizes to get comfortable and there’s good visibility in every direction apart from to the rear three-quarters. The main dash switchgear is not intuitive regardless of whether it’s the upgraded unit or not.
The front and rear passengers are well catered for, with a generous amount of legroom. Headroom is also impressive, although the optional sunroof does eat into it slightly. An added bonus is that the rear seats can be reclined with a simple lever. This same lever drops the seats in one easy movement to a slightly inclined boot floor, but it’s a shame the boot is not bigger. At just 456 litres, it’s smaller than many rival offerings with the seats up.
There are three versions of the Kuga to choose from. Zetec comes with air-con, hill-start assist, four electric windows and cruise control. The Titanium model is expected to be the best-seller, and comes with upgraded infotainment system, part-leather seats and auto lights and wipers, though it’s a shame that rear parking sensors aren’t standard. Titanium+ adds a panoramic roof, powered front seats and LED lights all round.
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