What Car? says...
The Ford Kuga not only belongs to the super-fashionable large SUV car class, but also has added appeal because it's available as a plug-in hybrid.
On the one hand, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the Kuga keys into the growing appetite for zero-emissions motoring, with its good electric-only range between charges. On the other, company car drivers will enjoy the financial benefits of low CO2 emissions and benefit-in-kind tax bills.
As well as a PHEV, Ford offers a range of other engines, encompassing everything from a traditional petrol to a full-hybrid petrol engine. In other words, there’s a Ford Kuga for pretty much every family occasion, be that popping to the shops or towing a caravan from one end of the country to the other.
Once you've selected an engine, you can pick from a wide range of trim levels to suit your priorities. There's the Zetec for if affordability is your priority, Titanium Edition if you want lots of equipment, ST Line Edition and ST Line X Edition for added sportiness, and Vignale for luxury.
When you consider how crowded and competitive the large SUV class has become, that comprehensive approach will certainly work in the Kuga’s favour, but its rivals come in all forms.
For starters, those after a regular petrol or diesel engine might want to consider the Kia Sportage, the Mazda CX-5 and the Peugeot 5008. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a hybrid car, there’s the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. Or, for something with a premium badge, there's the Volvo XC60.
So, how does the Ford Kuga stack up against its SUV peers, and is it the car for you? Over the next few pages, this in-depth review – which covers performance, running costs and much more – will tell you all there is to know.
When you've decided which make and model is best for your needs, it's quick and simple to potentially save thousands of pounds by using our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. It's a great place to look for the best new large SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Ford Kuga is the one for company car drivers to go for because of its low emissions and official electric-only range of up to 39 miles (31 miles in our real-world testing). Pairing a 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack, it gets you up to motorway speeds easily and can sprint from 0-60mph in a respectable 8.6sec. That's only marginally slower than PHEV versions of the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sorento.
The 2.5 FHEV (full hybrid) is a better choice if you're buying privately and is our favourite engine. It can pootle around for short distances without using the engine and can tow 1600kg.
The entry-level 1.5 Ecoboost petrol engine lets you tow 1800kg. Its 0-62mph time of 9.7sec is far from being the most sprightly option in the range, but it will easily cope with fast-flowing roads.
Suspension and ride comfort
The best ride comes with the softer suspension set-up fitted to the Kuga in Zetec, Titanium Edition or Vignale trim. Compared with the Honda CR-V and Peugeot 5008 it feels a bit bouncy over big dips and crests, but otherwise it's pretty comfortable. It takes the sting out of any nasty potholes or expansion joints around town, and stays pretty settled on motorways.
ST-Line Edition trim and ST-Line Edition X trims come with stiffer sports suspension, causing the Kuga to follow the contours of the road more closely. That leads to a busier ride at low speeds, but it’s far from intolerable, and at motorway speeds it settles down far better than the Tucson. It might not suit everyone, though, and it’s worth avoiding the optional 20in alloy wheels because they make it worse.
The steering is very quick, which makes the Kuga feel eager to turn into corners, but it has a consistent desire to self-centre. It's a gentle sensation but an unnatural one, and doesn't help to put you at ease while guiding the car through quicker turns that require a deft touch.
This is a tall car, and in PHEV form with its extra battery pack, it's quite heavy. As a result, it suffers from an obvious amount of body lean through corners, even with the sportier suspension fitted to ST-Line Edition models.
There are nimbler large SUVs out there, but as far as plug-in hybrids go, the Kuga PHEV is one of the best to drive. It hides its bulk far better than the Sorento PHEV. The FHEV is even better, and you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the regular petrol Kuga in the corners.
Noise and vibration
The Kuga manages to filter out road and engine noise quite well, with just a faint rumble at speed over coarse surfaces on versions with larger wheels. Vignale models come with an active noise-cancelling system that helps reduce this a bit. There’s very little wind or suspension noise and, overall, the Kuga is as quiet as the Peugeot 5008 and more hushed than the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5.
In pure-electric mode, the Kuga PHEV and FHEV move around stealthily, and even when their petrol engines are fired up, you won’t find them intrusive as long as you don't put your foot down hard. If you do, the noise picks up because the CVT automatic gearbox causes the engine revs to soar and stay high until you're up to your desired speed.
The Kuga's brake pedal is pretty consistent, and even the PHEV and FHEV models, with their regenerative brakes that harvest power for the battery, don't feel too grabby.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The good news for lovers of tall SUVs is that the Ford Kuga has a relatively lofty driving position, so you sit nice and high up. The driver’s seat is supportive and there’s plenty of adjustment, including for lumbar support on all trims, as well as generous levels of steering wheel height and reach movement.
If you go for Titanium Edition trim or above, you'll get a 12.3in digital instrument display instead of conventional analogue dials. With sharp graphics, it displays important driving information clearly (including battery charge on the PHEV model) and its contents can be customised to your preference. The rest of the dashboard is easy to use, with big buttons to control the climate control and other important features.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The Kuga's front pillars are quite thick compared with the ones on the Peugeot 5008 and VW Tiguan. That can restrict forward visibility in certain circumstances, such as when approaching roundabouts. The rear pillars are also rather thick, sometimes hiding obstacles when you’re reversing.
On the plus side, every Kuga comes with front and rear parking sensors as standard, and every trim except Zetec gets a rear-view camera. You can add a front-view camera to the Kuga but only if you go for the optional Driver’s Assistance Pack, which is quite pricey.
Bright LED headlights are included once you rise to Titanium Edition trim or above, and can also be upgraded to adaptive LED headlights that allow you to keep the main beams on without dazzling oncoming drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
You get an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system on all Kuga models. It’s reasonably responsive to prods, but its graphics are quite basic and some processes, such as choosing your favourite DAB radio station, are unnecessarily convoluted.
You get better touchscreens in the Kia Sportage, the Skoda Kodiaq and the VW Tiguan, all of which offer a sharper screen and faster responses to your inputs. The Mazda CX-5 provides a more user-friendly rotary controller interface instead of relying on a touchscreen, so it's less distracting to operate on the move.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring is included with all Kugas, allowing you to operate phone apps for music, sat-nav and other functions through the car's touchscreen. All versions come with built-in sat-nav, and upgrading to Titanium Edition trim gets you a B&O premium sound system with 10 speakers and 575 watts of power, which sounds pretty punchy.
You'll find more hard, shiny and unappealing plastic inside the Kuga than you will in most of its rivals. There are some soft-touch plastics, such as on the top of the dashboard and above the door armrests, but even these don't feel as dense or plush as their equivalents in a CX-5 or 5008.
The top-spec Vignale adds a layer of leather to the seats and dashboard, which lifts its look and feel, but premium-badged alternatives such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 display far more panache inside and feel better assembled.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
However, unless you’re particularly broad-shouldered, you’ll find that the wide interior gives you plenty of space up front, while the high roofline gives you a decent amount of front head room. Leg room, meanwhile, is not quite as generous as it is in rivals including the Kodiaq and the Peugeot 5008 but most passengers will be able to get comfortable.
The large cubby at the bottom of the centre console is big enough for your mobile phone and wallet, and there are two large cupholders between the front seats, along with a rubberised dish for storing change or keys. The central armrest opens to reveal a deep storage bin with a 12V socket. The front door pockets are quite narrow, though, and a 500ml bottle of drink is about as much as you can fit in there.
Two tall adults will have no problem getting comfortable in the back seats, and a third occupant between them should have enough head and leg room, although the middle seat is slightly raised.
The middle passenger will need to straddle the central floor hump, but there’s more space for feet on either side of it than in the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson. Reasonably tall rear side windows let in enough light to stop it feeling claustrophobic in the back, although the panoramic roof on ST-Line X models (optional on most other trims) eats into headroom slightly.
Seat folding and flexibility
All Kuga models have reclinable rear seats that can slide forwards and backwards, so you can prioritise boot space or passenger knee room depending on your needs. They are also heated if you opt for the Vignale or ST-Line X Edition trim, or add the optional Winter Pack.
If you need more luggage space, the rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 split by pulling levers on the walls of the boot compartment. That split matches the Kodiaq but isn’t as handy as the more versatile 40/20/40 split in the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Hyundai Tucson, the Kia Sportage and the Volvo XC60.
Once the seats are down, they lie almost flush with the boot floor, making it easy to slide long or heavy items in and out, although they don’t lie quite as flat as in the Sportage and Tucson.
The Kuga's boot is pretty average among large SUVs. We managed to fit just six carry-on cases below the load cover, which is one less than the Tucson and far fewer than a Honda CR-V or Peugeot 5008 will manage.
There is some space under the floor, which is useful in the PHEV to stow its charging cables, but if you add the mini spare wheel, that disappears and the charging cables take up some boot space.
Capacity aside, the boot has its strong points. There's no lip at the entrance to get in the way when you're lifting heavy items in and out, and the boot floor is a square shape, unhindered by wheel-arch intrusion. A hands-free electric tailgate comes with any trim level above the entry-level Zetec.
Accessibility & Motability
Usability for people with disability or their carers
Motability - Access
When it comes to providing a clear path in and out of the vehicle, the Ford Kuga gets off to a middling start. Its doors open to just 63 degrees; that’s rather narrower than the 66 degrees offered by some rivals, including the Seat Tarraco. It simply means you have a narrower angle of access to the front seats.
However the opening itself is a decent 830mm wide, and that helps to make up for things, leaving a decent amount of space to manoeuvre yourself when getting into the car. Plus a seat height of almost 660mm (in its lowest position) ensures there’s a minimal drop into the seat when you swing yourself in. Plus, with a sill height of 407mm (a little lower than that of the Tarraco), you don’t have to lift your feet high when getting in. And, when it’s time to get out, the 120mm step from the car’s floor to its sill is a relatively small obstacle to swing your legs over.
And, while the narrow door-opening angle is a disadvantage when getting in, it does at least mean that you don’t have to reach too far to pull the door closed behind you – helped further by the door handles being mounted quite far forwards.
Motability - Storage
This is definitely a Kuga forte; at 612 litres, it has plenty of boot space, helped by having a sliding rear bench as standard that allows you to prioritise boot space or rear passenger leg room as needed. The load area is also a good, rectangular shape with no intrusions.
This means it’ll easily take a wheelchair, although you’ll have to collapse it first to get it in there unless you fold the rear seats down. Doing this is no problem, though, thanks to handy levers on each side. There’s also no lip to obstruct the path of awkward items when loading the boot.
Motability - Ease of use and options
There are numerous Kuga models available to Motability users, many with an automatic gearbox. The 2.5 FHEV hybrid model is punchy and smooth and the CVT gearbox is seamless, although it does cause the engine to rev noisily if you put your foot down. Forward, neutral, reverse and park are selected through a simple rotating dial by the driver’s left knee.
The Kuga’s interior is a reasonably attractive place to sit, and Ford hasn’t skimped on standard kit, with lumbar support adjustment standard across the range. However, you’ll need to go for the pricey ST Line X or Vignale trims if you want electrically adjustable front seats.
Every model offers front and rear parking sensors, though, as well as an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen. The latter is fairly responsive to prods but not the most intuitive to use. Still, it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, enabling you to use your phone’s applications – such as Waze navigation, for example – via the touchscreen in place of Ford’s own software.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
For cash buyers, the 1.5 Ecoboost 150 petrol Ford Kuga is competitively priced against many large SUV rivals such as the Peugeot 5008 but doesn’t offer the same value for money as the Citroën C5 Aircross. Meanwhile, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model will cost you less than the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage PHEVs, but the FHEV hybrid version more than the Sportage FHEV. The Kuga is cheaper than many of those rivals on PCP finance though, so it's worth checking the latest prices on our New Car Deals pages.
Company car benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax for hybrid vehicles is based on official CO2 emissions and electric-only driving range. The Kuga PHEV is good enough on both to compete with the Tucson, making it a strong choice. Petrol Kugas will be liable for steeper company car tax bills, and will cost a little more per month than the Mazda CX-5.
Charging the PHEV’s batteries takes 3.5 hours from a 7kW home wallbox, or around six hours if you use a three-pin domestic plug. It's best to keep the battery topped up and try to do shorter journeys if you want the cheapest fuel bills, but even when the battery dies, you can expect a good level of economy. The Kuga PHEV achieved around 50mpg over our varied test routes – far better than the 36mpg the Tucson PHEV managed on the same day. The FHEV version isn’t far behind, easily achieving more than 45mpg during everyday use.
Equipment, options and extras
The Kuga's entry-level Zetec trim comes with a long list of standard kit, including a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear lever, cruise control, 17in alloy wheels, privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors and a heated windscreen. It's a good choice if you want to keep costs down.
You get a few more luxuries with Titanium Edition trim. It adds 18in alloys, the 12.3in driver display, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, part-leather seats and automatic wipers. If you want our favourite engine – the FHEV – or the PHEV version, you’ll have to step up to ST-Line Edition trim, which adds sportier styling and stiffer suspension.
ST-Line X Edition adds 19in alloys, a panoramic roof and heated front seats and steering wheel, while the top Vignale trim adds plenty more luxuries, including a head-up display and heated steering wheel. Both those trims are too pricey to recommend, though.
Ford was one of the worst performing marques in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey finishing joint 27th out of the 32 car makers featured. The hybrid Kuga did badly too, finishing 28th out of 32 large SUVs with a reliability rating of 82.7%.
You get a three-year/60,000-mile warranty included as standard, which is pretty par for the course. Indeed, it matches what you’ll get from Mazda and VW, but isn’t as generous as the seven-year/100,000-mile warranty that you’ll get from Hyundai. On top of the standard warranty, the batteries in the plug-in hybrid Kuga are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.
Safety and security
The Kuga is well provisioned with safety kit. Lane-keeping assistance comes as standard, as does automatic emergency braking (AEB), which can stop the car automatically if it senses an imminent crash. Blind-spot monitoring, traffic-sign recognition and adaptive cruise control are available as part of the pricey Driver’s Assistance Pack.
Euro NCAP awarded the Kuga five stars (out of five) for overall safety, and the model scored well for adult and child crash protection. The Tucson and Sportage also scored five stars, but it’s impossible to compare the results because the tests have become more stringent over time and all three were tested in different years.
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Not especially. In hybrid form, the Ford Kuga came a disappointing 28th out of 32 large SUVs in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. Ford did poorly too, coming 27th out of 32 manufacturers in the brands table.
The full hybrid (FHEV) version is the best choice for private buyers because it has plenty of power and its low running costs should keep your fuel bills down. You’ll need to go for the ST-Line Edition trim, but that’s not a bad thing because it’s our chosen trim.
Official safety testing organisation Euro NCAP has rated the Kuga five stars out of five for safety.
We managed to fit six carry-on suitcases into the Kuga’s boot, which has a volume of 412 litres (you can slide the rear seats forwards to add more space if needed). Loading your items should be easy because there’s no awkward lip at the entrance.
|RRP price range||£32,680 - £41,625|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||256.8 - 51.4|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£528 / £2,493|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,056 / £4,986|