Ford Kuga review

Category: Family SUV

A fine large SUV, particularly in plug-in hybrid form

Ford Kuga front cornering
  • Ford Kuga front cornering
  • Ford Kuga rear right driving
  • Ford Kuga interior dashboard
  • Ford Kuga interior back seats
  • Ford Kuga interior infotainment
  • Ford Kuga right driving
  • Ford Kuga front left driving
  • Ford Kuga left static boot open
  • Ford Kuga rear badge detail
  • Ford Kuga interior detail
  • Ford Kuga boot open
  • Ford Kuga front cornering
  • Ford Kuga rear right driving
  • Ford Kuga interior dashboard
  • Ford Kuga interior back seats
  • Ford Kuga interior infotainment
  • Ford Kuga right driving
  • Ford Kuga front left driving
  • Ford Kuga left static boot open
  • Ford Kuga rear badge detail
  • Ford Kuga interior detail
  • Ford Kuga boot open
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Introduction

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.

Overview

The Kuga is a decent large SUV in any guise, but it makes real sense if you opt for the hybrid or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models. Shortcomings include the iffy interior quality and the relatively small boot.

  • Competitively priced against rivals
  • Plug-in hybrid offers a long electric range and low company car tax
  • FHEV hybrid is cheaper than equivalent diesel, yet has similar economy
  • Interior quality doesn't impress
  • Relatively small boot
  • Infotainment system isn't the slickest
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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.

Ford Kuga image
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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.

Ford Kuga rear right driving

Handling

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 Kuga is a quieter cruiser, generating very little wind and road noise at motorway speeds. Engine noise is reasonably muted in normal driving only becoming an issue under hard acceleration," - Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor 

Interior

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.

Ford Kuga interior dashboard

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.

Quality

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 Q5BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 display far more panache inside and feel better assembled.

"The Kuga's digital instrument panel is bright and clear, but it’s limited in what it can show. You'll have to pay £1100 for a head-up display, which is part of the Driver Assistance Pack," Lawrence Cheung, New Cars Editor

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

The Ford Kuga has a relatively compact interior compared with the physically larger Kia ​​Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq – hence the three-star rating. 

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.

Rear space

Space in the back of the Kuga is generous, with more room than you’ll find in the Citroën C5 Aircross. In fact, only the expansive Honda CR-V and the Kodiaq rival it for rear space at this price.

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.

Ford Kuga interior back seats

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.

Boot space

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.

"The Kuga’s boot is a good, square shape, but it’s well behind its rivals for size. An electric tailgate is standard, but unlike some rivals, the rear seat backs don’t lie fully flat when they’re folded," - Stuart Milne, Digital Edior

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 Kuga interior infotainment

Reliability

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.

"The Kuga proved efficient in our real-world fuel economy test, achieving 48.3mpg. That's significantly better than a comparable Kia Sportage or Hyundai Tucson," Dan Jones, Reviewer

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FAQs

  • 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 Kuga is not available as an electric car but it is available with full hybrid (FHEV) or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine technology. The PHEV version can officially travel up to 39 miles on electric power alone. The hybrid model can travel for very short distances without using any fuel.

  • 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.

At a glance
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Target Price from £30,349
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RRP price range £32,095 - £42,455
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)4
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, petrol parallel phev, hybrid
MPG range across all versions 313.9 - 52.3
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £567 / £2,572
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,134 / £5,144
Available colours