First Drive

2015 Ford Kuga review

Better emissions across the board and a more powerful range-topping diesel improve the Kuga's appeal. Is it improved enough to trouble Mazda's CX-5 or Nissan's Qashqai?

Words ByVicky Parrott

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The Ford Kuga has been given a facelift for 2015, the highlights of which are improved emissions across the range.

A new 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol engine replaces the old 1.6, and is available with 148bhp and front-wheel drive, or with 179bhp, and an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard.

The mid-range 2.0-litre diesel gets 10bhp more - now 148bhp - and is available in front- or four-wheel drive, while the 178bhp 2.0 TDCi tested here is four-wheel drive only. Both diesels can be had with an optional automatic gearbox.

What’s the 2015 Ford Kuga like to drive?

This 2.0-litre diesel night now have more power and torque, but it doesn’t feel very fast in outright acceleration. Instead, it feels happiest in the gutsy mid-range, when it picks-up strongly and deals with fast traffic and high-speed overtaking with no hassle at all.

Mind you, at town speeds you’ll probably be changing down through the six-speed manual quite often to get the best out of the engine, which feels lethargic and unresponsive at lower revs.

The active four-wheel drive is hard to fault. It does a good job of keeping the Kuga from slipping a wheel, even in icy conditions, and between this excellent traction and well-weighted, progressive steering, it offers a really confidence-inspiring drive in any situation.

Ride comfort is less ideal, particularly when you get quite a bit of patter intruding into the cabin over eroded or uneven surfaces, although speed bumps and big intrusions are sponged-up easily and the Kuga makes for a relaxing motorway cruiser.

Refinement is adequate, with engine noise kept to a distant background thrum unless you’re accelerating hard.

Tyre noise is a more intrusive much of the time, although the winter tyres fitted to our car could have a lot to do with that, and there’s a bit of vibration through the steering wheel and pedals at low speeds.

What’s the 2015 Ford Kuga like inside?

Not much has changed inside the Kuga, so Zetec models get a different dash design to the rest of the range. Most Kuga buyers opt for the higher-end trims that get the gloss-black, Sony audio and dash layout that you see here.

Unfortunately it’s all a bit too button-heavy to be particularly intuitive, despite a big toggle switch that allows you to flick through the layers of menus on the high-set colour screen, so this is still one area where the Kuga falls short of rivals like the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5.

Still, the driving position is good, and there’s plenty of room for tall passenger in the front and back. It’s a shame that the boot is smaller than you’ll get in some rivals, but the squared-off load bay and easily folded rear seats will still make this practical enough for most busy families.

We’d say that the Zetec is the best-value trim, given that it gets 17in alloys, keyless start, electric windows all-round, air-con, cruise control and the key media extras including Bluetooth, digital radio and USB-input.

Titanium adds desirable luxuries like automatic lights and wipers, part-leather upholstery and climate control, while Titanium X steps up with an opening panoramic roof, powered tailgate and heated, electrically-adjustable leather seats.

X Sport tops the range, with body-kit, sat-nav, 19-inch alloys, and rear-view camera.

Should I buy one?

The Kuga is certainly a more convincing company car buy now than it was. Improved emissions mean that the whole range has dropped at least two company car tax bands – or as many as three in the case of both manual 2.0 TDCI models – so the big Ford is now comparable on this front to rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V.

However, the Kuga remains trickier to recommend to private buyers, particularly as the Mazda is usefully cheaper, and also has a bigger boot, sprightlier performance and sharper handling.

Overall, the Kuga is a well-equipped car that steers nicely and is generally comfortable and easy-going, but these updates haven’t changed the fact that it offers nothing exceptional in the class.

If you like it, and can get a good discount then it’s perfectly recommendable – particularly in cheaper 148bhp 2.0 TDCi guise - but ultimately there are better alternatives for less money.

What Car? says...

Rivals:

Honda CR-V

Mazda CX-5

Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 180

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£26,345

Power 178bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-62mph 9.2 seconds

Top speed 126mph

Fuel economy 54.3mpg

CO2 135g/km