First Drive

2016 Ford Kuga ST-Line review

We try the sportiest version of Ford's freshly facelifted SUV – the Ford Kuga ST-Line

Words ByAlan Taylor-Jones

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With more and more people shifting from hatchbacks and saloons to SUVs, it’s no surprise to find that the Ford Kuga is becoming increasingly popular, even though it’s now a few years old. With brand new rivals such as the Seat Ateca trying to muscle in, it seems Ford has timed its SUV's facelift well.

There are no major mechanical changes, apart from the addition of a new 1.5-litre diesel engine that replaces the least powerful 2.0-litre unit from before. Available with front-wheel drive only, it should prove to be the most frugal model in the updated range.

Other changes are easier to spot. There’s a new grille and headlights that ape the larger Edge SUV, plus new tail-lights and a simplified interior with fewer buttons and the latest Sync 3 infotainment system. Additionally, you can now opt for luxurious Vignale or sporty ST-Line models. It’s the latter we’re looking at here, complete with the most powerful 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine.

What's the 2016 Ford Kuga ST-Line like to drive?

The Kuga has always been one of the more agile SUVs out there, but ST-Line models go one step further. They might not be any faster but they sit lower to the ground, with suspension tweaked to resist body lean and make for sharper handling.

Get to a corner and the well-weighted steering is precise, enabling you to place the nose of the Kuga easily. Grip levels are high and it stays surprisingly upright for such a tall vehicle. Ultimately, it may not be as fun to drive as a conventional car, but we suspect it will hold its own against the likes of the Seat Ateca.

In normal driving, some may find the Kuga ST-Line has a ride that’s firmer than those of its rivals, but it ultimately avoids being uncomfortable. It jostles slightly over rough roads, but good body control means it regains composure quickly. The accurate steering means you won’t be making lots of little corrections to keep it on the straight and narrow.

The engine has plenty of low-down pulling power to get the Kuga all the way to motorway speeds without fuss. It may not be quite as smooth as some rivals but it settles into a quiet cruise. The six-speed manual gearbox we tried has quite a long throw, but a six-speed automatic is optional.

What's the 2016 Ford Kuga ST-Line like inside?

ST-Line not only brings tweaks to the exterior and suspension but it also adds a sporty flavour to the interior. This includes trim-specific seats, gear knob and steering wheel along with a dark headliner.

More importantly, there’s the latest version of Ford’s touchscreen infotainment system, Sync 3. Screen size is up to 8.0in, you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, sat-nav and an improved voice recognition system. The whole set-up is easy enough to use but doesn’t look quite as slick as those from Volkswagen or Seat. We’d also prefer a rotary controller like that fitted to the Mazda CX-5.

All models get an electronic handbrake the fitment of which allows for additional oddment storage and fewer buttons on the dash. Other than that, it’s much the same as before – which is no bad thing given the reclining rear seats, reasonable rear seat space and large, easily accessibile boot.

Should I buy one?

All in all, the Kuga remains a decent choice in the SUV class if not quite as impressive as the better-rounded Seat Ateca. If you prefer the Kuga, though, we’d recommend keeping to lesser Titanium trim for its cheaper purchase price and comfier ride yet simiarly long kit list.

We'd also be tempted to save a few thousand pounds and opt for the two-wheel drive 148bhp version of the 2.0-litre diesel. Not only is it cheaper to buy but it also has lower CO2 emissions and it isn't much slower.


What Car? says...

Rated 3 out of 5


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Rivals:

Mazda CX-5

Seat Ateca


2016 Ford Kuga ST-Line 2.0 TDCi 180

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£29,545

Power 178bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-62mph 9.2sec

Top speed 126mph

Fuel economy (official combined) 54.3mpg

CO2/BIK band 135g/km/27%