Ford Kuga (2020-2021) Expert Review
Ford Kuga (2020-2021) Expert Review
The third-generation Ford Kuga is bang up to date with its choice of fuel-saving hybrid technologies. As well as plug-in and mild hybrid models, there's a full hybrid on the way. If hybrid power isn't for you, there are conventional petrol and diesel engines to power this capable and practical family SUV. It's a strong rival for the likes of the Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, and Skoda Kodiaq.
- Five-door SUV
Ford has hit a rich vein of form with its SUVs. The Puma has the measure of most rivals, and the latest Kuga has many of the same qualities; it drives well, it's affordable to buy and run, and it's practical.
Inside, the Kuga offers the space and practicality a family of four or five will need. The lofty driving position gives a good view out although the thick front pillars can get in the way slightly at junctions. There's plenty of head and legroom for a tall driver, and enough adjustment to the seat and steering wheel for those of smaller stature to be comfortable too. All models have lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat, including the entry-level Zetec.
Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system is fitted to every trim level. The 8.0-inch touchscreen is mounted high so the driver doesn't have to look far from the road. It's compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
However, it's a shame the dash isn't better finished. Plusher plastics would help the Kuga steal a few more customers from prestige SUVs. It's not badly put together, just a little too hard and shiny in places.
In the back, there's room for adults to be comfortable so long as the seats are all the way back on their runners. With the seats slid forwards legroom is tighter, but the boot capacity does improve.
Most models have a 475-litre boot with the seats all the way back, dropping to 411 litres for the PHEV plug-in hybrid. That's competitive rather than class leading – a Skoda Karoq has 521 to 588 litres for bags, a Mazda CX-5 has 506 litres of boot space.
The star turn is the plug-in hybrid model, the first time the Ford Kuga has been offered with petrol-electric power. With a combined output of 222bhp from the petrol engine and the electric motor, the Kuga PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) can accelerate briskly but will still achieve better than 200mpg, according to the official figures.
There are also conventional petrol and diesel versions. Petrol models are powered by a 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine with 118bhp or 148bhp, depending on the state of tune. The entry-level 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine has 118bhp, rising to 148bhp for 2.0-litre EcoBlue mild hybrid. The range-topping engine is a 187bhp 2.0-litre EcoBlue. All the diesels promise fuel-sipping mpg.
If you prefer to give your clutch leg a rest, the 118bhp diesel is available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as well as a six-speed manual. The 187bhp diesel is only available with the auto 'box, while the PHEV uses a CVT auto transmission.
Despite being an SUV, almost all Kuga models are front-wheel drive for the sake of lower emissions and better fuel economy. The exception is the 187bhp diesel, which has the 4WD to go with the SUV looks.
As you would expect of a new design, the third-gen Kuga's safety standards are excellent. The Ford has a five-star rating from the crash test experts at Euro NCAP. An autonomous emergency braking system is standard across the board.
Three Things To Know
- The PHEV has a range of up to 35 miles running on electricity alone. It can be recharged in six hours from a conventional 230-volt socket. An Elvi wall box, which Ford offers as an extra, drops the recharge time to 3.5 hours. The battery is also topped up with energy reclaimed under braking, or the driver can use the petrol engine as a generator. The Kuga PHEV has an impressive top speed of 85mph using battery power, so even short motorway journeys can be completed without using any petrol.
- Ford has equipped the Kuga with a wide range of safety systems and driver aids. All models come with Pre-Collision Assist with Autonomous Emergency Braking and a Lane Keeping Aid with Lane-Departure Warning, which has contributed to the Kuga's five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Upgrade from Zetec to Titanium for automatic LED headlights. The Driver Assistance Pack is available on the Titanium, ST-Line, and ST-Line X, and Vignale trims, and adds Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Sign Recognition, a Blind Spot Information system, and front and rear cameras.
- The Ford Pass app allows you to connect to the Kuga remotely using a smartphone. It's available for both Apple and Android phone users. Functions include locking and unlocking the car, checking the fuel level, and setting a time for the heating to switch on, so the cabin is at a comfortable temperature by the time you need to drive it. Some features, such as live traffic and hazard information, are available on a 12-month free trial, but are then require a subscription.
Which One to Buy
- If you need to tow a caravan or trailer: Choose the 187bhp 2.0-litre EcoBlue AWD. With the exception of the PHEV, it's the heaviest version of the Kuga, with a kerb weight of 1,735kg (as a rule, the heavier a car is the more stable it is while towing). It's also the only Kuga with four-wheel drive, and it has the highest legal towing limit at 2,100kg.
- If you mostly drive around town: The entry-level 118bhp 1.5-litre petrol is all you really need. It may not have a lot of top-end punch but it's a willing engine and can easily handle the ebb and flow of urban traffic. The fact that it's the cheapest version of the Kuga is a bonus.
- If you want to cover long distances: Go for the 148bhp mild hybrid diesel. The EcoBlue mHEV has the best fuel economy figures of any diesel Kuga, but still has the performance to handle motorway journeys. There's really no need to pay the extra for the range-topping 187bhp diesel unless you need four-wheel drive or intend to tow regularly.
- If you want the cleanest and greenest Kuga: Pick the PHEV. Going by the official figures the PHEV is by far the most fuel-efficient version of the Kuga. You could even beat the official figures if you have a very short commute and can recharge the batteries regularly. Exhaust emission-free daily driving is a real possibility for the right owner.
For a company car driver looking for the lowest benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, the PHEV has to be first choice. With a maximum electric range of 35 miles and an official CO2 figure of 32g/km, it sits in the 10% tax band. Even allowing for the relatively high of the PHEV compared with most other models in the Kuga range, company drivers will be quids in. A PHEV driver's tax bill will be around a third of what you'd pay running the 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol, and just over a quarter of the BIK bill for the 187bhp diesel.
In other words, anyone seeing the Kuga on their company car list would be crazy to pick anything other than the plug-in hybrid.
For private buyers the choice is less clear cut, not least because the PHEV is quite pricey, costing more than all but the 187bhp diesel.
However, for the right user it will be cheap to run. Anyone with a relatively low daily mileage and somewhere to charge the car at home or at work will be able to go long periods without needing to use any petrol. The official combined fuel economy figure is 201.8mpg. That compares very well with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV's 139.7mpg.
Long motorway drives don't play to the plug-in hybrids strengths. High-mileage drivers will almost certainly use less fuel if they choose one of the diesels. The 187bhp 2.0 EcoBlue comes with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, but still returns 46.3-47.9mpg on the combined cycle.
If you can live without 4x4 ability and don't mind changing gear for yourself, the 148bhp 2.0 EcoBlue mild hybrid will be more fuel efficient, with an official combined figure of 54.3-56.5mpg.
The 118bhp 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel will be slower but posts similar economy, with a combined figure of 54.3-55.4mpg. That's for a car with a manual gearbox, versions with an automatic gearbox are a little thirstier. The 118bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol achieves 41.5-42.2mpg in Zetec spec. More highly specified cars with larger alloys use a little more fuel.
Although it's the thirstiest version, the entry-level petrol will be the cheapest to insure, sitting in group 10 of 50. That's two groups lower than the equivalent VW Tiguan. The higher powered EcoBoost petrol is in group 14 to 19, depending on the trim level.
Insurance groups for the diesels start from group 14, rising to group 21 for a top-spec 187bhp EcoBlue 4x4. The PHEV sits in group 19 to 21 depending on the spec.
As priced in mid-2020, every Kuga costs less than £40,000 so avoids the Vehicle Excise Duty surcharge that owners of more expensive cars have to pay after the first year on the road.
In this Ford Kuga review we're mostly concentrating on the Kuga as a new car. But if you are looking for a used Kuga, it's worth knowing that the Ford Direct and Ford Approved used schemes come with warranties lasting up to 24 months.
It's early to make any firm judgement as to the third-generation Kuga's reliability, but there are few horror stories told about the previous generation. It generally finishes midfield in owner satisfaction and reliability surveys. For a family SUV that finishes closer to the top of such polls, consider a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.
The new Kuga is a more complex car than its predecessor, with mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, and a non-plug-in hybrid on the way. Time will tell if these hi-tech cars are trouble-free or not.
Like all Ford passenger cars, the Ford comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty that can be extended at extra cost. That length of warranty is pretty much the minimum you'd expect of a new car. It's considerably shorter than the five-year, 100,000 mile warranty for a Toyota RAV4 and a seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty for a SsangYong Korando.
The CarGurus Verdict
The Ford Kuga is one of the best five-seat family SUVs. It's good to drive, roomy, and fuel-efficient.
We have one or two reservations though. It takes practice and patience to apply the PHEV's brakes smoothly, and the interior finish is a bit low-rent in places. Perhaps the styling is striking rather than really handsome. But otherwise there's a lot to enjoy.
The PHEV is the star of the range, with a generous electric-only range. Running costs will be rock-bottom for the right kind of driver, especially if you are choosing the Kuga as a company car.
But the rest of the range is also very capable. The diesels promise excellent real-world economy, and the petrols are willing. For high-mileage drivers in particular, the mild-hybrid works extremely well.
There's plenty of space inside, and the sliding rear seats add to the cabin's versatility. And like most Fords, the Kuga handles better than most rivals. Driver and passengers alike should enjoying travelling in the Kuga.