Review: Ford Kuga

Review: Ford Kuga
Review: Ford Kuga

To keep the Kuga fresh in the face of newer rivals, Ford’s facelifted it. Has it done enough?

The refreshed Ford Kuga has now arrived in Britain. To find out if it can still take on newer rivals such as the fiercely capable Seat Ateca, we’ve tested it in the version most relevant to Brits – the 2.0-litre diesel. Indeed, we’ve driven the fastest diesel Kuga Ford sells, the 178bhp version.

Don’t worry. Despite only coming with four-wheel drive, it’s still geared up for good economy. Ford claims 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 134g/km. That’s almost identical to that upstart Seat Ateca in 2.0 TDI 190 guise. There is a but, though. The Ford’s 10 second 0-62mph time is a full 2.5 seconds slower than the sprightly Seat.

2017 Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 180 ST-Line Powershift AWD

★★★★☆
Price: £31,795
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Power: 178bhp
Torque: 295lb/ft
Gearbox: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph 10sec
Economy 54.3mpg (combined)
CO2: 134g/km

No matter, responds Ford. We’ve given the new Kuga a sporty-look ST-Line trim option. It’s all lowered suspension, black-pack exterior, dark-finish 18-inch alloys and a full set of sports seats, steering wheel, gearknob and pedals inside. So it looks fast, even if it isn’t.

These tweaks blend in with other 2017 model year Kuga changes. You’ll notice the bold new trapezoidal grille, first seen on the bigger Ford Edge, plus new bumpers and lights, upgraded Sync3 infotainment system and autonomous emergency city braking.

These give showroom appeal, but it’s still the on-road dynamics that sell the Kuga. The Seat may be sporty through the corners too, but the Kuga still steers nicely. Steering is almost sports car direct at 2.6-turns lock-to-lock, it has decent weighting and it will let you pick out turn-in points with ease.

ST-Line models have stiffer suspension which, on four-wheel drive Kugas, is also lowered 9mm. it means far better body control and poise than you’d expect from a traditional SUV, yet canny tuning by Ford means it also rides decently. It’s a bit harsher than a regular model, but it’s not as gritty as an Ateca, even if that ultimately does grip harder.

It’s a shame the engine’s not particularly fast, because it’s a nice enough thing to use. Well, once it’s warmed up, that is: it still has some old-school clatter when cold. The test car’s six-speed dual clutch gearbox was sufficiently fuss-free to disguise its humdrum pace, unless you come to overtake something at speed and are left lagging by any number of rivals.

The interior’s also off the pace. Ford’s tried to tidy it up, but it’s had limited success here. There are too many cheap, dated plastics and it simply doesn’t bear comparison with fancy new rivals such as the Peugeot 3008. For all Ford’s bluster about the new Sync3 infotainment system, we’d still take the systems in an Ateca, Skoda Kodiaq or Kia Sportage.

Still, all told, the Kuga can still cut it, and still drives nicely enough to justify its £35,000 list price. The Ateca is a better car overall, but this mid-life facelift and ST-Line trim addition are welcome additions to what’s still an appealing car. Just be prepared to accept compromises in speed and interior style.

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