What is it?
Our first steer in the all-new Ford Kuga on UK roads. The new Kuga has grown bigger for its second-generation, adding increased practicality, quality, equipment levels and refinement in the process, according to the Blue Oval.
The increase in size is also due to it now being twinned with the US-market Ford Escape, a place where bigger nearly always mean better for buyers. But just because it can trace its roots across the Atlantic, don’t expect the new Kuga to be softly set-up and brash to look at; the new Kuga is very much a car for the European market, with bespoke chassis tuning and styling revisions.
Four engines are offered: 138bhp and 161bhp 2.0 diesels and 148bhp and 178bhp 1.6-litre petrols. It’s the more potent diesel we’re testing here, complete with Ford’s new Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic Powershift gearbox.
What is it like?
A different proposition to the Kuga we knew before. Whereas the first-generation model’s more compact dimensions led to a very car-like drive, the new Kuga’s increase in size pushes it firmly into mid-size SUV territory alongside the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 and away from the Nissan Qashqai, with altered driving characteristics as a result.
Despite the increase in size, the Kuga is still billed as the driver’s SUV. It’s a very stiff car, one that you can handle and steer in a way that almost belies its size from the commanding driving position.
It’s not quite as agile or light on its feet as the old Kuga, but, thanks to the effectiveness of the all-wheel drive system, retains poise and a willingness to be pushed few, if any, others in the class can match.
That stiffness does result in a fairly firm ride, particularly at low speeds. It’s never harsh or noisy, but it’s certainly not the easy-going comfort you might expect of a car of this size.
The engine/gearbox combination is another high point. The diesel engine is torquey and the gearbox holds back on upshifts to allow it be revved and the performance to be exploited. It’s also an extremely refined unit, and the gearbox offers smooth and seamless shifts without the hesitancy some dual-clutch transmissions suffer from.
What the increased size does bring is plenty more space. The boot is now up to 456 litres in capacity and rear passengers are also much better off for space, with an 82mm increase in length bringing noticeably more legroom.
The front of the cabin is also a pleasant environment. Quality is good, and the controls all nicely weighted. It’s just a shame that there’s such a bewildering array of buttons in all sorts of places; some sort of simplified central control system is needed here.
Should I buy one?
In making the Kuga bigger and shifting its positioning, Ford has still managed to keep hold of the car’s trump card: how good it is to drive.
That you also get a higher quality product with improved equipment levels thrown in for a price that works out around £1000 less than an equivalent previous generation Kuga, then there’s little to stop this going straight to the top of the class.
Ford Kuga Titanium 2.0 TDCi 163 Powershift
Price: £27,045; 0-62mph: 10.4sec; Top speed: 122mph; Economy: 45.6mpg (combined); CO2: 162g/km; Kerb weight: 1707kg; Engine: 4cyls, 1997cc, turbodiesel; Power: 161bhp at 3750rpm; Torque: 251lb ft at 2000-3250rpm; Gearbox: 6spd dual-clutch auto’