There was a Ford Cougar once; a family-size coupé based on the Mondeo Mk2. It was a handy thing that, in range-topping 2.5 V6 guise, could do 0-62mph in 8.2sec.
Although it’s spelt differently, the Kuga, launched in 2013, at least sounds the same and, with the right engine, promises to be almost as much fun. It’s a family SUV rather than a coupé, so where the Cougar was sleek and low, the Kuga is tall and chunky. It’s based on the Focus Mk3 and is the model we think of when searching for an example of a fine-handling mainstream SUV.
Like most cars, the Kuga can be split into pre- and post-facelift generations. The latter arrived in 2016 and is characterised by restyled front and rear ends, the availability of a new 118bhp 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine, an improved infotainment system within a more comfortable interior and extra driver assistance tech.
If only for its striking-looking trapezoidal grille first seen on the Edge, Ford’s larger SUV, it’s the generation to buy and not as expensive as you might fear, with a 2017-reg 1.5 TDCi Zetec with 20,000 miles costing £13,350.
Over the years, the engine range has expanded to include busy little Ecoboost petrols pushing out 118bhp to one producing 174bhp, although saddled with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox as standard. They’re pleasant to punt along as well as cheap to run if your mileage is low, but if you’re a Kuga person with the kind of active lifestyle the brochure depicts, one of the diesels is a better choice – something like the mid-power 148bhp 2.0 TDCi.
This engine has a braked towing capacity of 1800kg but add four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox and it can shift 2100kg, the same as the 178bhp 2.0 TDCi, which has four-wheel drive as standard. If you’re into dragging boats off the beach, four-wheel drive is perfect, but for most situations, a standard two-wheel-drive Kuga is just fine. The six-speed dual-clutch Powershift transmission is a good one, by the way, and worth seeking out.