It’s a compact SUV for keen drivers at down-to-earth money, and it comes in many different forms
John Evans
13 June 2019

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. 


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Ford Kuga

The second-generation Ford Kuga sports an American facelift, new trims and added equipment, doesn't detract it from still being one of the more athletic SUVs on sale

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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. 

Ubiquitous Zetec trim opens the batting but it’s Titanium, the next one up, that’s easily the most plentiful on the used market. To the Zetec’s respectable roster of kit (alloys, a digital radio, air-con and a heated windscreen), Titanium adds larger wheels, partial leather trim, climate control and rear parking sensors. It’s our favourite, but if you must spoil the ride, have sports-suspended ST-Line trim. 

For reasons best known to itself, Ford unleashed a luxo-spec Vignale on impressionable buyers in 2016. Still, it’s not all bad since today’s canny buyer can pick up a 2017/17-reg 2.0 TDCi 150 Vignale with 17,000 miles for £17,000, compared with a current new price of £33,690. 

Ford was one of the first with an approved used marketing scheme. It promises full service history and cars covered by the balance of their original three-year warranty. 

Need to know

The Kuga has been subject to a number of safety recalls, including potential cracking of the cylinder head, the B-pillar trim being too close to the seatbelt pre-tensioner, the possibility of the clutch pressure plate fracturing, the knee airbag not deploying and the risk of the sump cracking. 

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Surprisingly, given the Kuga’s otherwise strong safety credentials, automatic emergency braking is an option rather than standard. Worse still, it’s not available with Zetec trim at all. Meanwhile, its five-star Euro NCAP rating was awarded as long ago as 2012, since when the test has been toughened up. 

If you like to have the driver’s seat just so, electrically powered 10-way adjustment is available from Titanium trim upwards.

Our pick 

Kuga 2.0 TDCI 150 Titanium: This version boasts good performance and economy, while Titanium builds on Zetec with things such as a sat-nav and parking sensors. An approved used 2017/ 17-reg with 10,000 miles is £14,500.

Wild card

Kuga 1.5 Ecoboost 176 Zetec Nav Auto 4WD: Slower than less powerful versions due to its being four-wheel drive and automatic means this orphan in the range is great value used, with a 3000-mile 2018/68-reg one costing £17,500.

Ones we found

2013 Kuga 2.0 TDCi Titanium, 120,000 miles, £7795 

2015 Kuga 2.0 TDCi Zetec, 74,000 miles, £9283 

2017 Kuga 1.5 TDCi Zetec, 25,000 miles, £11,200 

2018 Kuga 1.5 Ecoboost Zetec, 15,000 miles £15,000

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Join the debate


13 June 2019
Handles like a boat when driven fast into bends the bodyroll is laughable its crap

13 June 2019


I’m not surprised it is a tall suv.  I fail to understand the ever growing popularity of suvs despite their lack of aerodynamic profile.  

13 June 2019

I recall in Autocar's past, cars with significant roll - were praised for their handling provess. It seems the important part, is what the tires are actually doing on the road - than to what degree the body of the car is leaning while car is making turns. Some of the often praised for good handling, French cars of the past -- had significant lean, yet still are considered to handle well.

13 June 2019

Still think the mk1 is one of the best looking SUVs on the road, unfortunately the same can't be said of the cheap interior.

We had the use of a mk2 for three months whilst Honda (one of the most reliable cars?) mechanics tried to work out what was wrong with our HR-V. (which they failed to do).

The space was great, the ride / steering was on a completely different level to the Honda, and the windows seemed vast but that's about it. Cheap feeling plastics which looked dated, a confusing infotainment system (which admittedly sounded alright) and rather woeful fuel economy spoiled it.

OK as a rental car but I wouldn't want to own one.

PS - that 1.5 ecoboost auto 4wd mentioned above - the real world average fuel economy reported by owners is 25.5mpg !  In fact even the most fuel efficient manual 2wd petrol will only return the low 30's on average. We struggled to achieve 40mpg with a rattly 2.0tdi.

VAG does this type of vehicle so much better.

13 June 2019

Isnt the 6 speed dual clutch powershift box that Autocar recommends the same one that globally gave Ford so many issues as its very unreliable?

13 June 2019
artill wrote:

Isnt the 6 speed dual clutch powershift box that Autocar recommends the same one that globally gave Ford so many issues as its very unreliable?

No. Your thinking the dry clutch DCT250 used in lower  powered petrols. The diesels have wet clutch DCT450 boxes far more reliable and generally don’t give problems if serviced properly. 

13 June 2019

Really the last facelift was 3 years ago. You would really want to be getting a good deal buying one new. I admit that the Ford plastics are not as good are as nice as a VWs but at least the dash has style and is not boring like a VWs. 

Still now there is far better cars out there now. 

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