From £21,6508

Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The Ford Kuga is offered with either a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol in 118bhp, 148bhp and 180bhp outputs, a 118bhp 1.5-litre TDCi or a 2.0-litre diesel in 148bhp or 178bhp flavours. All are capable of 0-62mph in less than 11.2sec and capable of over 116mph.

If you choose the smooth 118bhp or 148bhp EcoBoost you'll get a front-drive Kuga with Ford's slick six-speed manual gearbox. Pick the 180bhp version and it'll come with a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox, and in all-wheel drive configuration.

The automatic Ford Kuga really needs paddle shifters

The entry-level diesels are only available in front-wheel drive drive configuration, while the most powerful diesel is only available in four-wheel drive form, with either a decent six-speed manual gearbox or Ford's six-speed PowerShift automatic. Having jumped on the dual-clutch automatic gearbox bandwagon much later than European market leader Volkswagen, Ford gave itself ground to catch up with its Getrag Powershift transmission. 

Many may be tempted to choose the PowerShift automatic version as the best dual-clutch ’boxes – or even torque-converter autos – now tend to offer better performance and economy than the equivalent manual. It could still benefit from some improvement, however, which is shame because it takes the edge off an otherwise strong showing on everyday flexibility, mechanical refinement and sheer get up and go.

A slightly hesitant full-throttle upshift makes maximum thrust feel a bit restricted, and the fiddly stick-mounted selector buttons are little help. But it’s a shortcoming that would seldom present during normal driving. Select D on the gearbox and usher the car away in no particular hurry and you’ll find everything works smoothly.

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There’s a polished efficiency to town driving and a decisiveness and willingness to work on cross-country roads and on motorways. When you want the powertrain to hold a gear, invariably it does so; likewise with kickdown. Consequently the Kuga always feels fleet and responsive.

The PowerShift is less efficient than the equivalent manual, however, so those seeking maximum efficiency or low company car tax costs should still go for the manual option.

Elsewhere, Ford’s efforts to improve rolling refinement (stiffer body structure, better insulation, thicker glazing) have paid off. Wind noise is controlled well, and the engines are mechanically refined by 4x4 standards.