Poise without harshness. Oily, harmonious control weights. Effortless, incisive steering response. Athleticism so easily won. These are the dynamic hallmarks of a modern Ford, just as they are of the Ford Kuga. And in a class that still harbours one or two dinosaurs, that makes the Ford stand out all the prouder.

While SUV handling standards have improved out of sight over the past 15 years, it’s still rare to drive one of this size with the Kuga’s body control and agility. It rides and steers with a precision closer to that of a Ford Focus hatchback than anything else, and corners flatter than plenty of large estates.

The steel monocoque is reinforced in important areas

To those used to the stodgy, inert handling of more traditionally configured, less road-biased 4x4s, the Kuga will be little short of a revelation, feeling as it does more like a warm hatchback than a large, tall family car.

Assuming that taut, responsive handling is to your liking and road driving is all you’re likely to do, that may be all you need to know. The steering could offer a bit more feedback just off centre, but even acknowledging that, the handling is an outstanding selling point.

The caveats, as some might see them, will concern its fitness for purpose as a mid-size SUV. Should a car like this strike such a sporting compromise between compliance and control? Should it not be comfortable first and fun to drive second? And should it not have the long-travel suspension to deal with bumpy tracks and fields with similar comfort?

Back to top

Buyers for whom those sound like appropriate priorities for a family 4x4 are less likely to approve of what they find in the Kuga. For them, consolation lies in the abundance of softer rivals on the market that they’ll judge as more sensibly configured. 

We’d urge those buyers, however, to bear in mind that handling poise – particularly as Ford tends to offer it – can be seen as a corollary of directional manageability in cars of this size. All the things that make this Kuga dynamically engaging also make it easy and instinctive to thread along any given path.