The Kuga’s new grille might be larger than before but the old car’s hard-edged scowl has clearly diminished, Ford having sculpted a more friendly and curvaceous demeanour in response to owner feedback. In the metal, it’s an attractive car, and in this hue you could even claim it bears a faint resemblance to Aston Martin’s DBX – if you squint a little.
The bodywork is underpinned by the same excellent and usefully stiff C2 platform used by the Focus and this has allowed the Kuga to grow 89mm in length and 44mm in width, Ford claiming it offers class-leading rear leg room. The roofline also now sits 20mm closer to the ground.
However, more significant changes are hidden from sight. The previous generation was limited to traditional four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, and although it’s still possible to have your Kuga with Ford’s 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol engine (tuned to either 118bhp or 148bhp), its 118bhp 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel or the 187bhp 2.0-litre EcoBlue, there are new choices in the form of a 148bhp mild-hybrid diesel and a range-topping 222bhp plug-in hybrid petrol. Diesel models are available with an eight-speed automatic transmission while the petrols are limited to a six-speed manual – except, that is, for the plug-in hybrid.
And it’s the plug-in hybrid model we’re testing here. Using a 133bhp 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine and a CVT automatic boosted by a 109bhp electric motor, the set-up is similar to that used by Toyota, and with a 14.4kWh battery pack housed along the floor of the car’s midriff, the Kuga PHEV offers an electric driving range of 35 miles.
Predictably, the 90kg Ford says the C2 platform saves compared with the previous Kuga is swamped by the weight of this hybrid equipment and the most efficient Kuga is therefore easily the heaviest, at 1844kg – enough to give its suspension (MacPherson struts at the front, multi-link at the rear) plenty to think about.