This is an impressive little thing – effectively a Ford Focus for all eventualities – that was sold new from 2008 to 2012.

It isn’t really a proper mud-plugger but it is well suited to the demands of most semi-professional shoppers. Its ‘intelligent’ four-wheel drive system is the kind that shows up when the driver needs it, distributing power between the front and rear wheels. However, there’s also a cheaper, 40kg-lighter two-wheel-drive option, which is all that most people will ever need.

It’s a simple enough model, especially when powered by the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel and in either Zetec trim (alloys, air-con and keyless start) or Titanium (automatic lights and wipers, and cruise and climate controls).

Being a Ford, there’s also Titanium X (leather, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and electrically adjustable driver’s seat). To make things even more interesting, a 197bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine makes a high, hot hatch Kuga a reality, although the penalty is 28mpg. Kugas are always good to drive.

Upgrades arrived in 2010, including a new 2.0-litre TDCi diesel with either 138bhp (which delivered a useful 47mpg) or a punchier 161bhp.

It’s a compact car on the outside and, inside, the rear seats are tight but they have a 60/40 split and can fold completely flat to give you 1355 litres of room, with underseat storage beneath the second row and further storage under the boot. In its standard configuration, the boot is 360 litres.

Because it is based on the generally very reliable Focus, there isn’t too much to worry about. However, a lightly used diesel, which almost all used ones are, will clog up the particulate filter and that costs a bit to sort out. There can be minor electrical issues and low-level build issues that let water in the cabin. Otherwise, it’s the best real-world used SUV.

Ones we found

98 Ford kuga