I LIKED THE Ford Kuga just the way it was. The first generation looked just right and drove better than most small SUVs.
Would I have bought one, though? Probably not. The boot was too small for a young family, and compared with some rivals economy and emissions were disappointing. If I was shopping for a small SUV the Kuga is the one I’d have wanted, but not the one I’d have driven home in.
The new Kuga is a more grown-up car. It looks restrained compared with the fun, chunky first generation, and the just-so proportions have been lost in order to make the car roomier inside.
More space, not such a pretty face
While the second generation Kuga’s longer body has done little for the styling, it has made for more luggage space. There’s now 438-481 litres, depending on which of three positions the rear backrests are set to. That’s certainly a more usable size, although it still lags behind some rivals, especially the Honda CR-V.
The new car is more efficient than before as well as more practical. Ford’s new four-wheel-drive system sends power to the front wheels only in normal conditions which saves wasting fuel turning transmission components unnecessarily. The 2.0 TDCi 163PS 4×4 manual achieves 47.9mpg and emits 154g/km of CO2. Those aren’t class-leading figures, but do make the new Ford competitive with rivals like the Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan.
As a tow car, the 163PS diesel looks like the pick of the range. With 251lb ft of torque it should cope well with any suitable match. A kerbweight of 1692kg gives a healthy 85% match figure of 1438kg, so it should make a stable tug for most mid-sized tourers.
We didn’t have an opportunity to tow during our test drive, but the Kuga seems to have the makings of a secure tow car. The ride is impressively smooth but the Kuga is still well controlled over dips and crests. Perhaps it’s not quite as nimble and engaging as the old car but it’s really very competent indeed.
The price is right
Unusually, the Kuga is now cheaper than its predecessor – at least it is if you buy the entry-level model at £20,895. That’s just over £1000 cheaper than the starting price for the old range, and buys the 1.6T 150PS petrol with two-wheel drive. Other engine options include a 140PS diesel (in two- and four-wheel drive) and 180PS version of the 1.6T petrol. Prices for the 2.0 TDCi 163PS AWD start from £25,545.
The new Kuga doesn’t look as good as the old, but in most ways that matter it’s definitely the better car.