+ Comfortable to drive
+ Good boot space
+ Nice diesel engines
- Less rear passenger space than rivals
- Average interior quality
- Automatic gearbox is sluggish
Verdict: The Ford Kuga is one of the more sensible SUVs. It doesn’t have the most daring style, not is the most spacious or the sweetest to drive, but it remains a thoroughly decent package that is perfectly setup for family life.
Used Ford Kuga (2013-2020) review: the five-minute read
The original Ford Kuga was a real hit and this second-generation follow-up builds on many aspects such as design and practicality. It has a stronger design that underlines the Ford’s robust and solid-feeling driving trait. If you want your SUV to feel like an SUV, the Kuga does it. There’s that much sought-after elevated driving position which offers mostly great views of the surroundings, though rearward visibility over the shoulder is a little obstructed by the pillars.
Its design means that the Kuga has a generous amount of boot space and those in the rear seats won’t have much to complain about either. The Kuga does fall short of being class-leading in both of these parameters, but it still scores well nonetheless.
Interior quality is what we typically see in Ford cars, it’s all put together quite well but the materials don’t look or feel quite as premium as some of the competition. Ford did offer a Kuga Vignale in later years that ticked the premium box with upmarket upholstery and more sound insulation that made it seem quieter on the move.
When it comes to driving the Kuga does well in the comfort stakes for the most part. Only the sportier ST Line version that came from 2016 onwards was a bit too firm in the suspension department. The good news is that the regular model is a lovely thing to drive, which is partly down to its redesigned suspension and electro-mechanical power steering. The latter is light when driving in town but gathers up enough weight as the speed increases to give the driver a clear sense of what the front axle is doing.
If you’re most likely to only be doing shorter urban journeys like the school run, you’ll be best served by the petrol engine. A 148bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost is the engine that will cover the most bases, though the less powerful version is capable of returning the same fuel economy figures. There is a more potent 178bhp variant of this engine but in the real world not a great deal of performance difference is noticeable, so sticking with the 148bhp is fine.
Cars that are equipped with Ford’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive can do most of their running as a front-wheel-drive car, with the rear axle only engaging when the system detects a loss of traction on one of the wheels. This type of setup helps to prolong fuel economy.
For the longer journeys or if you’re going to be towing it’s best to choose the diesel engine and it has a generous amount of torque and is surprisingly quiet when running. On the move there isn’t much wind or road noise seeping into the cabin, something that is an improvement over the first Kuga.
The Ford Kuga stops short of being a class-leading car, but it is still a very good package. You’ll find more room in rivals such as the Kia Sorento and even the short-lived Ford Edge. Not having a seven-seat option will deter some buyers, but the Kuga puts in a good well-rounder performance.
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Used Ford Kuga (2013-2020) interior and infotainment
Interiors of Fords follow a similar design trend that mixes practical aspects and comfort without any superfluous aesthetic things. It’s simple and straightforward. With this second-generation Kuga, new front seats added more comfort and there’s a good degree of adjustability for the driver’s position. Outward visibility is mostly good, but the thick D-pillar does restrict rearward vision a little, especially when parking.
Rear passenger space is great in terms of headroom but the legroom is only average. A Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe is more roomy in that respect. The quality of the materials inside is about average for the segment. For the most part it is durable and hear-wearing, but it lacks the higher quality feel and aesthetic quality of other SUVs like the Mazda CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan.
When Ford updated the Kuga in 2016 the infotainment system was upgraded to the eight-inch touchscreen with SYNC 3. This update introduced more voice command functionality while a redesign of the system made it more intuitive to use and it reacted faster to inputs. This also brought the introduction of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality and Ford add a heated steering to the options list.
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Used Ford Kuga (2013-2020) practicality and boot space
The first thing many buyers will notice about the Ford Kuga is the lack of a seven-seat option. Sticking to a five-seat only design does mean passenger space and boot capacity remain generous, but as so many families want a third row of seats, even if its just for occasional use, and it’s here that the Ford loses out.
If that’s not relevant to you then you’ll be pleased with the 456 litres of boot space that is available in the Ford. The Kuga also benefits from a low load height, so it is easier to lift larger items like buggies or kids bikes in and out. When more cargo space is needed, the rear seats fold down and flat, boosting cargo capacity to 1,653 litres.
In addition to the boot, the cabin has a useful amount of storage areas dotted around it. There’s a deep centre cubby beneath the armrest and all doors have decently sized bins that can take drinks bottles and other oddments. It’s also possible to add fold-up tray tables on the backs of the front seats.
Used Ford Kuga (2013-2020) engines
From launch the Kuga was available with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, though this was superseded by a slightly smaller capacity 1.5-litre EcoBoost that has better all-round performance. An entry-level version produced a modest 118bhp and drove the front wheels. A 12.6-second 0-62mph time tells you that this isn’t a potent power unit, but it’s fine for urban driving. Ford did also fit the Kuga with a more powerful version of that engine which produced 148bhp and felt noticeably quicker.
Topping that again was a 178bhp petrol that came only with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive transmission. While it seems good on paper, it wasn’t a great performance package and the automatic gearbox wasn’t as good as some other offerings.
Diesel power better suits the Ford Kuga’s load-lugging ability and the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is a consummate performing in this regard. It was offered with both front- and all-wheel-drive transmissions and delivered good performance with plenty of refinement too.
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Used Ford Kuga (2013-2020) driving
A lot of SUVs these days try to emphasise their sportiness by fitting suspension that is too firm and wheels that are too large, detracting from overall comfort. However the Kuga strikes a good balance here and has the edge over many of its rivals when it comes to ride quality. It soaks up lumps and bumps yet still manages to be composed as the speed picks up.
Ford did trip itself up a little though with the introduction of the Kuga ST Line. This version gained firmer suspension that made the ride seem busier over bumpy surfaces and steering that had a bit more of a weighted feel to it. All in the name of making the Kuga appeal more to ‘drivers’ but unless you’re swoon by the looks, this is one to pass on.
The Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system that Ford uses will generally run in front-wheel-drive mode in order to minimise fuel consumption. As soon as the hit a patch of ice of mud, or indeed torrential rain or snowy conditions, drive is instantly sent to the wheels with the most grip. This change happens instantly and without being obvious.
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