The Ford Kuga is now in its second generation, but towards the end of 2016 it received a facelift. It now looks sharper, more aggressive and it now has a front grille inspired by its bigger brother, the Edge. The model tested here is the ST-Line, so it’s the sportier model in the range, but like the Mondeo ST-Line, it offers no extra performance. Despite this, is this an SUV you should buy?
Design and Styling
With it being the ST-Line, it has a sporty bodykit and it’s also been dropped 10mm thanks to sports suspension. This model had the optional Shadow Black paint finish (£545) which I really like as it makes the ST-Line look even meaner, especially as it also has the optional tinted windows (£225). The look is complimented by standard 18″ wheels, dark roof rails, black exhaust tips and a gunmetal tone on the front grille. So on the whole, the outside looks pretty smart.
The same cannot be said for the inside – yes you’ll get dark headlining, sports pedals and smart looking sports seats finished in suede and leather, but the dash leaves a bit to be desired. It does have a soft touch finish to it, but the plastics around the infotainment system are cheap and disappointing to say the least. The plastic around the parking assists isn’t much better as has a fair bit of flex around it. On the plus side, the buttons are functional and easy to use.
Thankfully, the ST-Line makes up for its quality shortcomings by offering a good level of kit. On top of the sports styling, buyers will be able to enjoy features such as automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, Sync 3 infotainment system with DAB radio, bluetooth, navigation and smartphone integration, as well as cruise control with speed limiter, and dual zone climate control to name a few.
This model had the upgraded version of the Sync 3 system (£500), meaning it had 3D rendering for the navigation, as well as a rear facing camera plus a 9 speaker Sony system, which I thought sounded pretty good, but my ex-DJ father wasn’t overly impressed. Mind you, I reckon it should fit the bill for less fussy audiophiles (sorry dad). The Sync 3 system works well, although it’s fiddly to use on the move as the touchscreen is inset in to the dash.
Space and Comfort
As mentioned, the ST-Line sports leather/suede seats which are more pleasing on the eye as the all-fabric seats I had the in the Mondeo ST-Line. The seats are comfortable and supportive on the back, although when you push the car hard in the corners you’ll find yourself wanting more supportive side bolstering. Getting a good driving position is easy as both the steering wheel and the seat have a good level of adjustment but I did find my left knee would occasionally bang on the steering column when I tried to get out of the car, even when my seat was set to its lowest.
As you would expect from an SUV, the headroom in the front is very good and the same goes for the back – even taller passengers like myself will have little problem in the rear of the Kuga, plus the legroom is decent. The back does feel a little dark though, due to the optional tinted windows and the dark headlining, but that is a minor complaint. The rear seats do recline though, which is a nice touch, especially for those who fancy a nap on longer journeys.
The boot is of a decent size but it’s not the biggest in class, nor is it as big as the Mazda CX-5 or the SEAT Ateca, which can offer around 100 litres more. What you can expect from the Kuga though is 406 litres, which can be extended to 1,603 litres once the 60/40 rear seats have been folded down. The boot with the seats up has a nice, wide loading area which has no lip, so loading big, heavy items in to the rear of the Kuga should come with little problem, although you will need to pay extra for a fancy automatic opening tailgate.
What’s It Like To Drive?
There is a decent choice of petrol or diesel engines on offer – the latter is the more popular choice – and the model tested is fitted with the 1.5 litre EcoBoost petrol which produces 178bhp and 240Nm of torque. The power is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox and front wheel drive although you can of course pay more to receive an auto ‘box and all wheel drive, which will set you back at least £30,645 in ST-Line form. 0-62 comes in 9.7 seconds and the top speed comes in at 121mph. Those looking for a bit more performance should seek out the 2.0 litre 178bhp diesel whilst those looking for a frugal unit should look at the 1.5 litre 118bhp diesel.
Back to the 1.5 litre Ecoboost though – the performance is pretty punchy and it doesn’t feel as slow as its 0-62mph time make it appear. The engine will make progress pretty well, but a word of warning here. Rev the car hard and you’ll find there is a bit of torque steer, so just be a bit careful when you want to get a move on. Speaking of performance, this may be the ST-Line, but as with other models in the range, don’t expect more grunt, instead it’s more about a sportier styling. Having said that, you do get sports suspension, so this version of Kuga sits 10mm lower than its counterparts.
Oh, so it handles well then? Hmm, not exactly. It’s by no means a wallowy barge riding high waves in a storm, but nor is it as good as I was expecting. It’s not bad in the corners – the steering has a nice weight to it and the brakes provide decent stopping power, but I didn’t enjoy cornering the Kuga. It doesn’t help that the side bolsters don’t do enough to really keep you in place when you’re pushing the limits of grip. On of the topic of grip, the Kuga has a good amount of this, but push it hard and you’ll soon find the tell-tale understeer symptoms come to the surface due to the car’s front wheel drive setup.
But what about when you’re not pretending like you’re in the last scene of a Fast and Furious movie? Well, the engine is refined and quiet through normal driving and the 6-speed manual is a delight to use. The extra weight in the steering makes the drive more pleasurable although it’s still light enough to manoeuvre the car around a car park, which is just as well as it’s a rather large car.
The ride isn’t the best though due to the sports suspension and at low speeds you’ll find it rather bumpy. In fairness though, the ride does become better when you get the Kuga up to speed. However, given that the car still isn’t stellar in the bends despite this sporty setup, I’d urge you to look at different a Kuga model that will offer more comfort.
Visibility is pretty good, but I’d urge you to get a model with parking sensors, not unless you’re already used to parking large cars. On the motorway you’ll find the wind noise to be predictable due to the car’s high riding nature, but it’s not too bad – the tyre noise was more of a concern to me. This model may not have the biggest alloys you can have fitted, but even so, the tyre noise was audible although it wasn’t what you’d call deafening.
(3.5 / 5)
It’s no secret that this engine won’t be the most economical of the bunch, but it still offers slightly better economy than the the equivalent petrol in the Ateca and the CX-5 (although the former is a greener unit). 45.6mpg is what you can expect on a combined run, and in my experience I was able to muster around 37mpg, so those wanting more should of course consider a diesel.
The CO2 emissions come in at 143g/km, which is not the greatest, although it does edge its way past the 149g/km offered in the petrol CX-5. As mentioned earlier though, it’s not as green as the 1.4 petrol unit offered in the Ateca which will produce a more polar bear friendly 123g/km. In regards to the Kuga though, the most frugal unit is the 1.5 litre diesel which offers 64.2mpg with 108g/km, but bear in mind it only offers 118bhp, so it is down on power. A good mix of power and economy can be found in one the of 2.0 litre diesel units though, so I imagine these will be the most popular among buyers.
(3.5 / 5)
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely a fair few things to like about the Kuga ST-Line but if were me, with my money, would I buy one? No. Purely because I think it’s a bit too pricey, the interior finish is on the cheap side and the handling isn’t worth the sacrifice in ride comfort. On the plus side, it’s a fine looking motor that I think will stand out in a crowd and the sporty touches are very welcome.
Having said that though, I would recommend taking a look at either the Zetec or Titanium model first before putting your money towards the ST-Line not unless your heart is really set on it. Beyond that, I’d suggest looking at the SEAT Ateca, which is cheaper, better to sit inside, nicer to drive and dare I say better looking? Also, bear in mind that there will soon be an FR model added to the Ateca roster, which will certainly give the Kuga ST-Line a run for its money…
Car Obsession Rating (3.5 / 5)
- Good looks
- Punchy engine
- Sporty styling
- Good level of standard kit
- Bumpy at low speeds
- Cheap interior
- Not the best to drive
The Ateca may well be the first SUV from the Spanish brand, but thanks to VAG knowledge, the debut SUV model has won many plaudits and is one of the best new SUVs money can buy at the moment. Plus, there will soon be an FR variant for those looking for a sportier drive.
This is another SUV which is well regarded, plus I’d argue it’s one of the best looking new SUVs on the market at the moment.The base model is cheaper than the Kuga ST-Line trim, although it will cost around the same if you want the range-topping Sport Nav model.
This may not be an obvious choice, but I tested last year and I have to say it was real good fun. Like the Kuga ST-Line, it has a very satisfying gearchange, but it also has a choice of driving modes plus all wheel drive comes as standard. It too has a cheap interior though, but this can be excused somewhat as it’s at a cheaper price point. However, it won’t hold the badge appeal that some may look for when they are buying a car, particularly an SUV.