The new Ford Kuga diesel on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Ford Kuga diesel on test for Changing Lanes!

The Ford Kuga has long been a favourite with the Irish public. The Kuga was the brand’s first SUV in Europe and launched in the market back in 2008. It quickly becoming popular for its chunky good looks, as buyers began to abandon large family saloons. Ford has sold more than 1 million Kugas in Europe since 2008. Ford’s form in SUVs has been a bit hit and miss ever since, but the Kuga has always maintained its position as one of Ireland’s favourite new and used family cars.

But even the mighty Kuga is not immune to changes in market trends. 2020 saw Ford really get their act together in terms of hopping on the back of electrification and launching mild hybrid vehicles, with more exciting models to come in 2021. We loved the Ford Puma we tested earlier in the year, and this sleek compact crossover is a return to form for the Ford brand in Europe. Mild hybrid versions of the Fiesta and Focus are now available, while next summer will see the arrival of the new all-electric Mustang Mach-E.

Hybrid power joins Kuga range

The march continued in 2020 with the arrival of the all-new third generation Kuga, available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time and a trusty diesel, with a regular hybrid to join the Kuga range in 2021. The Kuga diesel is available from €34,581, while the Kuga plug-in hybrid is available from €43,017.

The new Ford Kuga is on sale in Ireland priced from €34,581
The new Ford Kuga is on sale in Ireland priced from €34,581

The Ford Kuga really needed some attention as it was languishing behind newer rivals in terms of design and quality, as well as those all-important electrified powertrains.

Ford has bounced back with a nicely styled mid-size SUV that bears their new design language. It loses the awkwardness of the previous version, instead morphing into a lighter-looking, athletic SUV that’s much easier on the eye. Alongside the Puma, these two are worth paying a visit again to your local Ford dealer.

Inside the new Ford Kuga

The theme of brand renewal continues inside with an all-new interior. It’s a big improvement in design with a slimmer and more lightweight feel to the dashboard layout. It’s quite similar to the Focus inside, with now familiar apparel like the touchscreen perched on the dash, and an indigo backlit digital driver’s display that we first saw in the Puma earlier this year. Quality is nothing special for the class with almost a too generous hand with the hard plastic, but it’s great to see the Kuga going in a more modern direction at last.

Inside the new Ford Kuga
Inside the new Ford Kuga

The Ford Kuga is sold in four trim lines: Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale. The ST-Line is the pick of the range (from €36,723) with a sportier exterior finish including 18” rock metallic alloy wheels and red brake calipers, black roof rails, ST-Line full body styling kit and large rear spoiler.

Inside there is a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, alloy pedals, and ST-Line sport seats. The Ford Kuga ST-Line also gets the full digital 12.3” instrument cluster as standard. The ST-Line X model on test adds full LED headlamps, automatic high beam and an excellent B&O premium audio system.

How practical is it?

As a family car, the Kuga performs very well with a spacious interior and seating for five. Footwells in the rear are generous and the doors open out wide. The rear bench also has good width for the middle passenger to get a decent amount of wriggle room. The 2020 Ford Kuga is 44 mm wider and 89 mm longer than the outgoing model. The second row of seats can be moved backwards to improve legroom or forwards to increase boot space. It’s a huge boot either way.

At launch in Ireland, the range is based around the 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel with 120 hp and the new 2.5-litre petrol electric plug-in hybrid with 225 hp. The diesel is a well-proven Ford powerplant that appears in other models too. On paper, its performance credentials look a little lacklustre but it feels more powerful on the road than 120 hp. In Ireland diesel manuals are sold, with automatic transmission reserved for the hybrid.

Plenty of legroom and a huge boot in the 2020 Ford Kuga
Plenty of legroom and a huge boot in the 2020 Ford Kuga

Driving the Kuga

Diesel has always been the default choice for family SUVs and it’s easy to see why. The Ford Kuga diesel returns excellent economy and over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 5.3 litres per 100 km. It’s smooth and refined on the road, and the Kuga works well with the manual gearbox. You can exploit that surprisingly sporty feel behind the wheel.

Ford has once again done a great job with the Kuga’s handling. There are selectable drive modes included and I would recommend a stint in Sport mode. On a twisty road the more responsive throttle and stiffer suspension make for an entertaining drive. I was having far more fun than I should have in a diesel family SUV. There’s loads of front end grip and quite weighty steering. Comfortable too though we did note some road noise over coarser asphalt at motorway speeds.

For buyers ready to try hybrid the Kuga plug-in hybrid will offer them the opportunity to plug in and charge the battery to exploit an up to 56 km WLTP electric range. CO2 emissions are rated at just 32 g per kilometre, while there is potential to run the car very cheaply indeed with regular charging. Next year’s Kuga hybrid won’t come with a plug, but it looks still to offer a fuel efficient drive.

The Ford Kuga offers customers choice of diesel or petrol hybrid powertrains
The Ford Kuga offers customers choice of diesel or petrol hybrid powertrains

Did you like it?

The new Ford Kuga was one of 2020’s big releases. Along with the Ford Puma, these two new models are a return to form for the brand in Europe. The Kuga has a great customer base, and meets the needs of a lot of people in a real sweet spot of the market.

This is a much improved car now with a modern interior update and all the latest technology features. It’s got a cool new look and ST Line models look really great on the road.

The Ford Kuga is still amazing fun to drive on a twisty country road. It stands out among rivals for this character trait. It shouldn’t be this fun and be able to carry five people comfortably! All with a diesel engine!

The Kuga is one of the most spacious SUVs at its price point.

While we are yet to sample the hybrid Kuga, this Kuga diesel gets a thumbs up and delivers great economy.

Quality could be better in the Kuga so as long as you’re not expecting the last word in luxury, the Kuga is back in the game. Welcome back!

The Kuga is practical and fun to drive
The Kuga is practical and fun to drive

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBlue ST-Line X
€39,134 (Range starts at €34,581)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
120 hp
Torque: 300 Nm
11.7 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Economy (WLTP):
CO2 emissions (WLTP):
127 g/km
Motor tax:
€200 per year