Ford’s third-generation Kuga arrives with a smart new look and, for the first time, the option of plug-in hybrid power. We’ve driven this impressive petrol-electric crossover-SUV.
Ford’s now-largest crossover or SUV, the Kuga (as the bigger Edge model has been dropped in Europe due to slow sales), arriving in its third incarnation. This particular nameplate has been in service since 2008 and, with the brand-new, smaller Puma arriving, it’s clear to see the Kuga shares familial styling with that car. It’s a good-looking thing on the outside, especially in ST-Line trim and a bright colour like Lucid Red, although there’s a little bit too much front overhang for our liking when viewing the Kuga in profile. Inside, the cabin is excellent – spacious, nicely built, well-appointed and packed with toys. The hybrid running gear doesn’t eat away too much at boot space, either, with 475 litres on offer as a minimum and approaching 1,550 litres with the rear seats folded down.
This Kuga plug-in hybrid uses a 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine (without a turbo), along with a 10.3kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor. Peak system power is rated at 225hp, although Ford won’t quote a maximum torque output (the petrol engine develops 200Nm and it’s fair to assume the electric motor probably adds another 150Nm, at least), and drive is sent to the front wheels alone through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Ford quotes a 0-100km/h time of 9.2 seconds, a top speed of 201km/h, fuel consumption of 1.4 litres/100km (201.8mpg) and CO2 emissions as low as 26g/km. The Kuga hybrid is also said to be capable of driving up to 55km on electric power alone. The hybrid ST-Line starts from €37,426, with the Kuga range starting at €33,358.
How is it to drive?
In operation, the Kuga hybrid is very conventional to drive, with various modes allowing the car to run purely as an EV (if there’s charge in the battery), or to run as a hybrid, or to use its petrol engine to either maintain charge in the battery or juice it up further for use later in the journey. However, it is as any other petrol or diesel crossover-SUV, providing a smooth, controlled ride, quiet and refined cruising manners and decent handling – albeit, the weight of the vehicle and its purpose mean it’s not Ford’s finest-ever hour in terms of chassis tuning. But, as a comfortable and amenable family vehicle, the Kuga’s engineering is pretty much spot-on in judgment.
What makes it such a special vehicle, though, is that it manages its petrol-electric resources incredibly well. Plug-in hybrids are pretty heavy on fuel if they are used regularly with no battery charge, or if the petrol engine on board is used to charge the battery back up to a fuller level, but the Kuga does a brilliant job of marshalling its resources and still manages to drive on electric power for nearly 50 per cent of the time, even with no charge showing in its battery. This allowed it to return a very impressive 3.9 litres/100km (73.3mpg) across a wide variety of driving, while – with its battery charged – it managed to do 0.3 litres/100km (930.1mpg) on a 40km journey with ease.
When is it coming to Ireland?
It is available to order now and its low CO2 emissions help with VRT, so that a basic hybrid ST-Line is only €4,068 more expensive than the absolute entry point to the Kuga range. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, LED lights all round, privacy glass, a Quickclear heated windscreen, a Bang & Olufsen Premium Audio System and SYNC 3 infotainment/satnav on an eight-inch colour touchscreen, incorporating App Link, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – among much more.
Any juicy technology?
One of the bits of kit the Kuga hybrid gets as standard is a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster, which presents information in a clear and useful fashion, and which has various different functions and layouts to work with. It’s just another touch that enhances the quality feel of the Ford’s cabin.
Carzone.ie rating: 4/5
Although it’s not the greatest thing to drive, the Kuga hybrid is perfectly civilised and it’s pretty keenly priced, too. However, its greatest strength is its real-world economy and its EV driving capabilities, which make it an excellent choice for frugal families and business users in equal measure.