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First Drive

First Drive: Ford Kuga hybrid

Ford Kuga 2.5 FHEV ST-Line X Edition
The story: This full hybrid version of the Ford Kuga SUV is aimed at business drivers who might otherwise have opted for a diesel.
Category:SUV
Key rival:Toyota RAV4
Price:£34,674
Efficiency:51.4mpg
Emissions:130g/km
On sale:Now

Diesel is undeniably on the way out, but electric vehicles are not yet in, so what does the high-mileage business driver do?

Well, Ford reckons it has an answer in the shape of the so-called self-charging hybrid Kuga SUV.

The powertrain combines a 2.5-litre petrol engine with a 1.1kWh battery and produces a pretty nifty 190hp. Better still, it manages this while doing an official average of 51.4mpg and putting out 130g/km of emissions. This lands it in the 30% band for Benefit in Kind tax, so a 20% taxpayer will face a monthly bill of £173, while a 40% taxpayer will shell out £347.

Not a bad start, then, and the good news continues when you leave the paperwork behind and actually hit the road. The powertrain is a strong one, and it has a pleasing eagerness to use battery power at any given opportunity. So, every time you pull away (almost silently) the electric powertrain does its thing until around 25mph, at which point the petrol engine kicks in to offer assistance.

First Drive - June 2021 - Ford Kuga hybrid - Image 5The engine is comparatively smooth, but your ears do notice when it chimes in because it doesn’t make a particularly pleasant noise. This only becomes more of a blare when you put your foot down.

However, when you reach a motorway cruising speed, the engine fades into the background. This is mainly because it’s drowned out by the road noise, however. Still, wind noise isn’t too bad.

The ST-Line X model has suspension that feels pretty firm. The ride quality is a bit on the lively side, and there’s a constant thrum through the car; it fairly thumps over sharper bumps. If anything, it gives the feeling that the tyres have been pumped up too hard.

The steering, meanwhile, is light and exceptionally quick. This is great in town, where it lets you place the car really precisely and means parking manoeuvres require minimal arm-twirling. However, that same speed of response can make the Kuga feel a bit fidgety and ill at ease on twisty roads, a feeling compounded by the firm ride.

First Drive - June 2021 - Ford Kuga hybrid - Image 8The high-up seating position gives a good view out, although the thick windscreen pillars do tend to hamper your sight-line, especially around roundabouts.

Still, the Kuga’s interior is a decent place to spend time. The seats feels pretty supportive, all the switches and buttons are roughly where you’d expect to find them, and there’s plenty of kit, including dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, a 12.3inch digital driver’s display and a central touchscreen that lets you control the infotainment. It also caters for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, which is the system many people will gravitate to.

You get loads of room up front, and there’s good space for three adults behind, plus room enough in the boot for all of their stuff.

euan doig

First Drive: Jaguar XE

 

 

The verdict

Kuga is roomy and well kitted, and the hybrid powertrain works well, but make sure you can live with the ride quality and road noise before committing.