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First Drive

First Drive: Ford Kuga PHEV

The story:
Ford’s third-generation Kuga arrives with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrain options, as well as claimed improved roominess and comfort.
Key rival:Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
MPG:201.8 mpg
On sale:Now

Ford’s successful Kuga SUV has gained mild hybrid, hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains to compliment diesel in its latest incarnation, making it the powertrain-diverse model the brand has ever offered.

The new SUV is also described by Ford as having “sleek new design with premium proportions for improved roominess and comfort”, including class-leading rear-seat or boot space, depending on the position of the sliding second row of seats.

From launch, the Kuga arrives with a choice of 120hp(only on the entry Zetec trim) and 150hp petrol engines, 120hp, 150hp and 190hp diesels, the middle one of which comes with mild hybrid technology to cut emissions, and a 225hp plug-in hybrid, driven here, combining 2.5-litre petrol engine and 14.4kWh battery. A ‘self-charging’ hybrid model joins the range later in 2020.

The PHEV model offers emissions of just 32g/km, as well as an official range of 34 miles on the battery alone. That translates comfortably to around 30 in real-world driving, and the usage can be controlled by functions covering saving the charge for later, running on hybrid or EV modes, or using the engine to recharge the battery. The Kuga also appears surprisingly economic when the battery is depleted, comfortably averaging over 40mpg.

The dashboard offers an array of information about what the battery is doing, although it could be a touch clearer in terms of the basics such as how much accelerator pressure can be applied without switching over from battery to petrol engine. The PHEV could also do with an increased brake energy regeneration mode, and it’s worth noting that the charge point being mounted on the front wing means having to go nose-first into charging spaces, which is an issue for those that prefer the textbook approach of reversing in.

First Drive- June 2020- Ford Kuga PHEV- Image 6

Overall, Ford says its new Kuga range is, where comparisons are possible, up to 80kg lighter than the outgoing version, which helps both performance and efficiency. That’s despite the latest model growing in length by 89mm and by 44mm in width, and Ford also claims increased headroom for front and rear passengers despite the new Kuga being 6mm lower than its predecessor.

The interior space claim seems accurate in terms of plentiful amounts of legroom offered to rear passengers with the sliding rear bench back as far as it will go, although boot space does suffer at that point. Push the rear seats forward by the full 150mm and the reverse is true, so it’s only when carrying adults in the rear and a full amount of luggage will a serious compromise have to be found.


First Drive- June 2020- Ford Kuga PHEV- Image 4The Kuga handles well for a tall car, and doesn’t struggle with the extra weight of the PHEV’s batteries, and the ride quality is also good.

The Kuga comes out well on whole life cost against a growing number of PHEV SUV rivals, including the PSA trio of forthcoming Citroen C5 Aircross and new Peugeot 3008 and Vauxhall Grandland X plug-in hybrids, and the long-standing PHEV leader in sales terms, Mitsubishi’s Outlander plug-in hybrid. Ford’s model has residual values and insurance cost that outpoint all its competitors, and is well-kitted out and efficient.

Ford has also gone down an interesting route with the PHEV’s pricing, as the 225hp petrol-electric plug-in costs the same as the 190hp diesel Kuga on the Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale trim levels that the two models are available in. It’s a move likely to increase the pace of transition to plug-in hybrids, with the CO2 figures of 26g/km versus 129g/km making for a huge difference in monthly company car payments. On the top-spec Vignale, that means a 40% tax payer will have respective monthly bills of £201 or £412 on cars costing the same amount.

Equipment levels are good across the range, with even the Zetec getting front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, the sliding rear seats, selectable drive modes, 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with satnav and Android Auto/Apple Carplay, wireless charging pad and a range of safety systems including lane keep assist, post-collision braking, intelligent speed assist and cruise control. All models also get the embedded model system FordPass Connect which includes features and vehicle information accessed via Ford’s app such as remote unlocking and vehicle location, as well as a three-month trial of live traffic and either three months or 3GB of wifi hotspot.


paul barker

The verdict

The new Kuga is a versatile range to suit every powertrain requirement, and offers increased technology and in particular interior accommodation, while retaining the fine-handling character of previous Kugas