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Ford Kuga review (2010 onwards)
Summary - New, more powerful engines and Ford's Powershift twin-clutch automatic gearbox make the Kuga an even more appealing choice than before
We like - Snazzy looks, solid build quality, excellent ride, spirited handling, usability of Powershift gearbox, token off-road ability
We don't like - Powershift's manual mode not the quickest, some chintzy interior trim, visibility, small boot
Ford's Kuga has always impressed with its great looks and sharp handling. And now there's an updated version, with Ford wisely leaving the looks alone and concentrating on new engines and a slick dual-clutch automated gearbox.
Known as Powershift, this six-speed unit has already been seen on the Focus and brings with it the usual advantages of auto convenience with minimal impact on emissions or fuel consumption.
The updated Kuga also gets revised versions of the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine. Power climbs from 136hp to 140hp and there's a new 163hp version to take on cars like the VW Tiguan and Skoda Yeti fitted with the 170hp version of VW's 2.0-litre diesel.
140hp versions are available in front- and four-wheel drive, the 163hp diesel and 200hp 2.5-litre petrol both coming with four-wheel drive as standard. New 'Individual' trim options further boost the already stylish looks.
We drove the new 163hp diesel and it's immediately obvious this is the perfect engine for the Kuga. Ford's TDCi diesels have typically been smooth and powerful and the new engine is both of these things but more so.
The extra power slashes over a second off the 0-62mph time compared with the outgoing 136hp car, dipping below 10 seconds to record 9.6 seconds. Not quite as fast as the 170hp Yeti or Tiguan but rapid enough in a car like this.
The Powershift gearbox works brilliantly with the updated engine too, shifting rapidly and smoothly in automatic mode and letting you have a degree of manual control from the stick. It's not quite as quick to respond as you might like in this mode though, nor are there shifter paddles. But this is no hardship because Powershift works best when left to its own devices. And with it the Kuga is fast and fun to drive, with more than enough power to be entertaining.
Ride and handling
Ford's apparently instinctive ability to set cars up with just the right combination of feel, weight and feedback is obvious in the Kuga. There's a perfect weight to the steering wheel - just chunky enough to give the Kuga some poise but not so heavy as to make it a bind.
And the chassis is just brilliant. So brilliant you soon forget you're in a supposedly top-heavy compact SUV and start hurling it about like a hot hatch. It even rides well, isolating you from bumps and potholes without compromising body control one bit.
If you want cavernous interior space you're still better off with an MPV. The Kuga has a much funkier image though and, as such, the slight compromise in practicality is one you'd happily live with.
The 360-litre boot is one of the smaller in the class and the rear legroom is OK but nothing better than that. Up front there's a solid feel to the controls but perhaps a tad too much silver-painted plastic.
Economy and safety
Good news here. Both diesel options are more powerful than the outgoing engine and yet both are cleaner and greener. CO2 on the outgoing car was 169g/km and is now 156g/km on two-wheel drive Kugas, four-wheel drive versions recording 159g/km.
Powershift pushes this to 179g/km, the two-wheel drive version recording an official 47.9mpg and both 140hp and 163hp four-wheel drive models 47.1mpg for the manual and 41.5mpg for the Powershift. The 2.5 petrol is both thirsty and chucks out 244g/km.
The MSN Cars verdict
Ford has wisely left the Kuga's strong points like the looks, ride and handling well alone and instead focused on making the engines a little more competitive in power, refinement, emissions and fuel efficiency.
Job done too. The 163hp diesel is punchy and extremely refined, as well as cleaner and more efficient. And if a lot of your driving is around town or in stop-start traffic the Powershift gearbox is a great option.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||2.5 5-cyl turbo|
|Engines, diesel||2.0-litre 4-cyl (two versions)|
|Torque, lb ft||236-251|
|0-62 mph, secs||10.7-8.8|
|Top speed, mph||114-130|
|CO2, g/km / Tax, %||244/35% - 156/20%|
|Ratings||Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 163PS Powershift|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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