The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The good news for lovers of tall SUVs is that the Kuga has a relatively lofty driving position. The bad news is the driver's seat feels unusually high in relation to the dashboard, and despite standard seat height adjustment, you cannot get it as low as you might like. That's a small complaint, though, and there's plenty of adjustment elsewhere, including lumbar support and generous steering wheel rake and reach, to allow you to get comfy. The top trims, such as ST-Line X and Vignale, get a 10-way electrically operated driver's seat with memory settings as standard.
ST-Line trim and above have a 12.3in digital instrument display in place of conventional analogue dials. It gives you clear driving information(including battery charge on the PHEV), and its content can be customised to your preference.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The Kuga's front pillars are quite thick and steeply raked back towards the driver compared to a Peugeot 5008's, Volkswagen Tiguan's or Skoda Kodiaq's. This can make it more difficult to see in certain circumstances, such as around tight corners. The rear pillars are also thicker than those of the rivals above, which obscures things when you're reversing.
On the plus side, every Kuga comes with front and rear parking sensors as standard, but front and rear parking cameras are available only as part of the pricey optional Driver’s Assistance Pack. LED headlights are included once you rise to Titanium trim, and Vignale models upgrade these to adaptive LED headlights, which allow you to use main beams without dazzling any cars in front.
Sat nav and infotainment
Ford’s 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system is standard on all models and includes navigation. It’s reasonably responsive, but its graphics are a little basic and some menus, such as for selecting a DAB radio station, are quite convoluted. Still, it's easier to use than the infotainment system in a Peugeot 5008 or Citroën C5 Aircross, but the Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Kodiaq come with a sharper screen and better software responses. Then there are those systems that offer more user-friendly rotary controllers instead of, or as well as, touchscreens, such as the BMW X3 and Mazda CX-5. These are less distracting to operate in the move.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring are included with all Kugas, allowing you to use your preferred phone apps for music or sat-nav, plus you get a wireless charging pad for compatible phones. Upgrading to Titanium trim, meanwhile, gets you a B&O premium sound system with 10 speakers and 575 watts of power.
The Kuga feels okay on the inside, but spend any time in one and you'll quickly realise that it's been built to a price. Even where there are soft-touch plastics they tend to look shiny and low-rent compared to the kind of matt-look surfaces you find in some of the smarter cars in the class, such as the CX-5 and Skoda Kodiaq. And then there are the premium options that really add a bit of panache, like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
The Kuga also has a large amount of cheaper, harder plastic used throughout. And while that's also true of the Citroën C5 Aircross, at least that has details that chintz it up a bit; any chintzing in the Kuga, such as the carbon-effect trims, tends to look a bit budget.