Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
So far, we’ve tried only the full plug-in hybrid version of the Kuga. It's called the 2.5 Duratec 225PS PHEV and it pairs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor for a combined power output of 222bhp. You can choose to drive in fully electric mode (officially for up to 35 miles) or using just the petrol engine, which can also charge the battery. Then there's the auto mode, which allows the car to use a combination of the two as it sees fit.
Even with both electric motor and petrol engine combined, the performance isn't as quick as some hybrids; 0-62mph takes a relatively leisurely 9.2sec, which is slower than both the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Honda CR-V Hybrid. But don't think it feels too slow; the electric motor adds instant low-end punch so it's far more responsive off the line than most conventionally powered cars. It also enhances the Kuga's mid-range flexibility, so you're rarely left wanting. Even in the electric-only mode it'll take you up to motorway speeds with relative ease.
You also get a selection of drive settings: Normal, Eco and Sport. When driving in full-electric mode, Eco restricts acceleration to help save the battery, but still allows useable pace. Sport, meanwhile, sharpens up the accelerator response. We’ll let you know if the conventional petrol and diesel engines and the mild-hybrid are worth your consideration when we test them later in the year.
Suspension and ride comfort
We've only tried the ST-Line trim, which comes with stiffer sports suspension. It's relatively firm compared with a Citroen C5 Aircross or Honda CR-V, but still soaks up potholes and expansion joints well enough to feel mainly comfortable.
There’s no hiding the 300kg of batteries the heavier PHEV model has to cart around, though. Despite the stiffer suspension, you can still feel the Kuga wallow from side to side on undulating country roads and bounce up and down gently over crests and dips. Hopefully the regular versions, with less weight on board, will manage to feel a little calmer.
The Kuga shares its underpinnings of the Ford Focus, a family car that’s well regarded for its handling. Being much taller – and in PHEV form, much heavier – don't expect the same agility, though. Even the sportier ST Line models lean more than a Focus and don't steer nearly as progressively – there's some unnatural weight build up the minute you start to turn the wheels. That said, you do adjust to this after a while, and it does help you to stay centred in your lane on motorways.
Mind you, compared with some other SUV rivals, like the Mitsubishi Outlander or Citroën C5 Aircross, the Kuga PHEV is pretty tidy to drive. Yet anyone looking for proper dynamism from their large SUV will prefer sharper-handling models, which include the Mazda CX-5, or, if your budget stretches, the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
Noise and vibration
Road noise at speed is the most noticeable intrusion in the Kuga; you’ll be aware of its tyres rumbling over any particularly coarse road surfaces, plus you get some crashing through the body as the suspension deals with big ruts. Wind noise is better suppressed, though, but overall a Peugeot 5008 is a much quieter cruising companion.
In its fully electric mode the Kuga PHEV moves around stealthily, especially in town, and when the petrol engine fires up it's not too intrusive as long as you don't put your foot down hard. If you do, the noise picks up because the CVT automatic gearbox keeps the engine revving, and it stays that way until you back off. You can also hear some background clonks from the gearbox as you come on and off the accelerator at slow speeds.
Coarse engine and laggy infotainment, but a classy interi...
It lacks seven seats and the rear space of some rivals, but th...
The practical Skoda Kodiaq is one of the very best seven-seat...
The Koleos is stylish and well equipped, but it’s not as spaci...