Used Ford Kuga (Mk3, 2020-date) review
Compact SUVs are hot property and they have been for a while, so the stakes were high for Ford to get it right when it launched its third take on the Kuga. It’s fair to say that Ford hit the spot, because ever since it arrived this smart-looking SUV has been the most popular in its class. When Ford launched the Kuga Mk3 it was nominated Mid-Size SUV of the Year in our 2020 New Car Awards, so it was no surprise that it came out on top when we pitched it against the Skoda Karoq and Toyota Rav4 in a group test in summer 2020. At the time we said: “The Kuga is still the family SUV for keen drivers, because it handles brilliantly, but in Titanium spec it’s cheaper and better equipped than the Karoq – and nearly as versatile, despite slightly less passenger room”. As a used buy we reckon the Kuga is no less compelling.
Ford has never been slow to exploit demand in any market segment, whether it’s coupés, MPVs, crossovers or SUVs. That has invariably been good news for buyers, because Ford is a brand that makes cars accessible, with its wide model ranges and large production volumes.
For those buying used, these factors have always made Ford’s wares even more tempting, thanks to keen prices, and that’s certainly the case where the Kuga is concerned. Compact SUVs started to become popular in the early 2000s and while some of Ford’s efforts around that time weren’t all that accomplished (think Maverick and Explorer), by 2008 the first-generation Kuga had been launched and this was just what buyers wanted: a road-biased SUV that was good to drive, looked smart and offered decent value.
The sequel offered more of the same, while the third take on the formula was even better when it was unveiled at the end of 2019. Top of the class, in fact.
The Mk3 Kuga arrived in UK showrooms in January 2020. Priced from £23,995, there was just one petrol engine: a 1.5-litre EcoBoost unit in 119bhp or 148bhp forms. Diesel fans could choose between 1.5 and 2.0 EcoBlue engines. The former came only in 119bhp form, whereas the latter was offered with mild hybrid (MHEV) tech in 148bhp guise, or there was a non-hybrid 187bhp option.
It was this generation of Kuga that saw Ford’s first ever plug-in hybrid (PHEV); a 222bhp car with a 2.5-litre petrol engine at its heart. A year later, a full hybrid Kuga joined the range, with a 2.5-litre petrol engine. Sold as the Kuga Hybrid, the car was rated at 187bhp and was claimed to have a range of as much as 600 miles.
In December 2021 Ford announced that it had axed all diesel options for Kuga buyers, leaving only the petrol, hybrid and plug-in hybrid options.
From a purchase and running costs perspective, the diesels still makes a lot of sense; they’re readily available, cost the least to buy, have decent muscle (if you avoid entry-level models) and they’re frugal.
You’ll pay slightly more to buy a petrol-engined Kuga and your fuel bills will be significantly higher than for the diesel, while you’ll pay even more to acquire a plug-in hybrid. The PHEV only really makes sense if you can charge at home and you don’t do a lot of long-distance journeys, otherwise the fuel economy will be disappointing.
All Kugas are well equipped, with few entry-level Zetecs for sale. These come with 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, a heated windscreen, air-con, an eight-inch touchscreen, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors plus automatic headlights.
Titanium models have 18-inch wheels, a powered tailgate, keyless entry, automatic wipers, high-beam assist, dual-zone climate control, electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, digital instrumentation, a premium Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker sound system and a rear parking camera.
The Vignale adds metallic paint, a heated steering wheel, leather trim, heated rear seats and 19-inch alloys. The ST-Line Edition came with 18-inch wheels, a bodykit and sportier detailing inside and out. The ST-Line X edition added heating for the front and rear seats as well as the steering wheel, plus a panoramic glass roof.
Two very desirable Kuga rivals are the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson. They’re both good value, plentiful, and they also come with long warranties.
The Volkswagen Group has three options for you: the VW Tiguan (which also comes in seven-seater Tiguan Allspace form), the Skoda Karoq and the SEAT Ateca. All are desirable for their impressive build quality, user-friendliness, ready availability and efficient engines.
The Mazda CX-5 has great styling inside and out, it’s good to drive and it’s well made. The Nissan Qashqai is plentiful, good value and practical, while the Peugeot 3008 looks smart and has an impressive interior.
The Renault Kadjar is roomy and stylish, while the Toyota RAV4 promises reliability and a user-friendly cabin. One car that has probably stolen a few Kuga sales is Ford’s own Puma, which is smaller, but it leads its class as an all-rounder. It’s well worth a look if you don’t need a car that’s quite as big as the Kuga.
All Kugas come with Ford’s Easy Fuel system, which guarantees that you cannot put the wrong fuel into your car. There’s also no fuel cap, which helps you to keep your hands clean when refuelling.
If you’re intending to tow, be aware that the plug-in hybrid can pull just 1,200kg, the 1.5 EcoBlue is rated at 1,500kg, the 1.5 EcoBlue 120 at 1,600kg and the 1.5 EcoBlue 150 at 1,800kg. The 2.0 EcoBlue 150 and 190 are rated at 1,900kg and 2,100kg respectively.
Kugas weren’t supplied with a spare wheel; instead there was an inflation kit. However, a space saver spare wheel was available at extra cost for all models apart from the 2.0 EcoBlue MHEV.
Option packs to look out for include Technology (head-up display and LED projector headlights), and Driver Assistance (adaptive cruise control, front camera, active park assist, blind spot warning and more).
With a user-friendly layout and a decent standard of fit and finish, the Kuga’s cabin is a great place to spend time, although you might find the front seats flat and unsupportive. Cabin space is good though, with enough room to carry five adults – but no more, as there’s no seven-seat option.
Versatility is improved by the fitment of a sliding rear seat which allows between 412 and 612 litres of boot capacity in five-seat mode. Fold the back seats down and this boosts boot space to 1,423-1,534 litres.
All Kuga Mk3s have to be serviced every two years or 18,000 miles, with the first service pegged at £177.50. After this the schedule alternates between minor and major, which are priced at £217.50 and £302.50 respectively. However, Ford also offers an Essential service for £169, which is an oil and filter change, the various fluids (brake, coolant, windscreen washer) are topped up, and the key systems are also checked. This also includes a clean inside and out plus a fresh air or pollen filter.
The brake fluid should be renewed every two years (£65) and the coolant every 10 years (£80). The 2.0-litre diesel engine has a cambelt which has to be replaced every 10 years or 120,000 miles at a cost of about £500. The 1.5 EcoBoost engine’s cambelt has to be replaced every 10 years or 150,000 miles, but it’s an engine-out job so it costs a hefty £1500 or so.
Ford has recalled the Kuga five times so far, with three of the campaigns aimed specifically at the plug-in hybrid. These were issued in July, September and December 2020, with all plug-in hybrid Kugas affected by at least one of these recalls; some cars were caught up in all three campaigns.
The first recall was because a connector within the control unit for the high-voltage battery could be damaged. That first recall affected 30,202 Kuga PHEVs whereas the second was aimed at 5,046 cars in which the battery pack could overheat, potentially leading to the car catching fire. The third PHEV recall affected 2,326 Kugas which could suffer from short circuits within the battery pack.
Just one Kuga diesel was recalled in September 2020, because its auxiliary heater could start up by itself, then the most recent recall came in May 2021 because 100 Kugas made up to February 2021 had faulty eCall software installed.
A 19th place overall (out of 75 entries) in the 2021 Driver Power new car survey is no mean feat, but the Kuga was still beaten by no fewer than seven other mid-size SUVs including the Mazda CX-5 (third), Toyota C-HR (fourth), Skoda Karoq (fifth) and Vauxhall Grandland X in seventh. The Kia Sportage, SEAT Ateca and Toyota RAV4 took places 9-11.
Kuga highlights are the ride and handling, the infotainment, the all-round visibility, the brakes and the dashboard design. All of those achieved top 10 places; the low spots were for fuel economy and running costs, poor refinement and the small boot.
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