It's a mid-sized, five-seat, decently-booted SUV that’s been in Ford’s portfolio for a little while now, and this is the all-new version. It looks more like a tall Focus than anything else, but that’s no bad thing, and not hugely surprising because the two cars share a lot of the hardware under the skin.
Now, there are a lot of different Kugas. Petrol, diesel, diesel mild-hybrid and this, the petrol plug-in hybrid. This is the one we’re interested in at electrifying.com, because it’s the only one that is actually able to properly motivate itself with electric power. Albeit only a bit. But that ‘bit’ is actually pretty useful.
The Kuga packs a relatively large - for a PHEV, anyway - 14.4 kWh battery pack, giving a theoretical EV-only range of up to about 35 miles. It still doesn’t sound like all that much, but if you’re commuting those sorts of distances and plugging in at night, you honestly don’t use any fuel. You can potter every day and not wake the engine - mainly because you can silently run up to 85mph on electric. And the Kuga really does seem to manage to eke out decent EV-only range.
Then, when you have to travel further, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine jumps in to help. Obviously a big 2.5-litre petrol engine sounds like a stupid idea in a car designed to be efficient, but the 2.5 in the Kuga is designed to work with the electric motor so it can be made more efficient. It also means you get 222bhp of power, but only 32g/km of CO2 and a theoretical 200-plus mpg. If you plug it in, obviously.
That might sound like plenty of go, but as with most PHEVs, the Kuga isn’t particularly light. It weighs well over 1.8 tonnes, so it’s not exactly whip-fast. Getting to 62mph from rest takes just over nine seconds, so don’t worry about straining your neck. But it’s acceptable, and useful. The slushy CVT (continuously variable transmission) isn’t very responsive, but this type of gearbox is very efficient rather than exciting.
The brakes are good. The steering is a bit numb but accurate, and it’s quiet.
But then you realise something really quite unexpected, because this Kuga really does handle well. And not in the ‘for a PHEV SUV’ manner, but properly. It may only be front-wheel drive, but this tall Ford is comfy but flat, quick and curiously competent. In fact, it’s more like the Mini Countryman PHEV than something like a Mitsubishi Outlander.
Drive quickly and you’ll soon need to charge though. It takes about three and a half hours from a wallbox, but the Kuga doesn’t support fast charging, so long journeys will be petrol only once you’ve exhausted the initial charge. That low CO2 score makes it a winner for company car drivers and benefit-in-kind taxation - the point of a Phev, after all.
So the Kuga manages the mileages it advertises - or pretty much - and it surprises with its handling capabilities. The gearbox is a bit of a weak spot, and the interior is useful rather than inspiring, but altogether, it’s a points win for the mid-sized Ford. It’s a very rounded and pleasing take on the genre.