The Kuga has been a big success for Ford, although the most recent model has always been regarded as quite dull.
But now the American manufacturer has decided to inject a bit of excitement into its SUV, with a new ST-Line trim that features on multiple other models in the Ford range, including the Mondeo and the Fiesta.
The changes are largely cosmetic, with 18-inch alloy wheels, a black front grille, a sporty body kit as well as sports seats. Tweaks have been made to the suspension with the ST-Line receiving stiffer suspension bushes and riding 10mm lower than the standard Kuga.
Our test car came with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TDCI diesel engine, which is the range-topping engine on the ST-Line. It produces 178bhp and 400Nm of torque and was paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Despite it being the most ‘sporty’ engine in the ST-Line range, it didn’t feel that way. While not slow, it completes the 0-60mph sprint in 9.8 seconds and has a top speed of 124mph.
Ride and handling
Ford has long been known for its ability to make non-sporting cars handle well, and the Kuga is no exception. While, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t have the dynamic capability of the smaller Focus, it handles impressively for a mid-size SUV.
The steering also has a good weight to it and inspires confidence when you get to the twisty stuff, while thanks to the all-wheel-drive system, it has lots of grip, too.
The stiffer suspension of the ST-Line does help to reduce body roll, but at the expense of ride comfort. It crashes over bumps, which isn’t particularly ideal on our sub-par UK roads. The larger 19-inch wheels fitted to our test car didn’t help ride comfort either.
On the motorway it feels composed enough, but is let down by excessive wind noise, although the larger wheels don’t help this.
Interior and equipment
Inside, it’s very much typical Ford fare. It is pleasant enough but you still find too many cheap plastics - a problem that most modern Fords suffer with.
The dash is also a bit too cluttered, and makes it look old-fashioned as more manufacturers are now taking the minimalist approach to interior design. A few features are also badly positioned such as the eight-inch touchscreen that’s positioned at the top of the dash and is quite awkward to access when you are behind the wheel.
Rear space is aplenty as two adults should be able to sit comfortably with plenty of head- and legroom. Unfortunately, boot space is disappointing, with only 406 litres of room. As a comparison, the smaller Seat Ateca offers 510 litres of boot capacity.
The ST-Line specification sitsat the top of the Kuga line-up, meaning that the standard equipment on offer is impressive. You get the ST-Line styling kit, 18-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension and Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system that offers satellite navigation.
Our test car was the ST-Line X model that has 19-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and a hands-free tailgate.
The ST-Line starts at £27,745, which is reasonably priced considering the amount of equipment on offer. Our test car was the ST-Line X that cost from £29,745, which does start to look quite pricey.
Its running costs aren’t that much better either, as while Ford claims it can achieve 57.6mpg on the combined cycle, we struggled to reach 40mpg, even on a mix of long-distance and urban driving. The emissions for the Kuga ST-Line stand at 134g/km of CO2.
As a family SUV, the Kuga makes a good choice. It is spacious, well equipped and one of the best driving mid-size SUVs you can buy. In ST-Line it looks rather smart, too. Unfortunately, the ride comfort from the stiffer suspension does let the side down, as does the cluttered and badly laid-out dash. If you value the driving experience of your SUV and like the Kuga’s looks, it makes a fine choice, but unfortunately there are now much better rivals out there such as the Mazda CX-5 and Seat Ateca.