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Why the new-look Kuga's just too tame, Ford has to go further

The new-look Kuga's just too tame, Ford has to go further
Ford Kuga PHEV

Ford Kuga PHEV

Upgrade to the ST-Line spec and you'll have a stunning looking Kuga PHEV

Upgrade to the ST-Line spec and you'll have a stunning looking Kuga PHEV

Plenty of buttons put you in control

Plenty of buttons put you in control

Daragh Keany

Ford - Kuga ST Line

IHAVE an unusual one this week. Unlike a lot of road tests where I grow into the car and learn to love it more over the course of the week, with the Kuga PHEV it went the other way.

Now, I do have to state that it didn't end up with me thinking it is a complete waste of money. Far from it. But as the extra-long test drive (I had it for two weeks over Christmas) continued, more things started to bug me.

Let's get my gripes out of the way first and finish on a high because it deserves consideration when looking for an SUV, especially a PHEV version.

Niggles-wise though there are a few… I still get a shock every time I sit into a Ford and I see their infotainment system. I know I am privileged in that I get to road test 50+ new cars a year but even low to mid-level car manufacturers have more responsive and dynamic graphics and home screens.

Luckily, Fords are Apple CarPlay and Android compatible so their homemade project can be easily overridden but it is definitely something worth looking at.

The Kuga's SYNC3 infotainment screen is, at eight inches, a smidge small compared to some of the competition, but as I have said on these pages many time, praise must be heaped on Ford for not putting every single control behind the touch screen.

There are actual switches and rotary controls for volume, tuning, heating and air conditioning.

Another slight gripe was that a few things were slower than normal; like the windscreen wipers and the electric windows. I didn't take out my stopwatch but there seemed to be an unnecessary lethargy with some features. Yes I know…first world problems.

But the biggest gripe is the fuel economy. It is thirsty, as a lot of PHEVs are due to the heavy load it carries but I felt I wasn't getting what I should out of a full tank.

I realise the tank may be smaller than other SUVs due to the giant battery included for your EV driving but I didn't get anything like the range I was being told I would get.

Luckily though, the opposite can be said of the battery.

Brand new, this bad boy boasts 56km in electric driving on a full charge and that is definitely an option. This sounds obvious, but believe me when I tell you a lot of PHEV ranges are calculated in high temperatures on a controlled test track and driven at tortoise-like speed to maximise potential.

Plenty of buttons put you in control

Plenty of buttons put you in control

The Kuga does what it says on the tin. Which was a massive relief and allays a concerns about its thirsty ICE powertrain.

So let's get positive. Because there are more ups than downs here.

For starters, Ford has finally got the looks right, at the third attempt. This 3rd-gen Kuga is one of the best looking in its class. And it's a claustrophobic class. If you can upgrade to the ST-Line spec (and the Lucid red paint like my test car) you will have a stunning car.

It has a good interior that offers space and comfort in abundance. There is a high-end quality to the finish and everything is assembled correctly.

The latest Kuga gets a 12-inch digital instrument screen (Puma fans will know it), which is bright and clear and alters its layout depending on your drive mode (Normal, Eco, Sport, or Slippery and wait for it… Sand/Deep Snow).

There are 475 litres of space in the boot which can be manipulated to 500 if you slide the back row of seats forward.

I gave this a full-blown test over the two weeks. There was a quick jaunt to see my folks up the country that required a jam-packed boot full of Santa's generous gifts and I even indulged in a St Stephen's Day sale purchase of a brand new TV. Even in its box with its absurdly OTT packaging it was no bother to the Kuga to take it home safely.

It was a comfortable and safe drive throughout and will no doubt continue to sell in the thousands, but I do think some of Ford's tech boffins need to work a little harder to get this up to where it belongs.

Starting from €33,358 my test vehicle came in at €44,572 and had a combined torque of 225bhp. It is priced very well compared to some of its competitors

The Mustang Mach-E is a revelation, the Puma ST is a gorgeous pocket rocket, the Raptor is one of the most exciting pick-ups on the market and the latest Focus is gorgeous.

Ford knows what it is doing. I just wish they'd I get a little more excitement and finesse out of the Kuga PHEV because I really expected it.

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