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Where Ford’s Kuga plug-in SUV scores – and loses out

Special door-edge guard device helps prevent scratches to the paintwork


Ford’s Kuga offers a good, all-round family package but doesn’t set pulses racing in a fiercely competitive market

Ford’s Kuga offers a good, all-round family package but doesn’t set pulses racing in a fiercely competitive market

Ford’s Kuga offers a good, all-round family package but doesn’t set pulses racing in a fiercely competitive market

I’ve been both a culprit and a victim of having a car door open too far and leaving a little scrape behind. It can happen in a tight parking spot.

How my heart sank on the few occasions it happened to be my fault.

Luckily, the point of contact was mild and no damage discernible.

Except for one instance some time back when my car was on the receiving end of a fair old whack. Obviously the offender had long flown the coup and I was left disgusted at the small, but perceptible, scar.

I was reminded of it when reviewing this week’s test car, the Ford Kuga plug-in.

It has special door-edge guards which pop out when you open the door and form a non-damaging barrier between your door and that of the car parked next to you.

Isn’t it funny how little things like that stand out (no pun intended) while larger, technological items are taken for granted?

The Kuga has been around a while and has been a popular buy despite some bizarre swings in its pricing, but I haven’t driven the plug-in version before.

Ford really is badly in need of a few full-electric cars. It has quite a number lined up from next year but has an awful lot of catching up to do.

For now it has to do the best it can with “electrified” models such as this plug-in Kuga.

As you know, the good thing about plug-ins is that they are like ordinary hybrids in so far as they have two sources of power: petrol engine and battery/motor.

However, they have a larger high-voltage battery that you can charge when static (at home, for example). That lets you drive longer on battery electric power alone.

The Kuga’s 14.4kWh battery can cover a claimed EV-only range of 56km. Sometimes these claims are way off the mark. Not so much with the Kuga. Well done.

But the official petrol consumption figures of close to one-litre every 100km are fantasy. I say that about every PHEV. It’s frustrating. But the figures are official and mean lower road tax.

Frankly, this Kuga is in need of every bit of positivity it can get because it faces fierce competition from a whole range of modern compact SUV competitors – think Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage.

It was always a motor that handled particularly well and was, at one time, the best of the lot. But this PHEV version didn’t set my pulse racing. I found it had a fair bit of body roll even on the gentle twists and turns.

It also didn’t score particularly well on muffling ordinary humps and bumps. And the steering wheel didn’t offer the reassuring feedback I expected from what I have always thought to be part of a dynamic overall chassis set-up.

That said, there are compensating factors. The cabin is quite spacious, among the best in class, while boot room was more than adequate.

Strangely I struggled to find my best driver-seat position, which is not the norm for cars like this. I can’t explain but I think height and reach of the steering wheel were a bit miserly and forced me to compromise. I would prefer to have sat higher with better all-round views.

The infotainment screen stands on the centre of the dash and looks a bit dated now though its functions were simple and clear. In contrast the driver data screen (behind the steering wheel) was smart and sharp.

Driving was pleasant enough and there was plenty of power but I felt the 2.5-litre petrol engine was a bit loud and noticeable when it cut in – which was quite often given the variety of driving I undertook: short journeys and longer motorway trips.

The rotary knob for gear selection is a lesson in simplicity. The automatic CVT transmission was smooth enough. All these little things make such a difference when you are concentrating on what’s going on around you.

I was well looked after with the seating which was copious and comfortable. And, as a quick glance at the spec sheet will show, there was a lot of helpful tech, from parking aids to adaptive cruise control.

And of course, there was the concept of the simple door guard I mentioned earlier. I didn’t need it, luckily, but it was good to know it was there. Wouldn’t it be great if all cars had something similar?

Would I buy this plug-in? I’m not sure. It didn’t really set stellar standards but is certainly a decent package. I just think it doesn’t work quite as well as some of its key rivals.

That’s my view. I have no doubt it would suit many families looking for a roomy, all-round, pleasant, compact crossover.

Fact File

Ford Kuga PHEV, crossover, 2.5-litre, 225PS electric-petrol, CVT auto, 32g/km; electric-only range 56km. Model tested spec includes ST-Line sport seats, 18in alloys, black roof rails, ST-Line body styling kit, rear spoiler, and red brake calipers.

Options include a technology pack, driver assistance: front camera, adaptive cruise control, Intelligent Speed Assist, Active Park Assist, and door edge guards.

Entry price from €46,340. ST-Line PHEV from €48,519; with options €52,079.

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