Ford has a knack of being late to the party. The Kuga itself was only launched in 2008, but until now it's been bereft of one of the most popular drivetrains available on SUVS: a diesel auto.
These have finally landed in recent weeks, mating the proven 2.0-litre TDCI turbodiesel with Ford's Powershift twin-clutch six-speed auto. You can pick your Kuga Powershift in two guises: the 138bhp output or the beefier 161bhp version. It's the latter we test here.
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI Powershift 163: the first drive
Don't get confused by the 163 in the Kuga's name; that's the output in metric horsepower, or ps. We have to say we wouldn't much fancy the lower-powered version, as even this top-spec Kuga diesel doesn't exactly fly around.
Rather, it's a well judged performance: civilised for a diesel, smooth revving and comfortably adequate acceleration. We haven't tested the 140 yet, but suspect it's worth forking out the extra £1500 for the extra power and torque.
The Powershift transmission suits the car. We left it in D for most of the week, and it shuffles ratios seamlessly in the background. There are no paddles, but you can stir the gearlever to ping between cogs should you wish. You'll enjoy the usual quick-shifting associated with twin-clutch transmissions, but it's not quite as instantaneous as VW's DSG original.
Ford Kuga: is it practical?
There's much to commend the Kuga: it's a stylish mid-sized crossover; it's one of the best to drive with that trademark pliancy in the damping and sweetness of steering that betray its Focus roots; and it's not too big like some SUVs - it's really no more daunting to drive than a hatchback on stilts.
But therein lies one of the problems. Its compact 4.4m footprint doesn't actually leave much space for bodies and bags. The boot stands at a compact 360 litres and rear space is merely ok, rather than roomy. If you only carry young children or adults occasionally, you'll be fine, but rivals offer more boot and passenger space.
That said, the Kuga bristles with clever touches: the boot lid opens whole or with just the pop-up screen, and the simple nudge action of the load cover is a masterstroke. It's impossible to refuel with unleaded thanks to Ford's unique filler flap, and there's no grimy fuel cap to unlock either.
Is the Kuga fun to drive?
Yep. It's still the best mainstream crossover to drive by some margin, and the Powershift addition to the diesel Kuga range only cements that experience. You'll look elsewhere if you want more space or top-notch interior fittings (the Kuga's cabin is neat enough, but lacks the substance of some German rivals), but as a car to cruise around in, or actually drive fast on a back road, it has few peers.
The Kuga just got better. Emissions are quite high at 179g/km, but most buyers will be private owners who will pay less tax penalty than business drivers. And Ford's remain expensive, nudging £26k in this spec. But we happen to know that you'll easily knock £2k off that simply by walking into a Blue Oval showroom.
This derivative is perhaps the best Kuga yet. The previous auto married the Focus ST's five-cylinder turbo, and was for plutocrats only. Now the diesel Powershift lands Ford slap bang in the middle of crossover central.