It’s often the case that cars launched in Europe or Asia don’t make it to the U.S. until the following model year. But the Ford Kuga is a rare exception to that rule. In America the crossover is sold as the Escape and received a facelift in late 2022, but it’s taken almost two years for that same visual refresh to make it onto the European-market Kuga, which is available this month.
A new grille, headlights, bumper and hood give the car a boxier, more SUV-like design that dilutes the family connection to the Focus hatch, but feels more in tune with modern trends. There’s now a light bar running across the leading age of the hood, for instance, which extends across the upper part of the headlight and gives the car a newfound assertiveness.
Titanium, ST-Line and Active trim grades all get their own look, but perhaps the most successful of those is Active, whose black fender and sill mouldings and faux skid plates giver the Kuga a definite SUV-like demeanour. It also offers 10 mm (0.4 inches) of extra ride height to back that up, though you’re unlikely to feel any benefit when driving. Buyers looking for something more performance minded should go for the ST-Line, though again, it’s mostly just an appearance package, and Ford still doesn’t offer a genuine Kuga ST.
There’s some equally big news inside, where a 13.2-inch touchscreen runs Ford’s latest Sync4 software and is claimed to possess double the processing power of the outgoing setup. It has 5G connectivity, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Alexa Built-in for improved voice command functionality, while a new Trailer Tow Navigation feature lets drivers select a route that avoids awkward turns and low bridges.
Most of the interior continues unchanged, but Ford has cleaned up the design by relocating the climate controls to the touchscreen. Having done thousands of miles in the old Kuga with the old rotary HVAC dials and found them very intuitive, even if some of the companion buttons were a little small, we’d say that’s a backward step.
Ford’s engineers have been busy under the hood, too. The base engine is a 148 hp (150 PS) 1.5-liter EcoBoost, and the only alternatives are hybrids. There are two regular 2.5-liter hybrids, one sending 178 hp (180 PS) to the just the front wheels, and a second sharing 181 hp (183 PS) between all four, whereas the sole outgoing Kuga Hybrid was a 187 hp (190 PS) front-driver. A PHEV version of the 2.5 continues to head the range, but it now pumps out 240 hp (243 PS) to the front wheels, instead of 222 hp (225 PS).
The Kuga always looked a little wimpy to our minds, but it was a very competent crossover and strong sales figures proved the public appreciated that. These facelifted changes aren’t radical but they’ll definitely help keep the punters coming.