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The latest Kuga has been on sale for a while. Is the conventional hybrid version the one to choose?
We try the hybrid version of the current Ford Kuga.
19in alloy wheels, sports suspension, ST-Line body styling, front and rear LED lights, front and rear heated seats, front and rear parking sensors, power front and rear windows, power tailgate, keyless entry and Ford power start button, auto wipers, dual-zone climate control, B&O premiums sound system, Ford SYNC 3 navigation system.
Zetec, Titanium, ST-Line, ST Line X, Vignale
In the past, the Focus mid-size hatch has been the fleet heartland for Ford, but the market is changing and the move to SUVs makes the Kuga even more relevant than before. Hence the choice of petrol, petrol plug-in and now conventional hybrid petrol power, that we have here.
Outside, apart from the lack of the extra charging flap, this Kuga looks no different from the PHEV version we drove two years ago. Squint and you can almost see the link between the Kuga's styling and the Focus. To sum up, the Kuga is not unattractive to look at, but because it is so close to the current Focus, it does not really stand out when compared to American-influenced previous generation.
The Kuga shares its underpinnings with the Focus, and if that was not obvious on the outside, you cannot miss the similarities on the interior. For starters, the dashboard is essentially the identical, that means you get the same spacious feel in the front and back of this Ford.
The bootspace is slightly less at 411 litres, thanks to the hybrid kit, but it is still a decent size and practicality can be increased further with the Kuga's standard sliding rear seat.
The FHEV is only available with range-topping ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale equipment grades. Our car certainly had all the standard kit you would expect of a model with a list price of £36,185 before extras. Although, considering this price we wish the interior felt a bit more special. One specification highlight fitted to our test car, was the optional Technology Pack, which included excellent and powerful full LED quad projector headlights.
The FHEV, or full hybrid electric vehicle version of the Kuga pairs the same 2.5-litre Duratech petrol engine as the plug-in version, also with CVT transmission, but the FHEV has a 1.1kWh battery and AC synchronous motor to give the electrical assistance. This equals an official 47.9mpg combined figure and 134g/km CO2 emissions for our ST-Line X Edition equipment grade version. With its 31% BIK figure versus the 12% figure for the PHEV version, the plug-in is still the more obvious fleet choice.
On the road, like the PHEV, the FHEV version starts silently in full electric mode, but whereas the PHEV can travel on electric power alone for 39 miles, the hybrid quickly moves from electric to petrol power seamlessly when on the move. Despite nearly 200hp, this Kuga feels pretty slow off the mark - even if you flick it into 'Sport' mode. This appears to be borne out by the 9.1 second 0-60mph acceleration figure.
Still, despite the usual Ford driver appeal of responsive steering, high grip levels and the fact there's very little body roll in corners - this is not a car you will want to drive hard. Why? Well in our opinion, the CVT transmission is the problem here. Hard ride aside, when you need to push on, the transmission seems to rev and rev - the further round the counter you go and then just stays there. The result is a strained driving experience at anything other than urban speeds. Maybe it was the electric-only range of the PHEV version that we last drove, but that felt more refined than this car.
With its longer EV range, lower BIK and the fact it's marginally nicer to drive, the PHEV version is still the pick of the Kuga range for fleet, but if this hybrid version still works out figure-wise, it's worth a look.