It’s a glorious sunny afternoon in Dublin City and here we find ourselves with the keys to the all-new Ford Kuga Hybrid at the Irish launch. This is a huge moment for Ford as the brand kicks off its electrified product offensive supported as part of the $11 billion investment for alternative powered vehicles. This new Kuga will be offered two powertrains to include a diesel and for the first time on a Ford passenger car a Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). The last Kuga was massive success for the brand so when it came to designing the new model, Ford were heavily influenced by feedback from European customers. The final result was a much more streamlined and modern looking vehicle that looks great from any angle. Yes you can see the traits of Focus shining through and indeed it does share some common parts but the distinctive profile of the Kuga will leave you in no doubt this is something totally new. Ford claim this is now the largest of the top 5 medium sized SUVs on the market in both length and width here in Ireland.

Like the current range of Ford vehicles on offer buyers can opt for Titanium, ST Line, ST Line X; and Vignale specification. Our test vehicle was the ST Line X and it looked sublime from almost every angle. The sporty bumpers, larger wheels and ST Line badging gives the vehicle a real presence on the road with many observers nodding in appreciation. Inside it’s pretty good too and Ford have went for a simplified, less cluttered design by seamlessly integrated surfaces and using good quality materials throughout. The instrument panel positioning is perfectly within your eye line and optimised for greater space. To the centre console you get a floating 8-inch touchscreen with Navigation, which is also now standard across the range. Below this your eye will be drawn to the optional Rotary Gear Shift Dial for the eight-speed automatic transmission. An electric parking brake keeps things clean and leaves you with that spacious feeling.

The powertrain choices for the new Kuga are short and sweet. Buyers can opt for the 1.5 litre EcoBlue 120PS diesel manual or the PHEV model with the 2.5 litre Duratec 225PS petrol hybrid engine. It’s at this point I can almost hear you trembling at the thoughts of having to run a 2.5 litre petrol engine! Well fear not, the 2.5l four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle is extremely efficient. In the normal combustion engine cycle the intake valve stays closed when the piston moves up on its compression stroke, creating pressure in the cylinder. In an Atkinson-cycle engine, the valve stays open slightly longer. This means there’s now less pressure in the cylinder and the piston doesn’t have to work as hard to overcome friction. This in turn improves fuel efficiency and the petrol vapour escapes back into the intake manifold through that open valve back into the cycle again. It sounds and reads complicated but it’s a formula that’s been around for years that can now be utilised better with the latest technology. Combining this with the electric motor and you can travel up to 56 kilometres on pure electricity or enjoy up to 202mpg on the open road combined. Again these are ultimate numbers claimed by Ford and until we take the vehicle for a weeklong test drive it will be hard to verify. The power-split technology combines the 2.5-litre Duratec petrol engine, electric motor and generator, and 14.4 kWh lithium-ion battery to produce 225PS.  All this is routed through a power splitter, which also serves as a CVT automatic transmission allowing the vehicle to seamless, use both power sources. The new Kuga will be supplied with both a home charge cord and a public charge cord as standard. Expect it to take around 6 hours to charge for a regular home three pin or opt for the Ford-approved wallbox for home use, which can charge the PHEV in 3.5 hours.

As expected and like the Focus you get standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies to enhance protection, driving and parking which also helped to deliver the achieved 5-star NCAP rating. These include front and rear parking sensors, Collision mitigation, Lane keeping aid, Pre-Collison Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection and Post-collision braking.

Prices are expected to kick off on the Titanium 1.5 litre EcoBlue diesel starting at €33,357 and for the PHEV version €35,432. This price difference of just €2,075 is designed to make people really think hard about the possibility of owning the PHEV version. Early signs are that a significant number of Kuga buyers will take the opportunity to go the plug in hybrid for the first time. For the sporty ST Line series we had on test you can expect the diesel version to kick off at €35,985 and the PHEV version to be priced from €37,425.

Our time was short and sweet with the new Kuga but it was a very impressive machine. Essentially during the pandemic we were treated to an hour long heavily sanitised test drive that mainly incorporated the city roads out to Poolbeg and back onto the Stillorgan dual carriageway for our return journey. This meant we were predominately enjoying the electric motor but when you lean hard on the accelerator the 2.5-litre Duratec petrol engine barks into life to allow you feel some of that combined 225PS. The power splitter, which also serves as a CVT automatic transmission allowing the vehicle to seamless use both power is fast and not at all noisy like some CVT transmissions. The steering was nice and sharp and there wasn’t a hint of body roll through the bends. It feels planted and surefooted and we can’t wait to spend a little longer with it!