Plug-in hybrids are great for those wanting to dip their toes in electrified waters without committing to a bonafide EV. There are lots on the market to choose from, but what happens when you yearn for something a bit sportier? The Kuga PHEV ticks the boxes of efficiency, looks and performance on paper, but what about in reality?
My test car had the White Platinium paintwork with a black roof — a beautiful £850 colour combo, but a task to keep clean in the winter. OTR prices start from £39,855 for the Black Package Edition with the CVT ‘box like I had, but my car tipped the scales at £44,255 thanks to a few pricey but nice options.
The keys were handed over and it was mine for the week. Straight away, the ST-Line bodywork transformed this family car into a slightly sportier version of itself — it almost looked like it could wear a proper ST badge, especially with those red brake calipers, hugging Alcantara seats and tasty twin exhausts. That’s about as ST as things got, however.
The Black Edition gets sports suspension, an incredibly firm set-up for British roads. In comparison, the Focus ST I had on test earlier this year never felt as choppy over potholes or uneven road surfaces. In the bends, the Kuga urges you to let it loose and it does a fine job ironing out tight corners for a nearly two-tonne hybrid SUV.
Mashing the throttle saw the 221bhp 2.5-litre pick up quickly off the mark and the CVT gearbox responded well. It only has 200Nm of torque, which means it can feel sluggish in-gear. Ford claims a 0-62mph time of 9.2sec but my real-world testing showed a slightly snappier time of 8.7sec, while the 30-70mph slip road dash took just 7.2sec.
I often drive to see my parents — thankfully, the 69.8-mile round trip, consisting of motorways, towns and B-roads, is also perfect for testing a car’s true economy. Setting off, the tank was full and showed 322 miles, the outside temperature was 9°C and eco mode was engaged.
Arriving at my parents’ house resulted in having one mile of battery and 304 miles of fuel left, and topping up via a domestic plug took around six hours. After our lengthy catch-up and the charitable electricity donation I received, it was time to head off. Arriving home, the car had run 47.8 miles on electricity during round trip, delivering an impressive average of 176mpg. In normal mode over a different 49-mile route, the car averaged 40.4mpg.
Of course, a charging option might not always be available, so what happens if you run the battery flat? Well, it does have a 2.5-litre powerplant after all, but I managed 39.4mpg on a 39.1-mile trip — still quite good.
The week was over, the keys were handed back and the Kuga had given me mixed feelings. The driving experience could be engaging, but the sport suspension was a tad too much when I wasn’t in the mood for driving around with my hair alight. For that reason, I would opt for either the Titanium or Vignale editions for a softer ride.