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the Ford electric double or quits

Ford enters the sector in full boiling plug-in hybrid SUVs with the Kuga. A model that could prove to be of capital importance for the future in Europe of the American manufacturer.

Ford has no secret. For several months the manufacturer has embarked on a huge restructuring, one of the most important in its history, in an attempt to adapt to the new global automobile deal requiring to play simultaneously on very different tables.

On the American market, Ford made volumes, with a lot of SUVs and pickups (the F150 is still the best-selling vehicle in the United States) and abandoned the sedans and small city cars there. On the European market, on the contrary, these small models are prized with increasingly stringent environmental standards. Ford is paying the price for years behind in terms of electrification. With 128 grams of CO2 emitted per kilometer on average in 2019, Ford has one of the highest averages among large GPs.

The American manufacturer now has no choice: it must accelerate on hybrid and electric models, the only way to quickly lower the averages. If necessary, in light of the billions of euros in fines in the event of an overrun, it is the very presence of Ford on the European continent that can be called into question … The Kuga PHEV is one of the assets put on the table to try to meet this challenge.

The ride comfort, a little firm but not too much, is perfectly adapted to the machine and contrasts there also with the usual molesse of the competitors on the segment.
The driving comfort, a little firm but not too much, is perfectly adapted to the machine and contrasts there also with the usual molesse of the competitors on the segment. © Antoine Larigaudrie

The good point: a “big station wagon” rather than a “fake 4×4”

Before technology, one of the main strengths of the Kuga is its aesthetics, a criterion that remains decisive for many buyers when buying a vehicle. The Kuga stands out from the “fake 4×4” with square shapes that abound in the segment. The Kuga is a machine with substantial dimensions, certainly (4.60 meters), but with a more airy design, less tall on legs and rich in curves, which makes the whole lighter. The interior is large and roomy, with a large chest (475 liters). It rather evokes a big station wagon, of the Kia Niro or Subaru Forester type. The grille with its large almond-shaped headlights and its very American-style rear are already a good point to stand out from the competition.

The Duratec 2.5l 4-cylinder heat engine is combined with a 14.4 kWh battery and an electric motor.
The Duratec 2.5l 4-cylinder heat engine is combined with a 14.4 kWh battery and an electric motor. © Antoine Larigaudrie

The good point again: its highly efficient rechargeable hybrid technology

It remains to be seen whether the machine is up to technology level. And there, as much to say it right away, Ford strikes a very big blow for this first test in terms of plug-in hybrid. First, the technology is perfectly mastered. Different modes are obviously available, but the automatic energy flow management mode is extremely efficient and guarantees the lowest possible consumption.

The autonomy in all-electric mode moreover (58 kilometers observed after full recharge) even seems, in fact, far superior to indications! Ford indeed announces a range of 56 kilometers in all-electric mode. By aggregating the averages observed during the test, a figure of 70 kilometers or a little more seems very likely on the road, thanks to the efficiency of the management and regeneration of the energy during braking. It is theoretically the autonomy record for the entire segment.

The charging time of the Kuga is completely correct, from 6 hours on a domestic 220v outlet to 2:45 (seen visually) with fast type 2 outlet on a public charger.

Not very present, the big thermal block four cylinders Duratec 2,5l is heard from time to time, on very low revs, mainly to serve as generator for the battery of 14.4 kwH. And with 225 horses of cumulative power, even if the sensations are attenuated by a deliberately economical management of flows, this Kuga PHEV is very dynamic and reassuring in classic hybrid mode with frank and pleasant accelerations.

Over the entire test (120 kilometers of urban and peri-urban driving), the average fuel consumption will not have exceeded 0.4l / 100km. Little more than the capacity of a can of Coca-Cola. Ford claims a combined cycle average of 2.9l / 100 at homologation.

In the end, this Kuga PHEV alone confirms all the merits of Ford’s electrification strategy in Europe, and its impressive progress in this area. In a winning move, Ford has undoubtedly designed the new benchmark in the segment, ready to fight with the Mitsubishi Outlander.

The interior, very Ford-like (even in this ST Line version), remains rather austere aesthetically, without appearing chicky. Ergonomics is cleverly studied, making room for technology and connectivity (via an easy-to-use central screen-tablet), while retaining much of the essential functions available via buttons and commodos.
The interior, very Ford-like (even in this ST Line version), remains rather austere aesthetically, without appearing sparse. Ergonomics is cleverly studied, making room for technology and connectivity (via an easy-to-use central screen-tablet), while retaining much of the essential functions available via buttons and commodos. © Antoine Larigaudrie

The black point: no all-wheel drive

Two small details have crumpled us on this Kuga. First of all, facing the Outlander, loading in the boot is less practical. We did the test with two bikes. If the lines give the Kuga the appearance of a big station wagon, access is not necessarily practical in terms of loading. Too bad for a family model. Second downside: the lack of all-wheel drive. Too bad not to find this Kuga with four-wheel drive.

Ford markets the Kuga PHEV from 38,600 euros. Our model tested in its STLine finish is marketed 40,800 euros.
Ford markets the Kuga PHEV from 38,600 euros. Our model tested in its STLine finish is marketed 40,800 euros. © Antoine Larigaudrie

At what price ? An affordable rate

At 38,600 euros in call price (tried model STLine 40,800 €), and including a bonus of 2,000 euros for very low emission vehicles, the plug-in hybrid Kuga constitutes a formidable competitor in terms of value for money against the ‘Outlander. With the small, light hybrid Puma, and while waiting for the 100% electric Mustang Mach-E, Ford with this Kuga PHEV has, on paper, fully won its bet on electrification. A remarkable success.