Ford Kuga
(2012 - 2019)

  • A genuinely underrated SUV option.
  • 2.0-Litre Turbocharged Petrol variants offer excellent performance.
  • Great steering and agile handling.
  • Good equipment and tech levels.
  • Understated styling.
  • Petrol engines can be thirsty.
  • Early SYNC systems can have gremlins.
  • 1.6-Litre engine engine recall critical.
  • Understated styling.”
Overview

For the global behemoth responsible for F Series truck, regularly the biggest-selling nameplate in the world, the lack of success in the otherwise hot mid-sized SUV segment must come as a major headscratcher, especially in Oz.

The Ford Kuga, arriving in TE guise in 2012 with a fizzle, its frumpy styling and rich asking price ($39k-$45k) with semi-premium promise turning out to be a letdown that lacked in competitive spaciousness and equipment. Its feisty 147kW 2.5-litre turbo four, lifted from Focus RS, was some consolation…

Not favouring its fortunes was that it lobbed fresh off the boat within a year of being replaced by a second-generation (C530) TF, launched April 2013, that was superior in almost every way.

Still, <that> name remained, one that continues to deter used vehicle buyers. Ford, strangely, loves to reboot model names disparately. See Capri’s providence, for example. And that Kuga-The-SUV bared no correlation to the ordinary Euro Cougar sport coupe or Mercury Cougar, a rebadged Mustang, didn’t exactly help clarity of identity. Ford Australia could’ve called this all-new SUV the Escape, as it was branded in North America, as a successor to the ageing ZD Escape sold locally but, no, it waited for a mid-lift facelift (called ZG) in 2016 to adopt the Escape nameplate.

Which is why Ford’s C530 mid-sized SUV is, confusingly, called both Kuga (TF, 2013-2016) and Escape (ZG, 2016-2019).

Initially, TF Kuga stretched from $28k in base front-drive manual Ambiente form to almost $48k for the flagship Titanium AWD, a larger and roomier Euro-styled prospect with either 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol power or a lusty 2.0-litre turbodiesel, underpinned with a friendly, fun-to-drive chassis.

The Spanish-built range was quieter, more mature, better specified and priced more sensibly than its unloved predecessor. Variants offered six-speed manual or conventional automatics paired to petrol engines, or a six-cog dual-clutch transmission sat behind the oiler.

The TF MkII lobbed quickly, in late 2014, bringing a smaller 1.5-litre petrol as the base engine and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, related to that offered in Falcon, that could be had in mid Trend trim with 178kW/345Nm plied through on-demand all-wheel drive, making for a warm-hatch-on-stilts prospect for under $37k in a ‘sleeper’ package that won’t draw undue attention. Nice.

Still, Kuga continued to lag behind the sales race in segment, so 2017’s ZG facelift brought Escape rebranding to compliment refreshed styling, a more efficient 2.0-litre petrol engine tune and nicer equipment fit-out, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system range wide with Sync3 multimedia and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. Under the skin, though, the ZG is mostly carryover from TF Mk II.

Weighing against Escape, and its Kuga forebears, are the slim active safety credentials. Despite a five-star ANCAP rating, autonomous emergency braking, for one crucial area, continued to only be offered on high-grade variants. And a full safety suite was only available optionally. That’s something to ponder as a my-first-car proposition for younger, more inexperienced drivers.

The early 1.6T versions, too, were infamous for an under-bonnet fire risk, forcing Ford Australia to issue a recall back in March 2017.

The big used drawcard is bang for your buck, particularly with the older, cheaper and ultimately more value-laden Kugas. The lusty powertrains and dynamically adept platform make for compelling left-field choice outside of the more popular and resale-savvy Toyota and Mazda competitors. And the range-topping Titanium stock make for a whole lot of goodness for not a lot of coin.

A well-kept and regularly maintained example of this Kuga/Escape generation makes for a real hidden used car gem.

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What goes wrong
  • 1.6-Litre turbocharged petrol engined variants received a recall regarding overheating, occasionally resulting in an engine fire. It is critical that this recall has been remedied.
  • 1.6-Litre Petrol and 2.0-Litre Diesel models have timing belts which must be changed at 150,000kms.
  • Diesel models with DSG style transmissions may be very expensive to repair, if anything were to go wrong.
  • Pre-2015 2.0-Litre Turbocharged petrol variants can have exhaust manifold cracking. Ford revised this from 2015 onwards.
  • While there are few “common” issues, it is critical that the Kuga/Escape you’re looking at has a complete and thorough service history. A failure to regularly service these models can lead to a vast array of various mechanical issues.
  • If you are in the market, have any Kuga/Escape inspected thoroughly by a licensed mechanic prior to purchase.
Model range, pricing & features

Ambiente

  • Price when new: $27,490 - $33,490
  • Price used: $8,000 - $32,000

The Ambiente model is the entry-level spec introduced in the MY13 revision, and was aimed as a slightly cheaper entry point into the Kuga/Escape range. The Ambiente is the only model to be made available with a manual transmission as well as a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drivetrains.

MY17 and MY18 revisions benefited from technology and safety upgrades that were made standard across the range.

Standard Features:
17-inch steel wheels
Front and rear fog lamps
Body coloured rear spoiler
Silver finish roof rails
Rear tailgate with flip glass
Rear spoiler
6 Airbags: Driver and front passenger, side and curtain airbags
ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
DSC (with Rollover Mitigation)
Traction Control
Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
Torque Vectoring Control
ISOFIX child seat attachments
Rear parking sensors
Manually operated air conditioning
Electric windows with auto up/down for driver and front passenger (becomes one touch for all windows from MY15 model)
Electrically heated mirrors with side indicators and puddle lamps
SYNC® Gen 1 infotainment system
3.5″ Multi-functional display screen
Trip computer
Bluetooth phone connectivity and music streaming
Leather multi-functional steering wheel
Under floor storage in front of rear seats

MY16 additions:
Reversing camera

MY17 additions (as Ford Escape):
Sync 3 infotainment system with 8.0-inch touchscreen
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Satellite navigation with real-time traffic monitoring
Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents
Six-speaker stereo system
AM/FM/DAB+ radio, with USB input
Bluetooth streaming
Reverse Camera and rear parking sensors
Cruise Control with speed limiter
Daytime running-lights
Push-button start
Electronic Parking Brake
Sync Emergency Assist
Ford MyKey

MY18.5 additions:
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
17-inch alloy wheels

Trend

  • Price when new: $32,990 - $39,240
  • Price used: $10,000 - $34,000

The Trend model was the original entry-level spec when the Kuga was introduced back in 2012. From 2013, the Ambiente model was introduced, and so the Trend model became the second model up in the range and added alloy wheels, climate control, infotainment additions and added safety tech.

MY13 to MY17 Trend models had the option of being fitted with an optional technology pack incorporating: adaptive cruise control, active city stop. lane keeping aid, blind spot Information system (BLIS) and automatic high beam.

Standard Features:
17-inch alloy wheels
Front and rear fog lamps
Body coloured rear spoiler
Silver finish roof rails
Rear tailgate with flip glass
6 Airbags: Driver and front passenger, side and curtain airbags
ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
DSC (with Rollover Mitigation)
Traction Control
Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
Manually operated air conditioning
Electric windows with auto up/down for driver and front passenger
Electrically heated mirrors with side indicators and puddle lamps
60/40 split-fold rear seats
Keyless start (start/stop push button)
Cruise Control
Sony single CD audio system (MP3 compatible) with 8 speakers
Bluetooth phone and music streaming
Voice Control
iPod and USB compatibility
Sports style front seats in fabric trim
Manually adjustable front seats (4-way for driver, 2-way for passenger)

MY13 (MK II) additions:
18-inch alloy wheels
Rain sensing wipers
Follow-me-home lighting
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Adjustable Speed Limiting Device (ASLD)
Auto dimming rear view mirror
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)
Collision avoidance system
Lane Keeping Aid
Driver drowsiness detection
4.2 inch Multi-functional display screen
Dual zone climate control
Audio & visual collision warning system
10-way power driver’s seat
Leather gear shift
Partial leather seats
Sony 9 speaker sound system
Privacy glass

MY15 additions:
DAB+ digital radio

MY16 additions:
Sync 2 infotainment system
8.0-inch colour touchscreen
Two USB ports
Satellite navigation with real-time traffic monitoring

MY17 additions (as Ford Escape):
Automatic on/off headlights

Trend

  • Price when new: $39,990
  • Price used: $28,500 - $41,000

The ST-Line was a sport-luxury orientated model that sat between the Trend and Titanium models and was introduced in the MY18 update when the Kuga was renamed to the Escape. In addition to the Trend model, the ST-Line incorporated a “black pack” styling pack which featured black alloy wheels, black surroundings on fog lights, grille, mirrors, skirting around the windows and in the rear. The ST-Line also gained 10mm lower suspension setup, thicker anti-roll bars and safety tech like: blind spot monitoring. rear cross-traffic alert and leather-trimmed interior with red stitching contrasts.

Standard Features:
17-inch alloy wheels
Front and rear fog lamps
Body coloured rear spoiler
Silver finish roof rails
Rear tailgate with flip glass
6 Airbags: Driver and front passenger, side and curtain airbags
ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
DSC (with Rollover Mitigation)
Traction Control
Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
Manually operated air conditioning
Electric windows with auto up/down for driver and front passenger
Electrically heated mirrors with side indicators and puddle lamps
60/40 split-fold rear seats
Keyless start (start/stop push button)
Cruise Control
Sony single CD audio system (MP3 compatible) with 8 speakers
Bluetooth phone and music streaming
Voice Control
iPod and USB compatibility
Sports style front seats in fabric trim
Manually adjustable front seats (4-way for driver, 2-way for passenger)

MY13 (MK II) additions:
18-inch alloy wheels
Rain sensing wipers
Follow-me-home lighting
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Adjustable Speed Limiting Device (ASLD)
Auto dimming rear view mirror
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)
Collision avoidance system
Lane Keeping Aid
Driver drowsiness detection
4.2 inch Multi-functional display screen
Dual zone climate control
Audio & visual collision warning system
10-way power driver’s seat
Leather gear shift
Partial leather seats
Sony 9 speaker sound system
Privacy glass

MY15 additions:
DAB+ digital radio

MY16 additions:
Sync 2 infotainment system
8.0-inch colour touchscreen
Two USB ports
Satellite navigation with real-time traffic monitoring

MY17 additions (as Ford Escape):
Automatic on/off headlights

Titanium

  • Price when new: $44,740 - $48,340
  • Price used: $11,000 - $38,000

The Titanium is the top-of-the range for the Kuga/Escape range and includes a variety of comfort and luxury orientated features. Through successive updates, the Titanium model also gained active safety tech such as AEB and blind spot monitoring before it was standardised across the range, tech upgrades like larger infotainment screens and Sync 2, 3 upgrades and DAB+ radio as well as luxury features like a panoramic sunroof standard from MY13 models onwards.

MY13 to MY17 Titanium models had the option of being fitted with an optional technology pack incorporating: adaptive cruise control, active city stop. lane keeping aid, blind spot Information system (BLIS) and automatic high beam.

Trend plus:
18-inch alloy wheels
Front rain sensing wipers
Auto headlights
Rear parking sensors
Fixed glass panoramic roof
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Leather trimmed seats
Heated front seats with variable heating controls
6-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat
4-way manually adjustable front passengers seat
Privacy glass

MY13 (MK II) additions:
19-inch alloy wheels
5.0″ Multi-functional display screen
Active Park Assist – semi-automated parking
Bi-Xenon headlights with static cornering lights
Keyless entry and start
Front and rear parking sensors
Hands-free power tailgate with adjustable height feature
Heated front seats
Leather seats
Panoramic sunroof
Reverse camera
Satellite navigation system

MY15 additions:
DAB+ digital radio
Ambient cabin lighting

MY16 additions:
Sync 2 infotainment system
8.0-inch colour touchscreen
Two USB ports
Satellite navigation with real-time traffic monitoring

MY18.5 additions:
Blind-spot monitoring
Rear cross-traffic alert

Should you buy it?

We’d recommend against purchasing a diesel variant as, while you may save some money in terms of fuel, the cost of maintenance may diminish any savings you have made.

The petrol variants should provide more trouble free longevity and they are just more enjoyable to drive.

However, while the 1.6 litre petrol engined variants offer quite good value for money on the used market and, yes they are quite ok, for what they cost, there are other cars we’d recommend over the smaller engined Kuga and Escape models. For example the Mazda CX5, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.

But, what about when it comes to the 2.0-Litre turbocharged all wheel drive variants? Yes, you should buy one of these.

We feel the higher spec Kuga and Escape were severely underrated when new here in Australia and that belief still stands.

While these variants are not perfect and although they lightly knock on the door of the performance SUV camp, they are still more of a very quick normal SUV rather than something deserving of performance car acclaim.

We especially recommend the higher spec Kuga and Escape variants as they just offer something a just little different while still providing good value for money and excellent practicality.

Plus these top spec models are equipped with all the niceties like leather interiors and a panoramic roof and they are fitted with a great amount of tech and safety plus they are showing very decent reliability and longevity.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 year/100,000 kilometre warranty
5 year/unlimited kilometre warranty (from 1st May 2018)

Servicing:

12 months/15,000km

Tech specs

Body Styles:
5-door SUV

Engines:
1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine (Ambiente, Trend) – From 2016 (ZG Series)
1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine (Ambiente, Trend, Titanium) – From 2013 (TF Series)
2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine (Trend, Titanium) – From 2013 (TF Series)
2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine (Trend, Titanium) – From 2016 (ZG Series)
2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine (Trend, Titanium) – From 2016 (ZG Series)
2.5-litre turbo 5-cylinder petrol engine (Trend, Titanium) – TE series only

Power:
110kW – (1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine) – FWD models
134kW – (1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
110kW – (1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine) – FWD models
134kW – (1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
120kW – (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine)
132kW – (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine)
178kW – (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
147kW – (2.5-litre turbo 5-cylinder petrol engine)

Torque:
240Nm – (1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
240Nm – (1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
340Nm – (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine)
400Nm – (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine)
345Nm – (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
320Nm – (2.5-litre turbo 5-cylinder petrol engine)

Transmission:
6-speed manual, FWD (1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
6-speed automatic, FWD (1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
6-speed automatic, AWD (1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
6-speed automatic, FWD (1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
6-speed automatic, AWD (1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
6-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine)
6-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine)
6-speed automatic, AWD (2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine)
5-speed automatic, AWD (2.5-litre turbo 5-cylinder petrol engine)

Fuel Economy:
5.5 – 10.6L/100km (depending on variant, engine and transmission)

Height:
1680 – 1749mm (depending on variant and where roof racks are fitted)

Length:
4524mm

Width:
1838mm

Kerb Weight:
1653 – 1779kg (depending on variant)

Disclaimer

Information correct as of November 5, 2021.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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