SUVs are currently big business, with every car company worth its salt having a range full of them. Ford’s line-up now has three, and the Kuga that led its assault on the sector has just been updated with a significant facelift. The exterior features a bold new trapezoidal grille, revised headlights that incorporate LED daytime running lights and a fresh design for the rear, including re-profiled tail lights and appliqué. There’s also a new entry-level 118bhp 1.5-litre TDCi engine and Ford’s great new Sync 3 infotainment system makes its first appearance in the car, incorporating a simpler interface and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

The cabin boasts a revised steering wheel with paddleshifts for automatic variants, an electric park brake, while the air conditioning controls are simpler and easier to fathom than before. Finally, new ST-Line and ST-Line X models add a sportier dimension to the Kuga line-up.

Like most modern Fords, the Kuga is one of the most driver orientated cars in the class, with agile handling, accurate, communicative steering and an absence of body lean when cornering. Grip levels are excellent, and despite the 18-inch alloy wheels, ride comfort is incredibly well damped and controlled, cushioning all but the worst of bumps. This Kuga glides over potholes and at a steady speed on a motorway or dual carriageway, it’s a great long distance companion. There’s very little in the way of wind noise along the flanks and sounds from the road and tyres is nicely contained. The engine itself is neatly subdued, remaining a distant backing track even when you are pushing the upper limits of the rev range. The PowerShift gearbox shifts easily and smoothly, though we lost count of the number of times that we found ourselves in ‘sport’ mode, when we simply wanted ‘drive’.

Despite a few enhancements to the cabin, the same basic design remains as before, which is a shame as the interior has a dated feel. The centre console in particular is a mess of different angles and surfaces and simply looks and feels overcomplicated in comparison with the rest of the car. And while the top of the dashboard may be soft, there are some questionable plastics the further down you go. But we can forgive all of this thanks to the launch of the Sync 3 touchscreen media system that is a master of simplicity with high quality, colourful graphics. The driving position is suitably upright and elevated, giving an excellent view out and all around the car. The seats are nicely bolstered, hugging your body when cornering. There’s good levels of head and legroom both front and back, and three abreast in the back is possible thanks to a low central hump. Boot space is decent at 456 litres, opening up to 1,653 litres with the rear seats folded down. The space is deep and wide with an extremely low loading sill. Oddment space is generally well catered for, with a pair of cupholders and a cooled armrest, along with good-sized door pockets and a large glovebox.

Price £31,795 Made in Valencia, Spain
Bodystyle 5-door SUV, 5-seats
Engine 1997cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo diesel with stop-start
Transmission 6-speed twin-clutch automatic
Layout Four-wheel-drive
Maximum power 177bhp @ 3,500rpm
Maximum torque 295lb ft @ 2,000-2,500rpm
Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 10.0secs
CO2 emissions 134g/km
Official fuel economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 51.4/57.7/54.3mpg
Fuel tank size 60 litres Range 717 miles
Insurance group 25 BIK rate 28%
Size (length/width without mirrors) 4,541/2,086mm
Boot space (maximum minimum) 456/1,653 litres
Kerb/maximum towing weight 1,716/2,100kg
Euro NCAP crash test rating
What’s Hot Bolder exterior with sportier looks. Good all-round vision. Great to drive. Comfortable ride despite large 18-inch wheels. Sync 3 is a marvel.
What’s Not Interior feels dated, with the centre console a mess. Gear lever obscures the view of the air conditioning controls. Cabin is too dark and needs some colour.
Also consider Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi, SEAT Ateca Xcellence 2.0 TDI 4Drive
Verdict Ford’s medium SUV gets a distinctive exterior makeover, but retains the dated interior.