Vehicle Comparisons

Ford Kuga Hybrid

Ford Kuga Hybrid

Hybrids are nothing new. In fact, introducing a self-charging variant into a range that already has a plug-in PHEV version available might be seen as backward step. Yet Ford seem keen to extol the virtues of the Kuga Hybrid model we look at here, giving the Kuga range the widest variety of electrified powertrains of any model line-up offered by the company. So, how does this self-charging Kuga stack up? And does it bring anything new to the sector?

This self-charging full-Hybrid Kuga model is only available with the combination of a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine assisted by an electric motor, this confection delivering a combined output of 200PS. The motor is powered by a tiny 1.1kWh liquid cooled battery, which is replenished by both the engine and the energy recovered under braking. The car will sprint to 62mph from rest in an acceptable 9.1 seconds in what Ford describes as a "smooth and linear response to acceleration", partly in thanks to its power-split auto gearbox. Simulating gear-shift functions, this transmission is designed to adjust the ratios for optimum performance and fuel efficiency and will adjust the engine's rpm as the speed changes to reduce the "rubber band" effect commonly associated with CVT transmissions.

This simulated gearshift function is available in 'Normal' and 'Sport' driving modes, and, according to the car's chief programme engineer, Glen Goold, gives a "more engaging drive with the familiarity of traditional 'cog swaps', plus the added benefit of limiting engine noise." On the subject of noise, the car also features a 'Silent Key Start' feature, enabling it to pull away from standstill in pure electric mode, which is ideal for those early morning starts, or in the cut and thrust of stop-start driving.

This Kuga Hybrid is available with the choice of either front-wheel drive or Ford's 'Intelligent All-Wheel Drive' set-up. In normal running, this AWD system will disconnect power being sent to the rear in order to increase fuel efficiency. Sensors detect any wheel slip, and will divert the required power to the ones with the most grip, even up to 100% to the rear if needed.

There are few visual clues to this Ford's Hybrid powerplant, so the look is as with any other Kuga variant. This MK3 Kuga design follows the brand's current design language with the familiar style of grille opening at the front, flanked by swept back LED headlamps. The Hybrid is only available in sportier 'ST Line Edition', 'ST Line X Edition' and luxurious 'Vignale' trim levels, so the wheel arch extensions are finished in body-colour, giving a slightly more cohesive look. Neatly integrated roof rails add an extra layer of practicality to the outside, and the two sportier trim levels give a flash of red paint on the brake calipers shrouded behind their respective alloy wheels. The 'Vignale' counters with some exterior chrome embellishment lending a whiff of luxury.

The interior continues a family theme with Ford's 8-inch 'SYNC3' infotainment screen mounted centrally to the upper dashboard, complementing the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. A nice addition is the neatly integrated premium B&O sound system. The 'ST Line Edition' and 'ST Line X Edition' both feature a more sporting style inside with contrasting materials and stitching to the seats, whilst the 'Vignale' gets the addition of a head-up display on the top of the dashboard, and full leather seats as befits the range-topping model.

The liquid cooling system for the batteries allows them to be packaged much closer together, and therefore they don't intrude into the capacious interior that still allows seating for five. Luggage space in the rear is ample at 526-litres, but can be extended to 1,481-litres with the rear seats folded.

Ford has always been about choice, so the Kuga range well and truly provides it. Mild hybrid, full-Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid - you might find it all rather confusing. But electrification lies in all our automotive futures and we're going to have to get used to it.

Basically, mild hybrid tech is for those wanting pretty much what they have at present; PHEV powertrains suit customers with larger budgets ready to take that step into the EV unknown. But this full-Hybrid self-charging model's middle-ground approach might yet prove to be the most palatable solution, at present anyway, for a lot of SUV folk. Should that be the case, this electrified Ford crossover's well placed to capitalise.

Click here to find out more about our Ford Kuga Hybrid range
Peugeot 3008

Peugeot 3008

In you're shopping amongst volume brand models at the upper end of the mid-sized SUV segment, Peugeot's 3008 SUV is one of the cars you'll need to seriously consider. The second generation version we first saw in 2017 has now been lightly updated, with smarter looks that clothe familiar attributes like a large, versatile boot and a quality cabin. You have to really want a car of this kind to really appreciate it but if you do, then you'll probably like this one a lot. There's premium pricing though, particularly for the clever HYBRID PHEV models that top the range.

As ever, the 3008 is built around a front wheel drive platform. The engine line-up is carried over from other models in the brand's range. That means the majority of customers will continue to choose the 1.5-litre BlueHDi engine, offered in 130hp guise. There's also a 2.0-litre BlueHDi unit developing 180hp which comes as standard with the EAT8 8-speed automatic transmission that's optional with the 1.5-litre diesel powerplant.

If your annual mileage isn't very great though, don't dismiss the petrol offerings. These are primarily based around Peugeot's innovative 130bhp three cylinder 1.2-litre PureTech powerplant, offered with either manual or automatic transmission. At the top of the range, there's also a 1.6-litre PureTech petrol engine with 180hp, offered only with the auto 'box. Peugeot can also offer you a plug-in 'HYBRID' version which uses a 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine mated to an 80kW electric motor, the resulting package offering a combined total output of 225hp - or 300bhp in the case of the top 'HYBRID4' version.

As already suggested, there's no 4WD option in the mainstream part of the line-up, but this MK2 3008 does get a more driver-orientated feel, thanks to the installation of Peugeot's i-Cockpit compact steering wheel that allows for wrist-flick direction changes.

This second generation 3008 was already a much sleeker-looking thing than its predecessor and the looks have been further sharpened here. Restyled headlights flank a smarter frameless grille, while gloss black side scoops and a painted treadplate are integrated within a fresh bumper design. At just 4,450mm in length, this remains one of the more compact models in its segment, yet very class-competitive interior dimensions have kept the cabin feeling acceptably spacious, as you'll discover when you take a seat behind the wheel.

Here, as usual with Peugeot's i-Cockpit design, you're required to view the instrument binnacle over the rim of the usual small steering wheel, rather than through its spokes, the binnacle in question being of the virtual digital kind, with traditional gauges replaced by a big 12.3-inch screen. A further 10-inch screen on the centre stack comes with seven elegant piano 'toggle switches' providing direct access to main control functions, including the radio, Connected 3D Navigation and vehicle settings. Plusher models incorporate into this display an 'Amplify' option that means you can quickly change things like ambient lighting and music settings - and even add in cabin fragrances and massaging seat intensity. Two adults can be comfortably accomodated in the rear; three would be a bit of a squash.

Luggage space is more generous than the external dimensions might suggest - rated at 520-litres. Fold the second row of seats flat and this results in a total luggage capacity of 1580-litres, one of the largest and most versatile load capacities in the segment. The folding bench seat has a 2/3 - 1/3 'Magic Flat' capability to optimise loading with a flat floor. The very original adaptable moving boot floor, initiated on the original 3008, has been evolved with two positions to allow the optimisation of boot space and removable side-panels that can be affixed to the side boot trim.

In summary, a car like this is a lifestyle choice, which means that it needs to be able to change aspects of your motoring lifestyle; the atmosphere you drive in; the way you can use the cabin instruments; the kind of mobility choices you can make at journey's end. A 3008 makes a difference in all these areas in a way that no other car in this class can.

Of course, it also needs to get the basics right too. As before, this is one of the most spacious and efficient cars in its segment. And there are shades of real premium quality inside. As for the drawbacks, well Peugeot certainly isn't shy in charging for it, the diesel engine can be a little noisy when pushed and other models in the sector still handle better - though few of these ride the bumps as well. In summary, this remains a very sophisticated kind of compact SUV. Crossovers, it seems, have moved on. To find out how far, try driving one of these.

Click here to find out more about our Peugeot 3008 range
Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai are aiming high with this fourth generation version of their stylish Tucson, a sharp-suited family mid-sized SUV aimed at the Qashqai-class. We're told it'll 'change the way you drive': it should certainly change this Korean brand's fortunes in this sector.

All Tucsons now use some sort of 1.6 T-GDi petrol engine. In the base model, this features in conventional form with 150PS and ordinary 6-speed manual transmission. Your dealer will urge you though, to find the small extra premium necessary to get this same 150PS engine with the brand's 48V mild hybrid tech and a choice of either advanced 6iMT manual transmission or a 7DCT auto gearbox. Both these variants are fromt driven; you can have 4WD (and standard 7DCT auto transmission) if you get the 1.6 T-GDi mild hybrid engine in 180PS form.

If you want a stronger dose of electrification in your Tucson, there are two full-fat Hybrid options, both of which comes as standard with a 6-speed DCT auto gearbox. The first is a self-charging full-Hybrid variant, which is rear-driven and which uses that 1.6 T-GDi engine in 230PS form. Alternatively, you could go for the top Plug-in Hybrid variant, which is 4-Wheel-driven and mates that 1.6 T-GDi engine to a 66.9kW electric motor for a total output of 265PS, yet can offer an all-electric driving range when fully charged of around 35 miles.

Four-wheel drive models get a terrain control switch for optimal driving off-road, but obviously on-tarmac dynamics have been prioritised here, though as with the previous model, don't expect particularly involving handling. Customers are being offered a couple of suspension set-ups, with electronically-controlled adaptive dampers optional on high spec variants. These have two profiles, a softer setup for when the car is in its 'Normal' or 'Eco' drive modes. And a firmer one for when the 'Sport' mode is selected, which also firms up the steering.

Looks different doesn't it? This fourth generation 'NX4'-series model, based on the previous Vision T concept, represents what Hyundai calls 'a design revolution'. Even Hyundai's European exterior Design Chief Eduardo Ramires admits it's 'quite brave'. 'We felt free to innovate' he says, hence the bold grille with its 'Parametric Hidden Lights'. This designates the way that the LED headlamps and the 'jewel-like' running lights are integrated into the sides of the 3D grille and can't be distinguished from it when switched off. This latest model is bigger too, at 4.5-metres long being 20mm longer than its predecessor; it's 15mm wider too. Complementing that are big wheels of between 17 to 19-inches in size.

Inside up-front, to suit the current trend, most of the physical controls have been removed in favour of two screens, both 10.25-inches in size. One is for the instrument cluster; the other is for the centre stack and incorporates Hyundai's latest Bluelink telematics. A 10mm longer wheelbase increase has slightly improved rear seat space - there's 26mm more legroom. And the boot now offers up to 620-litres of space in front-driven petrol models.

Hyundai is much more than just of value volume brand these days - and this fourth generation Tucson provides ample proof of that. It's a family SUV you'd choose for its looks, secure in the knowledge that in terms of practicality, safety and connectivity, it's also cutting-edge. Engine electrification is also up-to-the-minute here. Only if you're looking for a truly involving drive might you have reason for pause for thought with the Tucson. But few customers in the mid-sized crossover sector prioritise that, so Hyundai hasn't. And it goes without saying that this car isn't intended for serious off-road expeditions.

Serious family expeditions - to the shopping mall, the in-laws or Inverness - are well within its remit though. We think this car will really properly establish Hyundai in this segment.

Click here to find out more about our Hyundai Tucson range