The SUV market is now the most in-demand new car segment, and it’s particularly ripe for electrification with plug-in hybrids being one such type of vehicle.
These models are great if you’re able to plug in regularly and mainly do small, local miles, but want that long-distance flexibility for family holidays or work, for example.
Here we’re pitching two particularly appealing options next to each other – the Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid and Jeep Compass 4xe, to see which is best.
Ford is particularly good at making relatively ordinary cars feel good to drive, and that’s the case even with this Kuga Plug-in Hybrid. Despite the additional weight of its battery, it is impressive behind the wheel, though perhaps not as powerful as its figures suggest. It feels planted through the corners, while the steering is accurate too. It’s particularly appealing in ST-Line trim, which gets a sportier suspension setup, but not at the expense of comfort.
The Kuga is front-wheel-drive-only though, so if you want that additional capability, that’s where the Jeep Compass 4xe comes in, as it’s four-wheel-drive thanks to the engine driving the front wheels and the electric motor on the rear wheels. If you live in an isolated location or want to take your car off the beaten track, this Jeep’s off-road capability is very impressive. It’s not quite as competent on tarmac as the Kuga, however, but isn’t a bad effort at all.
Powering the Kuga is a 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor for 222bhp, with a CVT automatic gearbox sending power to the front wheels. It’s more set up for efficiency than performance, with 0-60mph taking 9.2 seconds. The Kuga is also equipped with a 14.4kWh battery, which allows for an impressive maximum electric range of 39 miles. Ford says this could see it achieve up to 282.5mpg, with very low CO2 emissions of 23g/km.
Though the Compass uses a smaller capacity 1.3-litre petrol engine, when combined with a punchier electric motor, the result is a healthy 237bhp, and with 0-60mph taking 7.5 seconds, it’s noticeably quicker than the Ford. The 30-mile electric range lags behind the Kuga, and it’s not as efficient, with 156.9mpg claimed, along with 44g/km CO2 emissions.
Ford and Jeep take very different approaches to styling for their SUVs, and though this is always a divisive area, we reckon it’s the Compass that is the more stylish choice. With its immediately recognisable Jeep styling cues – such as the seven-slot grille – it really stands out in this class, and looks like a proper off-roader, rather than a crossover.
That said, the Kuga is far from a bad-looking car, with this latest generation offering a particularly sleek and modern design. It doesn’t look as rugged as the Jeep, but instead offers a sportier take, particularly if the ST-Line model is selected. There are various grades to choose from too, each offering a different look. The Vignale, for example, offers a more upmarket design with its chrome styling accents.
Both the Kuga and Compass are appealing choices if you’re looking for an electrified family SUV, with each offering plenty of room.
One advantage of both is that clever packaging means neither plug-in version is less practical than regular petrol versions, with the Compass offering a 438-litre boot with a practical shape, along with a decent amount of rear seat space. The Kuga’s 412-litre boot is smaller on paper, but is still a practical shape, though there’s more space in the back seats, with adults able to get comfortable thanks to the levels of room on offer.
When it comes to price, the Ford Kuga Plug-in is the most affordable model to buy here, and by some margin. Prices kick off from £37,755 for an ST-Line Edition, rising to £40,155 for the top-spec Vignale car. Standard equipment is very generous on both too, including full LED headlights, an electric boot, an eight-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Meanwhile, top-spec Vignale cars get the likes of electric front seats and full leather upholstery.
As for the Compass, prices start from a steep £41,495 for an Upland car, rising to £42,495 for the ‘S’ trim level. Though you will pay a bit more for four-wheel-drive, it’s still quite pricey, though standard equipment is excellent – including a 10.1-inch touchscreen, 10.25-inch digital dial display, a wireless smartphone charging pad and adaptive cruise control to name just a few features.
Both of these plug-in hybrid SUVs have plenty going for them – being roomy, generously equipped and stylish.
Each also offers key strengths, with the Jeep Compass 4xe standing out for its fun design, impressive off-road capability and stronger performance, while the Kuga excels with its remarkable efficiency and better on-road driving experience. Which you go for very much depends on your requirements, but we reckon for the majority, the Ford just has the edge.