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Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga – which is best?

Family SUVs are ten-a-penny these days but the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga still stand out as two of the most popular choices – and it's easy to see why…

Both are sensibly sized – large enough for a family but not so enormous they don't fit down a high street. Both are softly sprung – soothing the task of trekking over the UK's shattered Tarmac. And both are keenly priced – especially as used cars – undercutting lots of mainstream rivals.

Shop Motorpoint's huge selection of used Nissan Qashqai or Ford Kuga cars – or see the rest of our superb SUV selection. To learn more about either model, read our in-depth Nissan Qashqai review or our Ford Kuga review.

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga compared

Nissan QashqaiFord Kuga

Pros:

  • Premium-feeling cabin
  • Better refinement
  • More affordable

Pros:

  • More fun to drive
  • Larger cabin and boot
  • Responsive petrol engine

Cons:

  • A bit dull to drive
  • Not the most spacious SUV
  • Petrol engines need revving

Cons:

  • Bland, boring cabin
  • Engine can be grumbly
  • A little more expensive

Styling and design

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga front
Nissan Qashqai (left) vs Ford Kuga (right)

These are sensible family SUVs, so they're unlikely to set your heart racing. Starting with the Qashqai, the car has more angular styling than both its predecessor and the Ford we're comparing it to here. Its wide, V-shaped grille blends into its dramatic hook-shaped headlights, giving the front end a distinctive look. The rest of the car, however, is a little more tame. You'll find some neat surfacing down the sides and a blacked-out C-pillar to give the impression of a 'floating' roof but, generally, the Qashqai will blend seamlessly into most UK car parks.

The Kuga, however, somehow looks even more generic than the Qashqai. Ford's attempted to give the car some kind of identity at the front with big, bug-eye headlights and a grille that bears more than a passing resemblance to an Aston Martin but, on the whole, the Kuga struggles to stand out. The overall profile is blobby and round but the car's pointed details don't seem to match that look. Many Kuga models come in sporty ST-Line trim with big alloys and a mean-looking body kit.

Interior and practicality

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga interior
Nissan Qashqai (left) vs Ford Kuga (right)

Behind the wheel, the Qashqai feels a notch or two more posh than the Kuga. Nissan's generously applied soft-touch materials to the dash and door cards, with stitch lines that mimic pricier luxury cars. The rest of the switchgear is neatly laid out, with proper knobs and buttons for the climate and audio controls, and feels tightly screwed together. And, while neither car really impresses with its infotainment setup, the Qashqai's is a little easier to use and nicer to look at, with physical shortcut buttons at the bottom to jump between functions. It's a shame the digital driver's dials aren't offered on popular Acenta Premium trim, however.

In that regard, the Kuga goes one point up with most versions, including popular ST-Line trim, getting clear digital driver's dials. In most other aspects, however, the Ford falls a bit short. The red-stitched upholstery in ST-Line cars is nice but the rest of the dash and door surfaces look quite cheap, with plenty of hard, unattractive plastics employed. Its infotainment system fails to make up for these shortcomings, too, with graphics that look like they came from the Nintendo Wii in the mid-2000s. The system still includes all the functions you'd expect, however, and you get proper climate and audio knobs that are easier to use on the move than on-screen icons.

As for practicality, you can't ignore the fact the Ford is simply bigger – its body measuring around 19cm longer and around 5cm wider than the Nissan. Almost all that extra space has been devoted to the Kuga's back seats and cargo area, both of which are noticeably larger than the Qashqai. Four very tall adults will be able to get comfy in the Kuga, and squeezing a fifth in the back isn't too much of a hassle – plus the boot can handily carry a big holiday's worth of luggage. The Qashqai still performs well here despite its smaller size – there's enough room for most small families, and only the loftiest of adults will complain about the back seats.

Engines and performance

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga driver's dials
Nissan Qashqai (left) vs Ford Kuga (right)

Most Qashqais come equipped with a 1.3-litre petrol engine making either 140 or 160hp. Even the lesser engine has enough grunt to get up to motorway speeds easily and it's generally quite smooth – muffling most of the noise and vibrations before they make it to your senses. You do, however, have to rev both versions up quite a bit to access their advertised power, with the low-end response feeling a bit muted as a result. This issue is solved by the Qashqai's high-tech but pricey e-Power setup, which pairs a petrol-powered generator with a small battery and a punchy 190hp electric motor for zippy EV-like acceleration without the range anxiety or plugging in.

There's more flexibility in the Kuga's engine lineup, with plenty of diesel-powered models available on the used market, as well as more recent versions with both full-hybrid and plug-in-hybrid options. Our favourite engine, however, is the entry-level 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with 150hp. It's a detuned version of the spicy Fiesta ST's engine and it has excellent low-speed response, making light work of the Kuga's frame in stop-start traffic. Lean on the throttle and it pulls strongly throughout the rev range, even at higher speeds, although you'll notice a little more engine noise than the Qashqai in most situations.

Driving

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga side
Nissan Qashqai (left) vs Ford Kuga (right)

The Qashqai is set up to be light and easy to drive. Its controls are intuitive and the soft suspension is only caught out by really big bumps. The steering wheel has a nice, thin rim that feels great in the hand compared to the Kuga's slightly overstuffed unit, and the six-speed manual is easy to shift. What it lacks, however, is any kind of driving entertainment – its grippy and stable at speed, but doesn't reward you for hard cornering, leaning over onto its outside wheels and eventually pushing into predictable understeer if you carry on driving like a hooligan.

You won't be fooled into thinking the Kuga's a sports car, but it's noticeably more engaging to drive than the Qashqai. It resists body roll in corners more gamely, faithfully tucking its nose towards the apex with more vigour than most SUVs this size. Plus, the responsive controls and snappy manual shifter mean you always feel in total command of the situation. This athleticism doesn't impact the ride quality, however, which feels well judged with a welcome extra layer of softness compared to other Ford family cars like the Focus.

Value and reliability

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga boot space
Nissan Qashqai (left) vs Ford Kuga (right)

As well as being the slightly smaller car, the Qashqai has a slightly smaller price tag on the used market than the Kuga. That means the same budget will buy you a newer or lower-mileage Qashqai than it would from the Kuga lineup. The difference isn't vast, however, and if you're looking at PCP finance options at around £250 per month, you'll find lots of choice across both models. You'll need to decide whether the Kuga's extra space and driving finesse is worth the higher price tag.

Neither car has any widespread issues reported, so you should be able to count on years of reliable service from either as long as you keep up with scheduled maintenance. For added peace of mind, consider buying an extended warranty when you purchase either car – this kicks in once the manufacturer's original coverage ends and protects you from the cost of unexpected mechanical and electrical failures.

Which is best?

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga rear three quarter
Nissan Qashqai (left) vs Ford Kuga (right)

Your choice here boils down to what qualities you're looking for in a car. The Qashqai has a noticeably more plush interior, great usability and a lower price tag. The Kuga, on the other hand, is more fun to drive and more spacious – whether that's worth the greater cost and the tradeoff in material quality is up to you.

Things get even more complex when you shop the more expensive end of either range. Here, you'll find options like the clever Qashqai e-Power and its pseudo-EV driving experience, or you could consider one of the Kuga's plug-in-hybrid engines, which can muster a little more than 30 miles of pure-electric driving.

You'll be able to save thousands off the list price of either car by buying a used Nissan Qashqai or used Ford Kuga from Motorpoint. To see some more tempting choices in this segment, check out the best hybrid SUVs on sale.

Nissan Qashqai vs Ford Kuga FAQs