THE “hybrid” label is one we see more and more on the back of cars as the motor industry creeps towards full electrification.

Take Ford’s robust Kuga SUV, for example. It became the first offering from the company to offer the powertrain in mild hybrid, full hybrid and plug-in hybrid forms.

As a first step towards driving a fully electrified car, the mild hybrid Kuga is about as straightforward as possible. There’s really nothing to it when it comes to driving.

The engine is assisted by an electric motor. At low speed or when stationary, the engine can switch itself off. The 48V starter-generator seamlessly restarts when needed. The separate 48V battery is automatically recharged by regenerative braking during coasting or braking.

All this is being achieved without you having to even think about it, but you might want to bear in mind that the development of the powertrain has resulted in a fuel efficiency improvement of 28 per cent. That translates to a combined mpg figure of 56.5 in the tested 2.0-litre diesel version. I actually found it quite capable of 58mpg, which is remarkable for such a powerful workhorse.

York Press: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI EcoBlue MHEV

The new Kuga is the first SUV to be based on Ford’s new global front-wheel drive flexible architecture that supports improved aerodynamics, while extensive use of aluminium has helped it to shed the pounds. Even the carpets, shock absorbers and speakers are lighter.

There’s a huge choice of powertrains and trim levels to be had, with luxury Titanium, sporty ST Line and upscale Kuga Vignale to consider.

As Ford’s best-selling SUV in Europe, the company is obviously keen to offer it in as many forms possible as it steers towards full electrification.

Many customers will no doubt opt for the petrol option, but the diesel provides more torque and is the best for towing.

With a considerably larger boot, stacks of safety and comfort features and an eight-inch touchscreen to look after most requirements, the Kuga will meet the demands of most families.

York Press: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI EcoBlue MHEV

You will need to opt for the ST for a peppy ride, but the choice of driving modes in the regular version does offer a sporty driving experience when required.

The exterior design is more sculpted and a more streamlined silhouette incorporates a longer wheelbase that creates a larger footprint to benefit the ride and stability.

Kuga also offers for the first time selectable drive mode technology that enables drivers to adjust throttle response, steering weight and traction control, plus gearshift timings for automatic models, to match responses and performance to the driving scenarios.

Alongside normal, sport and eco modes, slippery mode offers drivers increased confidence on surfaces with reduced grip such as snow and ice. Deep snow/sand mode helps maintain vehicle momentum on soft, deformable surfaces.

York Press: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI EcoBlue MHEV

Slightly longer and wider than the previous model, the Kuga’s extra girth translates to 43mm more shoulder room and 57mm more hip room in the front seats, while rear passengers benefit from 20mm more shoulder room and 36mm more hip room. And despite an overall height that is 20mm lower than the outgoing model, there’s 13mm more headroom for front seat occupants and 35mm more in the rear.

For rear seat passengers, heated outer seats are available for the first time, and the entire second row of seats can be moved backwards for best-in-class rear legroom, or forwards to increase boot space by 67 litres.

With an advanced suite of driver assistance technologies too, the Kuga is in fine fettle.

The lowdown

Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI EcoBlue MHEV Zetec

Price: £27,155

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel producing 150bhp

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 9.6 seconds; top speed 121mph

Economy: 56.5mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 127g/km

Star ratings

Performance: ****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****