THE FIRST thing that strikes you with the latest incarnation of Ford's highly thought of compact SUV, the Kuga, is that it isn't that compact anymore.

In the same way that a modern Polo is the same size as an early Golf, the Kuga has been to the Cross-fit gym and bulked itself up a bit – but not at the expense of putting on any weight.

The latest version has three diesel engine options and three petrol units. All the petrol ones are based on the same 1.5-litre EcoBoost basic motor, with hp ratings of 118, 148 and 177bhp, while the oil burners get exactly the same outputs, though the entry level one is based on a 1.5-litre TDCi, and the higher outputs come from a two-litre TDCi, with engine management providing the difference.

The one on test was the more powerful of the diesels matched to a really smooth six-speed, twin-clutch semi-automatic PowerShift transmission (a six-speed manual is also available). Not all are 4 x 4s, though the most powerful diesel and petrols only come as all-wheel-drive.

That's significant, too, if you plan to tow anything. All-wheel-drive versions can legally pull a braked trailer up to 2.1 tonnes, while some of the smaller powered Kugas are rated as low as 1.2 tonnes.

The PowerShift model tested sits at the higher end of the mpg league table for the Kuga, with an official combined figure of 54.2mpg, which is only slightly bettered by the manual gearbox model.

My experience with it was that it hovered just under the 45mpg bracket, which for this type of vehicle is entirely acceptable – indeed, it is better than quite a lot of the opposition.

The auto-box is 0.8 seconds slower than the manual to the 0-62mph time at 10 seconds dead, but that's neither here nor there. You don't buy a Kuga to be a rally driver!

Much of the latest upgrade centres around what's in the cab and available to the driver. The latest Kugas now come with Ford's pretty useful Sync3 connectivity set-up – and one gauge of this is how easy it is to connect a new phone. A couple of clicks and 'you're in' and it's a feature that is just about best in class for that sort of thing.

Then, there is the roominess inside the cabin, which goes back to the start of this review – the Kuga looks and certainly feels much bigger than it used to. Backing this up is the fact that even with the rear seats in place, there's 406 litres of space available, though the rear door opening is intruded on somewhat by wraparound lighting bulkheads which made loading wide items a bit of a pain. That said, the load space moves up to 1603 litres of luggage space with the seats out of the way. A space saver spare wheel is standard.

This Kuga came in Titanium X spec – which means that you get 18-inch wheels, full leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, a powered tailgate, adaptive bi-xenon headlights and that must for back-ache sufferers, heated front seats. It is quite pricey at £33,345, though the bog standard Zetec spec', with the 1.5-litre petrol, manual gearbox and two-wheel-drive kicks the range of at just under £22,000.