A domestic alternative to luxury crossovers

Lincoln has updated the MKC crossover for the 2019 model year, and with this refresh, the manufacturer aims to make its smallest SUV more attractive among the many talented rivals in its segment. The pre-facelift MKC was already pretty good, although not perfect, but now Lincoln says there is even more to like about it.

We tried the top of the range, The 2019 Lincoln MKC “Black Label”, with the more powerful of the two available engines, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo. In this spec, the MKC doesn’t leave you wanting for power, presence, or luxury, but at the same time it’s not perfect and we understand why these aren’t flying out of showrooms.

It is by no means a bad way to spend around $50,000 on a posh compact SUV that also happens to be made by an American brand. In the configuration we tested it in, it’s actually quite pleasant to live with - it’s even fun on occasion, especially with the 2.3-liter engine that comes as standard with grippy all-wheel drive.

What sets the 2019 Lincoln MKC apart from its competitors?

The 2019 MKC’s biggest draw has to be the way it looks from the outside. It’s not overly styled or excessive in any way, but at the same time, it doesn’t look like a cheap, basic crossover. Its recent facelift didn’t change the rear end, but it did give the front end a completely new look that’s in line with the rest of the Lincoln range. And this new fascia somehow makes it look even more premium than before - its new headlights and grille just look better.

The facelifted MKC retains the same clamshell hatch in the rear that lifts up the entire back part of the car, light clusters included. This is similar to what you might see in an Audi Q5, but somehow it looks even fancier on the MKC, probably helped by the noticeable light bar that connects the taillights.

Inside, the design and level of quality are about average by modern luxury car standards, but the 2019 MKC is actually pretty comfortable to travel in, thanks to pliant suspension that not only absorbs bumps very well, but it also does so with minimal noise. Traveling in it on the highway is another area where it shines, thanks to good sound insulation and its relaxed overall character - only some tire roar makes its way into the cabin, especially on examples riding on any of the larger available wheels.

Few cars in its class have as comfortable front seats as the MKC, even if they are not the widest out there - some larger drivers might feel like they’re sitting on a stool, but even in that situation, comfort levels will remain good. Even fewer cars in its class have the same impressive standard slew of gadgets. Standard across the board are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, active noise cancellation, a wi-fi hotspot, 18-inch alloy wheels, and the Sync 3 infotainment system displayed on an 8-inch touchscreen, pumping sound through a nine-speaker audio system.

Base cars don’t get leather, though, or the cool mood lighting that makes the cabin so much more posh feeling (particularly at night). And to really fully enjoy owning an MKC, you want one that’s as close to fully loaded as possible - the panoramic sunroof or one of the three available themes for the Black Label trim really help it feel like a proper luxury car. I mean the difference in interior ambiance between a base MKC and the Black Label model is huge.

What’s the 2019 Lincoln MKC like from behind the wheel?

The MKC is not the most fun to drive small premium crossover. It is actually behind most of its competitors in this respect. Its lack of agility might have something to do with the fact that it weighs 3,969 pounds (1,800 kilograms) with the more powerful engine and all-wheel drive.

It has quite a soft, pliant luxury car-like ride that lends itself well to cruising (it has independent suspension on all four corners) - the flip side is this has a negative effect on its cornering ability, but nobody will realistically ever take one of these canyon carving. It’s fine for what it is, but it certainly doesn’t feel sporty, even by SUV standards.

It’s not bad to drive per se; it’s just not as good as some rivals. It can still handle nipping in and out of city traffic just fine, but it certainly is not the most fun car to throw around.

How fast is the 2019 Lincoln MKC with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine?

Our tester was made more fun because it had the larger of the two engines, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost. The unit (which is related to the engine that powers the Ford Mustang EcoBoost) makes 285 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, and its peak torque is rated at 305 pound-feet (413 Nm). It makes the car feel brisk and spritely in a straight line, and thanks to the all-wheel drive, launching the car off the line in a vigorous manner is easy even in low grip conditions.

The MKC 2.3-liter sprints from naught to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds which almost puts it on par with a 2019 Audi Q5 with the 252 horsepower 2.0-liter TSI engine that sprints to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds or a 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 245 horsepower that completes the benchmark sprint in the same 6.5 seconds as the Lincoln. Both of these rival crossovers are a bit lighter than the MKC and their comparable sprint times even with their lower horsepower ratings are achieved thanks to better gearboxes that swap cogs faster than the Lincoln’s six-speed auto.

Regarding the MKC’s automatic transmission, there isn’t anything especially bad to mention about it other than the fact it feels fairly slow and old-fashioned according to the very high standards set by its talented German rivals.

Probably the most fun thing you can do in a 2019 MKC is launch it because the engine really pulls strongly and it gets the car moving from a standstill in really quite an impressive manner. It definitely feels like a larger engine, something like a V-6, although being a four-pot, it’s not as smooth as one of those.

2019 Lincoln MKC specifications
Engine Turbocharged 2.0L I-4 (FWD) (AWD) Turbocharged 2.3L I-4 (requires AWD)
Configuration Turbocharged 2.0L I-4 (FWD) (AWD) Turbocharged 2.3L I-4 (requires AWD)
Displacement (liters) 2.0L 2.3L
Bore x Stroke 3.44 in x 3.27 in / 87.5 mm x 83.1 mm 3.44 in x 3.70 in / 87.5 mm x 94 mm
Crankshaft Cast iron Forged steel
Valvetrain DOHC, four valves per cylinder, twin independent variable camshaft timing DOHC, four valves per cylinder, twin independent variable camshaft timing
Compression Ratio 9.7:1 9.5:1
Horsepower 245 @ 5,500 285 @ 5,500
Torque 275 @ 3,000 305 @ 2,750

Is the 2019 Lincoln MKC with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine good on fuel?

No, not especially. Lincoln rates the MKC with this engine option at 19 mpg city, 257 highway and 21 mpg combined. That’s not especially good compared to the Germans with similar engines and all-wheel drive - the Mercedes GLC300 4Matic returns 22 mpg city, 27 highway, and while the BMW X3 xDrive 30i achieves 22 mpg city, 29 highway and a combined rating of 25 mpg.

What’s the 2019 Lincoln MKC’s interior like?

The overall impression passengers and drivers have in the refreshed MKC is one of luxury, especially if they happen to be sitting in a Black Label trim model, like our tester. Materials are pretty good, although nowhere near up to the standard of, say, an Audi Q5 or the new BMW X3. Those cars also have better infotainment systems displayed on clearer, higher quality screens.

That’s not to say the latest version of Ford’s Sync infotainment (fitted to all Lincolns) is bad - it’s certainly come a long way from the frustrating mess people first came to know it as some years ago. The part-digital gauge cluster in our tester was also noticeably less modern looking than equivalent solutions in some of the MKC’s German rivals. It looks old and not is not especially impressive to behold.

Space up front is excellent, for both driver and passenger, but rear occupants might find the amount of knee room tight. Shorter passengers will be fine on longer journeys, but taller passengers may find themselves fidgeting in their seat on an extended road trip. Up front, the MKC offers 39.6 inches of headroom, while in the rear the manufacturer says there are 38.7 inches of headroom. Compare this to a BMW X3 41.1 inches of front headroom and 39.1 inches in the rear, and the MKC doesn’t sound like a good choice for people who like to wear tall hats in their SUV.

2019 Lincoln MKC interior dimensions
Front Rear
Headroom 39.6 38.7
Legroom 42.8 36.8
Shoulder room 56.0 55.3
Hip room 54.4 52.8

However, there is more headroom inside an MKC than there is in a Mercedes GLC rated at 37.8 inches up front and 38.5 inches in the rear.

When it comes to rear legroom, the MKC doesn’t look like it’s a bad choice, though, at least on paper. Lincoln says the MKC has 36.8 inches of room for your knees in the back, while the BMW X3 has 36.4 inches, the Mercedes-Benz GLC has 37.3 inches and the Audi Q5 boasts 37.8 inches.

Should you need extra carrying capacity, the 2019 MKC’s rear bench does fold down, and it extends the amount of available space from 25.2 cubic feet to 53.1 cubic feet.

Compared to rivals, its cargo capacity is nothing to write home about. For instance, the BMW X3 offers 28.7 and 62.7 cubic feet, respectively, while the Mercedes GLC offers 19.4 and 56.5 cubic feet. The X3 is the star of the class in this respect, though, far exceeding any of its rivals’ claimed carrying capacities.

2019 Lincoln MKC and car seats

The MKC is aimed at small families, and families usually have children that they need to carry around in the safety of a child seat. There are three anchor points in the back seat (two with LATCH hardware and one with a tether anchor), and there is sufficient room width-wise to fit three seats at once. However, if you want to fit a bulkier rear-facing child seat, then you need to slide the front passenger seat forward in order to be able to fit it.

This is not a problem for the passenger (and if the passenger isn’t especially tall), but you probably won’t be able to fit one of these rear-facing seats behind the driver, unless he or she is not very tall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the MKC a “Marginal” score for child seat anchor ease of use.

Is the 2019 Lincoln MKC a good car?

The current MKC has been around in its current form since 2015, although it debuted in concept form at the 2013 North American International Auto Show. The recent refresh wasn’t a thorough redesign of the model, just a nip and tuck - it mainly concentrated on restyling the nose of the car to better reflect the new Lincon family fascia.

With that being said, the MKC constantly comes around the middle of the pack in terms of reliability, but general owner satisfaction is usually above average; people are therefore enjoying owning an MKC, although if you scour the internet, there are occasional cases where the car proved deeply unreliable - but these are generally isolated, and actually most cars (even its premium German rivals) have a similar record. If you want reliability, you buy a Lexus whose track record in this respect is very impressive.

Overall, it isn’t better or worse than its rivals, and it’s generally regarded as a safe buy. You shouldn’t have any major problems with it, especially since manufacturers do address vulnerable areas that are prone to breaking when they facelift a model; it is usually wiser to buy the facelifted model than the pre-facelift model (because it usually is more reliable) and it should be the same in the case of the MKC too.

Should I buy a 2019 Lincoln MKC?

Well, it’s not the kind of car that instantly tugs at your heart strings like something more sporty and exciting or more opulently luxurious. It’s a car that will be bought by people who won’t really drive it very fast or off-road or ask very much of it in terms of powertrain performance. It’s certainly not lacking in performance, luxury gadgets and appeal, but it’s not particularly good in any category - it’s about average across the board. But this is average by luxury car standards, so it’s not a bad buy.

It’s also a bit cheaper than rivals from German manufacturers, and you can usually pick up a very well-equipped MKC for the price of a base model equivalent from a German brand. Then there are also those people who just have to buy something American, and they simply don’t want anything that could be labeled an “import.”

Overall, it’s a decent car that offers superior levels of kit for the money, compared to the German alternatives, it’s comfortable to cruise in, and it looks pretty good both inside and out, but it does not excel in any particular area.

Should I buy a new or used Lincoln MKC?

Well, if you want the version with the updated front end, then you can’t buy one second-hand. However, since the vehicle has been on sale since 2015, you can certainly save some money and buy one used, especially if you can live without the revised fascia. The pre-facelift MKC wasn’t available as a posh Black Label model, though, but even so, you can find good one- or two-year-old, low-mileage examples that are almost fully kitted out for about half the price of a new Black Label model.

How much does a 2019 Lincoln MKC cost?

You can buy a base MKC in Standard trim from $33,995, but that model will feel neither particularly luxurious or fast. In order to really feel like you’re in a proper small, posh SUV, then you should just go all out and spend from $45,840 on a top of the range Black Label model like the one we tested. You get to choose themes for the interior that really transform its look and feel and give it a properly luxurious ambiance - with options you’ll end up spending close to $50,000, but even so, it’s cheaper than its German rivals.

2019 Lincoln MKC vs. The Competition

As previously mentioned, the MKC isn’t best-in-class at anything in particular, but at the same time, it’s not bad either. What it does best is look good from all angles, especially the post-facelift model, with its much more attractive front end. It’s also quite comfortable and relaxed too, but even in this respect, it is overtaken by the even more comfortable and even more relaxed Merceds GLC (priced from $40,700).
If it’s sporty handling you want, then the BMW X3 (priced from $41,000) is a far better choice since it handles even better than some sporty sedans currently on sale, plus it has a whole lot more interior room for passengers and cargo. The latest X3’s interior is also a very pleasant place to sit - not as good as the GLC’s interior, but at least as good as the MKC (and with better digital dials, infotainment, and tech).

If you simply must have something built in America, then you can also look at the Cadillac XT4. Its starting price of $35,290 is slightly higher than that of the Lincoln MKC, but it does come with a better nine-speed automatic transmission, better fuel efficiency and more interior room for passengers.

Don’t want any of the above and all you want is something Japanese, then the Lexus NX is a great alternative. Its starting price of just under $38,000 is a great all-rounder, and it looks by far the most striking out of all the vehicles in this company - the only one that comes close to matching its visual impact is the XT4, but the Cadillac’s interior is not as well screwed together as the one in the Lexus, and none of the other vehicles can match its reliability. However, the NX isn’t especially fun to drive, and some may straight up loathe the way it looks form the outside.

Final thoughts

The 2019 Lincoln MKC is an interesting American alternative to the established premium SUV pack. It’s good enough to make your shortlist, but not sufficiently talented in any area for you to buy one without checking out some of its competitors. On top of this, if you don’t buy a well equipped example, its interior won’t feel as luxurious as that of rivals in base trim, and you, therefore, have to spring for a higher spec example, like out Black Label tester.

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
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