UK Drive: Ford’s new Puma storms to the top of its class

UK Drive: Ford’s new Puma storms to the top of its class

What is it?

We’ll get it out of the way — this isn’t the Ford Puma you may know from the ‘90/00s. The original may have been a Fiesta-based sporty coupe, but this is not that – it’s a Fiesta-based crossover.

Does that matter? To some people, sure, but what Ford has in its hands is a recognizable nameplate to launch a totally new model in a segment full to the brim with established competition. There’s so much more at stake than just the name here.

Ford has already got itself a b-segment crossover in the Ecosport, but to say that’s abysmal would be generous. It’s not good enough when Nissan has just massively improved the Juke, VW has put out an excellent choice in the T-Cross — just to name two of the class leaders.

What we have here then is a car that’s more than a name, it’s an all-out assault to dominate a segment. Will it be successful, though?

Ford Puma
It’s the second time Ford has utilised the Puma nameplate, having originally adorned a Fiesta-based coupe. (Ford)

What’s new?

Though the Puma is an all-new model for Ford, it does lean heavily on mechanicals from the Fiesta. It’s understandable considering how successful that is in its sector.

There’s more to it than just beefing a supermini up a bit, though. Mild-hybrid technology comes to the 1.0-litre EcoBoost powertrain for the first time, while a technological introduction highlight is the all-digital instrument cluster in place of traditional dials and gauges.

Another innovation is the MegaBox. Though that may make it sound like the Puma is actually a Transformer, this is a clever storage solution which we’ll come to a bit later.

Ford Puma
Much like the Puma that came before it, this crossover is Fiesta-based. (Ford)

What’s under the bonnet?

As touched on, one of the most interesting elements of the Puma is what lies under the bonnet. Though the 1.0-litre petrol engine itself is practically identical to that found in just about every Fiesta, it’s had a small battery and electric motor strapped on the create a mild-hybrid setup.

In the case of our test car, this means power sits at 153bhp with torque at 240Nm. That’s sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, resulting in a 0-60mph time of 8.7 seconds and a 124mph top speed.

As for efficiency, Ford says the Puma in ST-Line X guise will return 51.4mpg on the WLTP Combined cycle while emitting 126g/km of CO2.

Ford Puma
Mild-hybrid technology is one of the major marketing points of the Puma. (Ford)

What’s it like to drive?

Perhaps the greatest benefit to the Puma being so heavily based on Fiesta mechanicals is in the way it drives. Use this purely as an urban runabout and its dinky proportions, precise but light steering and torquey engine makes it perfect for zipping around.

Take it for a bit for a spirited drive, and it’s genuinely a lot of fun. It offers a strong amount of feedback through the wheel — which couldn’t be said for many of its rivals — and a rather playful chassis means there’s entertainment to be had. Torque steer is surprisingly evident in 153bhp guise though, and the result is it can be an unexpected handful, so it’s perhaps the first case of anyone calling for a limited-slip differential on a b-segment crossover. It rides pretty harshly all-round, too.

It does lack the slight clinical edge of a Fiesta in pretty much every driving scenario, but certainly offers more than key rivals like the Nissan Juke, Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Cross.

Ford Puma
There’s a lot to like about the way the Puma drives, both in town and on twistier roads. (Ford)

How does it look?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but whoever that beholder may be should seek an appointment with an optician if they’re taken back by the looks of the Puma.

Ok, we jest, and feel free to make your own mind up on appearances but we think the Puma is a little gawky. Its bulbous headlights and smiley grille create a bit too much of a frog-like aesthetic for our tastes.

It’s pretty sharp at the rear though, and our ST-Line X’s bodykit additions do help its case.

Ford Puma
Looks are subjective, but we’re not the biggest fans of the Puma’s design. (Ford)

What’s it like inside?

It’s practically identical to the Fiesta in terms of the cabin for the Puma, and that works in its favour. Materials throughout are generally very good with plenty of soft-touch surfaces, visibility is decent out of the front (perhaps less so at the rear) while space in the front is pretty good.

The rear row may be a bit of a squeeze for anyone other than children, though a reasonable 401 litres is about par for the course — lagging just behind the Nissan Juke’s 322 litres and practically equaling the 400 litres of both the Skoda Kamiq and Seat Arona. It is, however, demolished by the Citroen C3 Aircross’ 520 litre capacity.

One trick the Puma has up its sleeve though is the clever ‘MegaBox’ hidden under the boot floor. This moulded plastic add-on offers a little more capacity and can even be drained through the bottom of the car — making it ideal for throwing in muddy boots, or even rinsing off the dog with a hose.

Ford Puma
Plenty of soft-touch materials bring a quality feel to the Puma. (Ford)

What’s the spec like?

In its range-topping ST-Line X guise, the Ford Puma commands a price of £22,895 before any additional options. The standard equipment list is rather healthy though, with the likes of a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system displayed on an eight-inch screen (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), cruise control plus a B&O audio system thrown in the package.

Out of the box, it carries pretty much everything you could ask for in a car at this end of the market. We’d perhaps opt heated seats in the options list, but aside from those there’s little to recommend adding as an absolute must-have.

A similar-spec’d Nissan Juke would perhaps be a little cheaper, but we think the Puma has the edge on it enough to recommend opting for if a high-spec crossover is on your radar.

Ford Puma
The MegaBox is the Puma’s best hidden trick. (Ford)

Verdict

There’s a lot to like about the Ford Puma, and we think the firm has a real contender for a market-stormer on its hands. Not only does it deliver on class-leading quality and driving involvement, it doesn’t come at the cost of value.

Looks can be decisive, and there’s a case to made for more practicality, but we suspect we’ll see just as many Pumas on the roads over the coming years as you do Nissan Jukes today. It’s a genuine class leader waiting to happen.

  • Model: Ford Puma ST-Line X
  • Price: £22,895
  • Engine: 1.0-litre petrol mild-hybrid
  • Power (bhp): 153
  • Torque (Nm): 240
  • Max speed (mph): 124
  • 0-60mph: 8.7
  • MPG: 51.4
  • Emissions (g/km): 126

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