Ford’s new Puma crossover roars to life

Ryan Hirons Ford’s new Puma is a contender to lead the small SUV market
Ford’s new Puma crossover roars to life
The Ford Puma crossover benefits from being based on Fiesta mechanics, though it’s more than just a beefed-up supermini.

What is it?

This isn’t the Ford Puma you may know from the ’90/00s. The original was 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 is a recognisable nameplate to launch a new model in a segment full to the brim with established competition.

There’s so much more at stake than just the name.

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

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

What’s new?

Though the Puma is an all-new model for Ford, it does lean heavily on mechanicals from the Fiesta.

That’s understandable, considering how successful the Fiesta 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.

What’s under the bonnet?

One of the most interesting elements of the Puma is what lies under the bonnet.

Though the 1.0-litre petrol engine itself is identical to that found in just about every Fiesta, it’s had a small battery and electric motor strapped on to create a mild-hybrid set-up.

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.

What’s it like to drive?

Perhaps the greatest benefit of 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 make 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 that 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, too.

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

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 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 body-kit additions do help its case.

What’s it like inside?

It’s identical to the Fiesta, in terms of the cabin, and that works in the Puma’s 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 422 litres and practically equalling the 400 litres of both the Skoda Kamiq and Seat Arona. It is, however, demolished by the Citroen C3 Aircross’s 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.

What’s the spec like?

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 want heated seats in the options list, but aside from those there’s little to recommend adding as an absolute must-have.

Ford Ireland will offer the Puma in three trim types: Titanium (from €24,299), ST-Line (from €25,899), and ST-Line X (from €27,699).

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 we do Nissan Jukes today.

It’s a genuine class leader waiting to happen.

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