From £20,845 (test car £23,645)
- It’s a practical car
- Different looks make it stand out
- Mild-hybrid technology makes it efficient
- The looks won’t be for everyone
- Another SUV
Ford’s Puma is already grinning like a Cheshire cat because of the awards it’s picking up. It has every reason to be pleased with itself; after all, the car is one of the best driving small SUVs you can buy. It’s also a head-turner – but not in the way the original 1997-2001 coupe was. It's far more grown-up – and more practical, especially with a thing called a “MegaBox” in the boot. But, how do I know so much about this exciting new product from the Blue Oval? Well, I was invited by Ford to drive the Puma at its press launch in and around Marbella. It would’ve been rude to refuse, wouldn’t it?
On The Road
If you’re going to buy yourself a new Ford Puma, choosing which engine to go for is easy – there are only a couple of versions, and they both run on petrol for now (a diesel is on its way too, apparently). The car houses a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder unit, providing either 125ps or 155ps. I was handed the keys to the 155 ST-Line X test model. In this semblance, the compact SUV does zero to 62mph in 9.0 seconds, and its maximum speed is 127mph. The lesser-powered Puma will make the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 9.8 seconds and manages 119mph. Whichever engine you go for, though, you’ll be driving a manual - but an automatic transmission is coming, I promise you. Oh, and the other thing you should know is that performance is boosted by mild hybrid technology. It also makes the car more efficient. That’s win-win all around, right? I’ll try not bore you with how it works - it’s basically a case of a battery charging up when you hit the brakes or decelerate. This generates energy and feeds it to an electric motor that aids the petrol engine. The result is you feel you're driving something more potent than a 1.0-litre – it’s more like a traditional 1.6-litre unit.
The compact size of this SUV helps to make it agile and stress-free to drive. Indeed, the steering provides the same sense of confidence as it does in the Ford Fiesta – the car on which the Puma’s based. Despite a higher centre of gravity, the Puma’s body feels calm and controlled in bends. This is partly due to stiff suspension and big shock absorbers – and then there’s the fact the car is wide, which aids stability on the open road.
You can add a bit more fun by using the Puma’s Drive Mode technology if you want to. By selecting Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail, the vehicle adjusts to your preferred driving style. For example, Sport delivers a quicker throttle response and weights up the steering. And, as for the other modes, well, they’re self--descriptive.
On the ST-Line X variant, as driven here, even tauter suspension is fitted. This allows the Puma to take corners like no SUV has the right to. And, in town, the Puma’s easy to manoeuvre in narrow streets, thanks to its compact structure and easy steering. Parking is a doddle, too. Ultimately, there’s not a lot to frown about - the Ford will be easy to live with every day in the real world.
There is no doubt that the all-new Puma is a refined car. It’s more than prepared to take on the new decade with a cabin that looks like it’ll cope with years of use. Noise and vibration are well muted, so you won’t find that wind and tyre roar are an issue at speed. The containment of these unwelcome sounds is clearly down to decent insulation, and the materials used in the Ford’s cabin.
As tested here in ST-Line X form, the compact SUV comes fitted with height and lumbar adjustable front seats, semi-leather trim, and carbon-effect infotainment and air vent surrounds. The Puma is also equipped with electronic air temperature control, a B&O audio system, navigation and rear privacy glass. Oh, and when you’re in the mood to pick the pace up, additional bolstering in the ST-Line X's seats provides excellent support when cornering. Add all the above together, and the Puma is a pleasant place to be.
In The Car
Inside the Puma, you get a design that's not too dissimilar to the current Fiesta. There are fewer buttons than in older generation Fords, and you get an 8.0-inch infotainment system with a crisp, easily readable display. You can also connect and operate your smartphone through the system as it supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
On the ST-Line, a flat-bottomed steering wheel signifies the grade’s sporty character – as does red stitching, along with an aluminium gearstick, alloy pedals and a black headliner.
The compact SUV’s trim is of good quality, with the door cards even covered in fabric for good measure. Wireless charging and digital dials add a high-tech flavour to the cabin, making it all a clear rung or two higher in quality than the Fiesta.
What's more, the car has a powerful audio system with multiple speakers, helping to keep you entertained and in a positive frame of mind at the wheel.
Boasting 456-litres, the fresh Puma’s got the best-in-class cargo space. Competitors include the new Nissan Juke and new Peugeot 2008. I know you’re waiting for the negative news bit now. Well, there isn't much to tell on that front. Sure, four people are going to be more comfortable than the five the car is claimed to carry - but that’s the same for most motors in this segment. And, anyway, the highlight of the Ford is a feature that's hidden away most of the time – it's called the “MegaBox” - a recess secreted under the floor of the Puma’s boot. This additional space means you can carry a stack of golf clubs upright or anything you want to keep concealed. Better still, you can bung dirty or wet items in the stowage area, which, by the way, comes with a drainage hole and plug. That got me mulling over how convenient it would be for dumping my son’s mud-covered football boots in there. I could even get some vague fulfilment from sluicing the dirt away later. Yes, sad, I know, but people buy or lease cars for these handy little lifestyle features.
As well as purchasing the new Puma for its compact looks and its modern interior, you’ll acquire it for its efficiency, too. It’ll do around 50mpg in 125ps or 155ps guise, and it pumps out 124g/km of CO2 for the lower power output and 126g/km of carbon dioxide for the higher-powered model. The relatively minimal emissions are due to the mild-hybrid technology the Puma employs – something that Ford is bringing in more and more. After all, the company wants fifty per cent of the cars it retails to be electrified in some shape or form in a couple of years or so.
As well as mild-hybrid tech, the Puma’s 1.0-litre unit features a cylinder deactivation system. This automatically closes off one the powerplant’s cylinders when full engine capacity isn’t required, such as when cruising or coasting. The system can cut off or turn on one cylinder in just 14 milliseconds.
If you don’t fancy petrol or any kind of electric propulsion, a 120ps diesel Puma will join the line up at some point. Ford claims this oil-burner will produce just 117g/km of CO2, and fuel efficiency is likely to be around 60mpg – making this a model you shouldn’t close your mind to.
It’s too early to say if the all-new Puma will be a solid choice of transport. The hybrid system it uses isn’t proven, you see - and the Fiesta-based chassis has been reworked to take the Puma’s bigger SUV body. That said, other tech within the Puma is already utilised elsewhere.
What’s more, there aren’t any significant worries when it comes to overall Ford quality. Most of the automaker’s vehicles, especially the Fiesta, have a good reputation, and they've proven themselves over long periods.
As with all brand-new Fords, the Puma also comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty. So, if you keep the compact SUV for three years, then you can be assured of hassle-free motoring knowing the car is covered against any fault relating to material, fitting or manufacturing defects.
When it comes to the inside of the all-new Puma, the seats are well-bolstered. Plus, with quality textures and materials fitted around the interior, the cabin should hold out for years.
The Ford Puma is crammed full of technology, helping to ensure you and your occupants always stay protected. There’s a lot of airbags, too, to help look after you in the event of a crash. There’s also a full complement of aids that assist car control on the move - and in bad conditions and during emergency manoeuvres. Furthermore, the Puma proudly wears a five-star safety badge, awarded following recent scrutiny by Euro NCAP.
The SUV-inspired Puma crossover scored highly for adult and child occupant protection – with full marks in the side barrier test and more stringent side pole assessment. Technologies including its Intelligent Speed Limiter, Pre-Collision Assist with Active Braking and Lane-Keeping System were particularly praised.