Ford Puma ST-Hulk Vision
The soon to be released Ford Puma ST is the latest model in the Ford Performance range and, as ever, has got everybody talking. Here are my thoughts.
2001. The year I was born. The world was a very different place than it is today and that's without mentioning a certain virus. While the international news was filled with stories of politics and terrorism (okay so maybe not so different!) Ford was rife in becoming the modernized brand that we know today. The beloved Escort was finally being phased out and replaced with the hot new Focus, we'll get to that another time! 2001 however, was also the last time that we saw a fast Ford Puma on the roads, the fabled Ford Racing Puma. A quirky, low slung 2 door sports car with proper rally styling and a 1.7 Zetec allowing the driver to rev out to their hearts content. Now, nearly 20 years later the Ford Puma is back on Britain's roads and it's fair to say this new Puma ST couldn't be further than that original 00's model. Let's take a closer look.
After the announcement of the new Puma ST by Ford I was intrigued. The rest of the ford community is under no illusion that what was once a two door sports car is now an SUV- As with everything these days by the looks of things! This got me thinking, "How are they going to achieve an ST version of this?" well here it is. After studying the tech video by Ford with great interest I must say I'm genuinely impressed with this not-so-little car. Near enough every question I had relating performance wise was answered so let's get into it starting with the exterior.
I'll start with the rather green elephant in the room shall I? For the record I'd like to say that I bloody love the colour. I am a sucker for green cars at the best of times, (helped no doubt by my love of the MK2 Focus RS) and I think that, surprisingly, the Puma pulls it off really well! In the tech video it's clear to see that there is a real flake to the mean green paint creating a real contrast and depth especially under showroom lighting conditions. Put together with the vast array of gloss black accents i think that the car demonstrates a real asbo colour in a rather mature way. The Red callipers and ST badges also break up the slab of green to the eye. As far as the accents are concerned, it's all very standard Ford Puma apart from in gloss black as oppose to grey, silver or just plastic. There is also a rather tasty Ford Performance branded front splitter with the FP logo on the top. This part in particular I feel should be made an option for all new Ford Performance models, I'd love one on my Focus ST! Our tech guru Stefan points out in the video the aerodynamic aid in helping to reduce drag. How much of a difference this will make in real world situations for this car I have no clue, especially at the ride height it is, however it looks really cool none the less. It's also clear to see that the Puma has put on a few pounds in the space of 19 years-growing an extra two doors in the process- however it carries this gracefully i feel while still retaining the original cars "bug-eyed" identity.
Engine wise, the Puma ST features the same 1.5L 3 cylinder Ecoboost engine as used in the MK8 Fiesta ST. Despite only a couple of years in production this engine is proving to be a worthy successor to the previous MK7 ST's 1.6L. Despite losing a cylinder, the new 3-pot is already proving to show huge aftermarket tuning potential in the Fiesta chassis so I am under no doubt that these tuning packages from the likes of Mountune and Revo will swap directly onto the Puma. As standard, the engine produces 200PS (around 197BHP) ample power for a standard SUV however my initial reaction was that this would not be enough for a car of this size considering it was originally developed for the much smaller Fiesta. Thankfully, the torque figure has been increased from 290NM to 320NM, which is where it really matters. This here is proof that the engine is being held back and not truly being allowed to realise its full potential from factory. Thankfully, we have the resources to change that.
Photo credits to Ford UK
The chassis of the new Puma is where i really had my concerns. The standard car is, in my opinion, quite a small size SUV however is still a far cry from a Fiesta or any other "sporty" chassis. The obvious drawback here being the increased ride height and vehicle weight as a whole. To counteract this, Ford has fitted stiffer springs and shocks offering a presumed lower ride height than the standard Puma as well as a rear axle beam with is a massive 50% stiffer than standard! This beam is thicker in profile as well as including a torsion bar and stiffened up bushes. The steering rack also features a 25% quicker ratio allowing for pin-point cornering and the lowest amount of steering wheel rotations when going from lock to lock- The key to a go-cart like driving experience. In the final drive, the diff ratio has been shortened to counteract the effect of the larger 19" wheels resulting in an appraisable 6.7 second 0-100kph time. Just like in the Fiesta ST, the final drive also comes with the option of a limited slip differential by Quaife when the vehicle is optioned with the performance pack.
Coming on to the interior and it's all very 2020 Ford. Inside the cabin you are greeted with a plush, flat bottomed steering wheel providing an excellent feel and a digital touch screen monitor for the Sync infotainment system poking out from the top of the dashboard. The screen isn't completely to my tastes however this seems to be a design trend across all brands in recent years and the system works excellently from experience. Upon entering the cabin, the Screen lights up with a honeycomb background displaying the ST and Ford Performance logos as with the new Focus and Fiesta ST. Just this alone is enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck and makes you excited to drive the thing! Sticking with the digital theme, a full digital dashboard display is present in the Puma, a refreshingly modern touch, giving a high class and sporty feel. This also changes colours dependent on what drive mode you are using, giving you that orangey red glow for when you want to engage sports mode in the race for the final parent and child parking space! The interior shown in the press video also features those iconic brilliant black Recaro seats with white stitching as used in the Fiesta and Focus ST making this interior virtually identical aside from the obvious increase in size. As a brief interior side note- this car also features the mega box storage system which Ford call "Innovative." In reality, I feel this to be a complete waste of space as all it really does it take away the ability to carry a spare wheel leaving the driver with nothing but an aerosol or a roadside call-out. Call me old fashioned but I'd rather have a spare! Oh, and a proper jack.
Photo credits to Ford UK
So then, my final thoughts. What do i really think of this quirky performance SUV? well, to be quite honest, I like it. You may think this verdict is slightly biased considering my love of all things blue oval however the fact is I didn't want to like this car but cannot help myself. I find it refreshing for a manufacturer to create a performance crossover that is not as fat and tasteless as its German counterparts, however is rather good looking and unapologetically out to have fun. The addition of a manual box is a real highlight too especially in car of this genre. In the real world, I sadly feel that this car is completely useless with undeniably amazing features however better suited to the small cars in the range with a more performance based owner market. I understand and sympathize with Ford as releasing the Puma as an SUV was the only way to re-ignite the name as there is no market these days for the Puma of old. I feel the features of this car such as the body colour and increased engine torque should have been put to use creating a real limited edition Fiesta ST. None the less, I admire and congratulate Ford on the creation of the Puma ST and cannot wait to see them on the road in person, especially school-run mums embarrassing wannabe boy racers in a flash of hulk green!