Is The New Ford Puma The Best Crossover SUV?
Although this isn’t the reborn nineties Puma you hoped for, it’s still brilliant.
Over 20 years ago you’d find the Puma was as a sporty coupe car, which a lot of us loved. After production ended in the early noughties, Ford have decided to bring the badge back, only to stick it on the type of car that most of us now buy. That’s right, an SUV. Well, sort of…
The new Puma isn’t technically speaking a proper SUV, it’s a crossover SUV. It’s based on the current Ford Fiesta, but the body is bigger, along with a 30mm ride height increase. So, think of it as a Fiesta that’s taken some steroids. Somehow it works, really well. You might be thinking ‘Yeah, I’ll just stick with my Fiesta thanks’. Sure, the Fiesta alone is a great car to use, but it’s nice to see that the Puma offers the same feel as the Fiesta, but it’s also more practical, and well-priced. Not to mention a lot of OAP’s are a fan of the Fiesta, so I can only see the Puma becoming more popular in the cronie world, because it’s easier to get in and out of.
The Puma starts off with the Titanium, which comes with a decent amount of kit and it’s priced from £21,640. It’ll even come with zip-off seat covers and massaging seats – having second thoughts about your Fiesta now? Yes, you might be thinking the Puma seems overpriced compared to its rivals; Volkswagen T-Roc, Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Skoda Kamiq. But it isn’t. Although they all start at a lower price, they don’t come with the tech the Puma offers as standard. Most importantly, they don’t come with massaging seats. Gotta get those priorities right. Plus, comparing the looks of them all, the Puma certainly looks the part, inside and out.
The Puma pretty much feels like driving a Fiesta that’s been jacked up, that’s literally the simplest way of putting it. Although the Puma sits higher than the Fiesta, it’s still fun at the corners with well weighted steering, again, like the Fiesta. Both ST-Line models have a firmer suspension setup so you may feel the bumps on the road more than you would in the Titanium model, or even its rivals. But once you’re cruising on the motorway, the ride is comfortable, even if it's sitting on the bigger alloys.
Most of the Puma’s are fitted with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. The Puma I tested comes with 48-volt mild-hybrid (mHEV) technology. This enables the engine to shut down to help save fuel when you’re slowing down to a certain speed (which you can adjust), while supplying power to the air-conditioning, lights, power steering and infotainment system.
Unlike any other auto-start-stop system, the engine will start as soon as you dip the clutch. But with the mild-hybrid assistance, it kicks back to life once you’ve selected a gear or begin to pull away - if you slowed down in-gear. You probably won’t even realise it unless your eyes are peeled on the rev counter, as it’s dead quiet and so smooth. We’re talking 300 milliseconds.
When you want to chuck the Puma at some corners, it’ll surprise you – considering it’s a crossover SUV of course. If you push it hard enough, that smile of yours will emerge. The mild-hybrid engine produces 153bhp and 177lb-ft. Because the car is equipped with an electric motor, it fills in the turbo lag that you’d feel at low revs from a normal turbocharged engine. I tell you what, the engine certainly isn’t shy. Chuck it into Sports mode and you’ll be surprised how well it shifts. It’ll do 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds and the top speed is 124mph. Not too shabby.
As well as Sports mode (which sharpens the throttle response and kills off auto-start-stop) the Puma gets four other driving modes; Normal, Eco (reduces throttle response), Slippery (driving adapted for slippery roads) and Trail (vehicle setup for gravel and unpaved surfaces).
When you’re finished hooning on the back roads and you’ve decided you want to save some fuel. The Puma will get between 45-55mpg, depending on how heavy your right foot is. There’s also another mild-hybrid engine but with less power and torque, 123bhp and 155lb-ft. If you don’t fancy a car with the mild-hybrid assistance, then the only option is a petrol unit that produces 123bhp, but it’s only available with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
If you want this car with a bit more bite, then you can get the Puma ST. It gets the same engine found in the Fiesta ST, a 1.5-litre petrol engine producing 197bhp. Although the Puma ST gets a little bit more torque than the Fiesta ST, 236lb-ft opposed to 214lb-ft, to help compensate with the added 60kg of weight.
The interior looks the same as a lot of the Ford range. So, if you already own a Fiesta then I may have made a game of spot the difference for you. The body has been increased compared to the Fiesta, by length, width, and height. Even the wheelbase has been increased by 100mm, so the inside may feel more Focus-ey room to you, more so in the back.
The ST-Line models get partial leather seats and a chunkier, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel. The most noticeable change in the Puma compared to the Fiesta is the instrument cluster. ST-Line models and up come with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, with the theme changing depending on the driving mode you’re in. It’s a clear display, but I always felt the speedo and rev dials seemed a bit puny - unless it’s in Sports or Trail mode.
There’s a few more differences like exposed carbon fibre effect trims with red inserts, leather on the doors and handbrake, and a softer material on the dash. The infotainment system, however, is the same as the Fiesta. An 8-inch touchscreen with the Ford Sync 3 system. Graphics are sharp, the system itself is responsive and is positioned well for both driver and passenger.
The reason why the Puma gets all the hype is because of the clever use of storage space in the boot area. Ford have created a box under the boot floor, and they’ve called it the Megabox (yes, that is what Ford have named it). A lot of manufactures don’t supply a spare wheel from factory, but Ford have made use of the area and they’ve made, well…a box. But it’s actually really practical. It means you can carry tall items in the back which you wouldn’t normally be able to, not even in a proper SUV, like golf clubs, suitcases upright or tall plants. Even if you go camping for the weekend, there’s no need to pack that washing up bowl – use the Megabox.
Once you’ve finished washing up or you’ve cleaned your muddy boots after a walk, there’s a plug at the bottom of the box. Pull it off and let it drain out. There’s also a place next to the Megabox which is rubber lined to put stuff on, in other words, to save you from doing the drying up (thank me later kids). I bet you couldn’t do any of that in a Range Rover. Nope.
Ford have also changed the parcel shelf setup, so it now floats along with the boot. Each time you put your items in the boot, the shelf isn’t in the way, and when you close it, everything’s covered up. The boot gets 456-litres with the rear seats up and 1,216-litres with them folded down.
The Puma has surprised me. I wasn’t sure on the idea when Ford first released it, especially after the name they gave it. But it’s a great car, I won’t lie, I’m impressed. It may not have four-wheel drive or be a proper SUV. But if Ford gave it a bigger interior with a different drivetrain layout, it would cost more, which means there would most likely be less sales. What they’ve done is they’ve built on top of a car which already sells well in the UK. They haven’t gone fully overboard with it, they’ve only adapted it, and that’s why it doesn’t feel such an overkill.
This article is also posted on my webiste, worthreviewing.co.uk.