Why the new Puma is actually genius
Controversial, I know. But I can see why it exists.
Ok, hear me out. The new Puma is a genius move from Ford. I still hate it. But I also respect the cunning of Ford's marketing and ideas department. Many moons ago, when I was looking to ditch my Nissan Pixo, I drew up a shortlist of cars that I was looking to replace it with. That list spanned from a Discovery 2, a black Subaru Impreza WRX sedan (pre-facelift GD if I recall, went like the clappers, but the turbo was on the way out), a third-gen L200, a classic Mini and a whole host of other cars that really are an article on their own, but also on that list was a Ford Puma.
I should have bitten the bullet and gone for a Puma. Especially as the top-spec Ford Racing models were well within budget and now worth about three times what I would have paid for one (again, not buying cars that go up in price is a skill of mine).
A sexy case of "If only I had"
And that price hike has come partly due to their limited, 500 strong production run but also from Ford reviving the model name and slapping it on a small SUV, much to the disgruntlement of many car people.
I fell into that bracket. I wasn't a fan of Ford essentially exhuming the dead sports car, only to kick it in the plums and lob its corpse into a ditch just for the purpose of using its good name on an SUV. The most loathsome of car style. I didn't like its bug-eyed styling that aped the cutely aggressive front of the original Puma. James May often talks of the wasted effort of trying to get an older car's lines onto a newer model. They often end up out of proportion and corrupting the beauty of the original. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The new Mustang, 500, and A110 do a good job of picking what works on an old car and carefully translating that into the modern parlance of vehicle-design. The new Puma doesn't do that in my eye. The result is a discordant mess of lines and a set of headlights that rival the Nissan Juke for their lack of visual appeal.
Why did they put the headlights atop the wings like that?
But, and here's the but. I can see why Ford did this, and I applaud them for it. I may have just spent the best part of 400 words trashing the Puma, but I think it is genius.
The growing wave of small SUVs has been inescapable and as a mainstream carmaker, you'd be daft if you didn't try and ride that wave. Nissan unwittingly started the worst car trends to hit the roads with the Qashqai and Juke. SUVs that offer not a lot of sport, enough utility for the average family, and are a vehicle. They hit a chord with the British car market and that chord has rung on for longer than the E-major at the end of The Beatles' A Day in the Life.
Would I buy one? No. I'd buy a Jimny, but that's cos' I'm weird.
And so we've seen countless manufacturers climbing aboard this gravy train with SUVs of all sizes. Ford was not oblivious to this and gave us the Kuga. Then came the Ecosport which is now the previous generation Fiesta on stilts, and then the Puma, which is the current-gen Fiesta on stilts. The new Puma ST is reportedly a fun thing to drive and as practical as you'd need unless you transport grandfather clocks for a living. It reportedly imbues the spirit of the original Puma but in a shape that appeals to the modern market. It is in many ways a fitting spiritual successor to the OG Puma, which let's not forget was built on the Fiesta platform. Both were a car fit for the market at the time, sold at a competitive price and based on the Fiesta of the time. What Ford was clever enough to realise, or at least cleverer than the people who bemoaned the new Puma's existence, was that they could for relatively little outlay, put a car into the hottest selling part of the market at a competitive price with good profit margins. The people buying the Puma today don't care about the one from when I was a toddler. They care for its cutesy looks, that the boot is big enough for a cockerpoo, and it won't risk scraping its chin on the speedbump at the leisure centre car park.
From a business viewpoint, the Puma is genius. Now give us a light and lithe sports car that sits below the Mustang, and name it after an Italian island. How about Capri?