Starting Price: €41,813
Price as tested: €44,441
- Great engine, entertaining handling, decent fuel economy for a performance vehicle
- Looks are divisive, cramped rear.
WHAT IS IT?
The Ford Puma, some of you old enough to remember, was a charming, Ford Fiesta based coupé from the 1990s that lived a short, but interesting life. The current Puma, like everything else it seems, these days, is SUV flavoured and starts from around €26,000 with much of the essence of the original model’s styling. Whether it is pretty or not is a matter of opinion, this writer rather likes it – but some really don’t. Either way, Ford has got back into their groove after a shaky enough patch, both in styling and engineering terms and this car is selling well, and offers a decent variety of models. This is the flagship version, the ST, not to be mistaken with the ST-Line, which is simply a styling package. The full-fat ST is, of course, the performance version. Some of you might be familiar with the excellent Fiesta ST and Focus ST models – which over a couple of generations now, have been providing some of the best hot hatch thrills money can buy.
HOW ABOUT THE LOOKS?
The Puma is a good-looking car, in our opinion anyway, and the ST model takes that up a level. Most striking, are the 19” Magnetite machined alloy wheels, which are gorgeous and our test car came in “Grey Matter” – a flat grey that you will either love or hate. This almost €600 colour option (Frozen White is a no-cost option) is nice, we’d probably choose the €342 Agate Black, which makes it look dare I say like a mini 911, but you’d need to be brave and an extrovert to go for the €1,254 Mean Green colour, which will also make you look like you are driving Kermit the Frog. There are ST elements to the front and rear body styling including a performance embossed splitter. You get fixed LED signature headlamps, a black painted roof, dual chrome exhaust, red brake callipers, and a rather cool ST logo projection from the door mirrors (which stops you stepping into puddles, but mostly just looks cool).
WHAT IS THE INSIDE LIKE?
The cabin is lovely in the ST version. You get heated Recaro sports seats with an ST logo finished in partial leather and Miko Dinamica, there is a flat-bottomed, multi-function steering wheel with metal grey stitching – it is also heated. There are ST scuff plates, ST front and rear mats, alloy sports pedals, and a decent infotainment system with the usual AppleCar Play and Android Auto. There are four driving modes that can be selected via buttons on the steering wheel – an S button goes directly to Sport mode. The rear space is limited enough in this car, so won’t suit if you carry taller passengers a lot, but is more than fine for kids.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The 3-cylinder engine doesn’t sound great at lower speeds but special valves in the exhaust make it sounds infinitely better when you stand on the go pedal a little harder. There is also a synthetic engine sound that comes into the cabin too. Opinions will vary on these, but what shouldn’t be in question is how entertaining this car is to drive. Ford do great driving dynamics anyway and this doesn’t disappoint. The steering is really excellent and it doesn’t feel like an SUV, because Ford has put a lot of work and engineering into making sure it doesn’t including a specific anti-roll bar and twist beam at the rear to compensate for the added height. Our car was fitted with a Quaife Limited Slip Differential, part of an optional €944 ST Performance Pack that also includes Launch Control and a Gearshift Change indicator. It makes this front-wheel-drive car pretty much understeer-free on twisty roads and instils a degree more confidence for the driver, but it really is more for the purists. The bigger front brakes (325mm discs at the front) grab confidently and provide assurance and the Recaro seats ensure your kidneys and spleen stay where they should as you entertain yourself and turn your passenger a variant of Mean Green. As an SUV that has been turned into a performance vehicle this is no doubt one of the best, but still feels a bit of a contradiction. The €32,600 Fiesta ST or €47,000 (and more powerful 280PS) Focus ST will be much more entertaining and will have required less fettling to do so. This is a great compromise car – if your partner insists on an SUV, but you like a back road blast every now and again, this is the ideal choice. Fuel economy is surprisingly good, it is pretty practical, especially with the genius 80-litre Megabox in the boot, which sits under the boot floor and it is a very easy car to live with in general.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?
The ST comes in one model– the 200PS version you see here – so your only really options are whether to add the Performance Pack as mentioned (€944), the Driver Assistance Pack (€820) which adds AEB by Radar/Camera, BLIS with CTA and Active Braking, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Evasive Steering with manual transmission, ACC Stop and Go incl. Traffic Jam Assist (Automatic Only), Active Park Assist, Front Parking Sensors, Rear View Camera, a Panorama Roof for €863 or the Handfree Power Tailgate (€431) or a Detachable Tow Bar for €561.
IS IT SAFE?
The Ford Puma received a five-star rating in 2019 in the Euro NCAP safety tests and scored highly in all categories. The Driver Assitance package, which is optional in the Puma ST would provide an extra layer of safety.
This is a very likeable car. It offers a good mix of practicality and fun and the overall value is quite good. It is a very considered choice, so you are unlikely to buy it by accident – you’ll want a performance car, but something tells you that you need an SUV too. If that’s you, then you will find this car quite a hoot.
Ford Puma ST
Engine: 1.5-litre 3-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine
Power: 200 PS @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 2,500 – 3,500 rpm
0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds
Fuel Economy: 6.0 l/100km
Top Speed: 220 km/h
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Co2: 155 g/km
Annual Motor Tax: €280
Luggage Capacity: 456-litres expanding out to 1216-litres with rear seats folded
Price as tested: €44,441
For more information log-on to www.ford.ie