THE nation’s thirst for SUV or Crossover vehicles means more and more hatchbacks have been jacked up and roughed-up.
The Nissan Juke was the first such vehicle to sell in large amounts but it was never very pretty, was it?
Not that the new Ford Puma could be described in flowery terms but in ST-Line trim it can certainly turn heads.
Based on an extended Fiesta platform the Puma muscles in on the EcoSport to take pride of place as Ford’s premier small SUV.
It goes head-to-head with the likes of the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur.
For Ford fans, the new Puma is a better driver’s car than both these rivals. In this price bracket too you will struggle to find a Crossover that is more fun.
All Puma’s are based on the tried-and-tested 1.0-litre EcoBoost, 3-cylinder engine with a mild hybrid (mHEV) option available for a mere £300 extra.
Power output is either 125PS or 155PS with prices starting at £21,640 for the Titanium model and rising to £25,240 for the luxury-spec ST-Line X Vignale.
A Puma ST is available to order from October with deliveries starting in January 2021.
The fast Ford will have 200PS under the bonnet and be capable of 0-60 mph in under 7 secs. Expect the price to be around the £28K mark.
Equipment levels are impressive. Even the entry-level model gets 17” alloy wheels, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, lane keeping aid, lane departure warning, automatic headlights with rain-sensing wipers and auto high beam.
Also included are: rear parking sensors, quick clear heated windscreen, wireless charging pad, Ford SYNC 3 navigation with DAB and 8in touchscreen.
There are also selectable drive modes: normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery & Trail.
The ST-Line also gets a smart 12.3in. fully digital instrument cluster, impressive for a car in this price bracket.
The interior will be familiar to anyone who has previously owned a modern Ford.
Everything is laid out well and though some of the lower-down plastics are decidedly on the cheap side, the overall quality is better than almost all its rivals.
With an excellent driving position, comfy seats, good visibility, easy-to-use knobs for the temperature controls and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to hand, what more could you ask for?
Okay, so you want boot space as well. The Puma offers 456 litr
es which trumps most of the competition as well as its own cousin, the Ford Focus.
Lift that boot floor up and you will find a Megabox – Ford’s hidden storage area that is deeper and more useful than you would probably imagine.
The rear seats split 60:40 for even more practicality while rear passengers get adequate space although six-footers will struggle with that sloping roof line.
However, it is out on the road where the new Ford Puma will win you over with its precise 6-speed manual gearshift (a 7-speed auto box is available on the non-hybrid models only), surprisingly communicative steering and an eagerness around bends that should put a smile on your face.
While you won’t be entering your new Puma in any drag-races, you will find the 0-60mph time of 9.8 seconds very respectable and quicker than the likes of the Nissan Juke, Audi Q2 35 and VW T-Roc.
The mHEV 155 model manages an even swifter 9.0 second sprint without being much thirstier.
The ST-Line model comes with a sportier suspension feel which makes the ride a little firmer than that of the Titanium model.
However, it is still very pliant over potholes while feeling capable around the A-road twisty stuff.
The Puma is quiet enough, even at motorway speeds, though I suspect if you go for the larger 18in or 19in wheels, tyre noise may become irksome.
With combined fuel figures of around 50mpg for all engine choices and CO2 emissions being under 100 g/km you might even consider the new Puma as your next company car.
Overall, the new Puma is a well-equipped and practical sporty looking Crossover/SUV that has a touch of sportiness about the way it drives too.
The coupe-style roofline marks it out from other small SUVs at this price point and there are some great colour choices – Desert Island Blue being my own personal favourite.
It’s good to see the Puma name back in the game – though this time it is all grown up.
AT A GLANCE:
Ford Puma ST-Line 125PS mHEV
OTR Price: £22,590
Engine: 1.0 EcoBoost with mHEV Power: 125 PS
Transmission: 6 Speed manual 0-62mph: 9.8 secs
Top Speed: 119 mph
Combined economy: 51.4mpg
C02: 98 g/km