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The Top Gear car review: Ford Puma
For:Engine, chassis, room, clever ideas. A well-rounded effort
Against:Ford needs it, but do we? We'll just take a Focus
What is it?
This could go either way. On the one hand the Puma is a small crossover based on the Fiesta, so it ought to be fun to drive in a way very few small crossovers actually are.
But on the other hand, there’s another small crossover based on the Fiesta. It’s the Ecosport, and it’s bit rubbish.
In fact across the piece, Ford’s crossovers are pretty spotty. While the Kuga’s just fine, does anyone remember seeing an Edge on British roads? Or a Ka+ Active? Deserved flops, the pair of them, moribund long before they actually pegged it last year.
Spoiler alert. It went the right way. The Puma is at heart a taller, longer Fiesta. And that’s pretty much how it steers and rides. But there’s more to it than that, because as runaway sales of the existing small crossovers prove, dynamics have barely registered in buyers’ priorities. Otherwise how can you explain the fact that 2019 was the Ecosport’s best-ever selling year in the UK, and it will live on for some years after the Puma is launched?
To stand out among rivals, the Puma needs more than just driving smarts. And it has. Number one, it has some really rather clever ideas around its rear end. Yeah, Top Gear doesn’t normally home in on the boot this far up a road-test. Because boots are boring. But having to leave your stuff behind is boring too. And so is cleaning out the wet carpet of a boot that’s been soiled by muddy gear.
So the Puma has a big deep rubber-lined box below its boot floor where you can carry your mess. And when the box itself gets too wet, well you can simply open a plug-hole and sluice it out. Even when dry, it’s the biggest and most convenient boot in the small crossover class.
Number two, they added a lot of tech. There’s a digital instrument pack. The auto transmission version has the option of level-two assisted driving, similar to the Juke’s ProPilot.
Another standard piece of tech is its always-on internet connection, used for more than just satnav traffic info. If any compatible connected car (and soon there’ll be lots) in the neighbourhood crashes, or skids, or breaks down, it’ll send a warning to the cloud. That’s picked up by the Puma as it approaches so it’ll warn its driver what’s just round the corner.
Third Puma USP is the engine. Two versions of the three-cylinder petrol have 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance. Works like this. They gave it a bigger turbo for more power – 155bhp is a lot from just a litre. Which would normally have made it horribly laggy. But the electric motor kicks in at low revs and fills the hole.
The styling is softer than the previous era of Fords, with gently curved sides sitting below a waistline that’s visually lengthened by a black strip at the base of the screen pillar. This draws your eye back horizontally from the bonnet, rather than up to the roof.