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Car Review

Ford Puma review

£20,660 - £30,760
810
Published: 04 Jan 2024
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Ford's previous form in crossovers is a bit spotty. Spoiler alert: this one's a good 'un

Good stuff

Engine, chassis, room, clever ideas. A well-rounded effort

Bad stuff

Ford needs it, but do we? We'll just take a Focus

Overview

What is it?

The Puma is a small crossover based on the Fiesta (RIP), a car we liked very much. 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.

Being based on the Fiesta, it ought to be fun to drive in a way very few small crossovers actually are. But before the Puma there was another small crossover based on the Fiesta. It was called the EcoSport, and it was absolute rubbish.

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In fact, Ford's crossovers are pretty spotty. While the Kuga's dent, 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 a few years back.

So did it go the right way?

Spoiler alert: yes. The Puma is at heart a taller, longer Fiesta. And that's pretty much how it steers and rides, with the Puma ST being a genuine surprise. 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.

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 review. 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.

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So the Puma has a big deep rubber-lined box (called, inventively, the ‘MegaBox’) below its boot floor where you can carry your mess. And when the box itself gets too wet, well you can simply open a plughole and sluice it out. Even when dry, it's the biggest and most convenient boot in the small crossover class.

Surely there's more to it than that?

Number two, Ford 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.

Ford's engines are normally pretty handy, aren't they?

Yup. Third Puma USP is the engine. Your standard Puma options are limited to two 1.0-litre three-cylinders, outputting either 123bhp or 153bhp. But both versions get 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance. Ford 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. 

There's also an ST version with a 1.5-litre 197bhp turbo three-pot (Fiesta ST-alike), but with torque up from 214lb ft to 236. That one is FWD and - shock - a manual.

How much is it?

Prices start from just over £25,500, which gets you the base 1.0-litre three-cylinder mild hybrid with 123bhp. So more expensive than stuff like the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Seat Arona, and VW T-Cross, but probably worth it. Read more on that in the Buying section.

What's the verdict?

It's easily superior to its closest rivals and brings driver appeal to a woefully uninteresting class of cars

The UK loves a Ford. Though the Focus and Fiesta have tumbled from the best-sellers list, it's the Puma that's now doing the heavy lifting for Ford. Indeed, at time of writing it's currently the best-selling car in the UK. It's easily superior to the latest Nissan Juke and VW's lacklustre T-Cross, and brings driver appeal to a woefully uninteresting class of cars.

It's also an impressively rounded thing. The interior is cleverly versatile as well as nicely furnished. The ST is a fun car to drive with surprising ability, and generally you can see why the Puma has been warmly received by the buying public.

The Rivals

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