Ford Puma 1.5 EcoBoost ST Gold Edition 5dr
The Puma isn't too heavy, so the 155bhp engine does a decent job, especially as it's torquey and quick-witted. (The mild hybrid system actually adds less weight than substituting a bigger engine would have.) It's worth revving high as the power keeps swelling toward 6,400rpm, but unfortunately so does the noise.
The mild-hybrid works entirely as advertised, making the engine drive like a bigger one, while still showing impressive economy when you're going gently. Also it does a great job of quick idle-stop in town, turning off the engine before you've stopped, and restarts instantly and magically at the very last moment before you need it to pull away.
Spec the seven-speed auto 'box and you'll still get hybrid assistance, albeit with only 123bhp to play with. It really is worth changing gear yourself - the auto is slower from 0-62mph and produces more emissions, but at the same time costs £1,800 more than the equivalent manual. Saying that, if you’re looking for entirely fuss-free commuting, the paddle-‘box works when you’re just mooching. And mooching is what the 123bhp-rated motor does best. Save the spirited drives for the ST.
The steering is very Ford-like if a bit more rubbery than in a Focus or Fiesta. It's intuitive and clean, with a bit of feel. The Puma contains cornering roll decently, and balances the grip at the front and back. You can bowl along through a set of tricky bends and it won't shirk the challenge. Body control is genuinely good.
To be clear - a Fiesta, certainly one with the ST-Line setup, is simply more fun. So's a Focus. But for a crossover, this is good, and the ST variant actually has 90-per cent of the chops of the smaller brother. Not quite as good… but close. What isn't so good is the road noise, with some gritty hubbub coming through the tyres.
The ride is a little bobbly, but the suspension accepts big hits well enough. You sit 3cm higher off the floor than in a Fiesta, and the floor is 3cm higher off the road. That 6cm total lift is noticeable, but it's not exactly SUV altitude, and the driving position isn't too upright.
The driving modes affect the powertrain and skid control, but not the suspension because that's passive. Also they change the instrument colours and fonts, but not in a distracting way. They're normal, eco (softens the throttle, emphasises regeneration), sport (quite a bit perkier on the open road but a bit sharp in town), slippery and trail.
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