The Ford Puma has been an unrivalled success since it was launched a few years ago.
Great looking and fun to drive, the Fiesta-based crossover has won an army of fans and a slew of awards – it was crowned Scottish Car of the Year in 2020.
Now Ford has launched a hot SUV version, called the Ford Puma ST.
It gets a 1.5 litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 200hp. The same engine is used in the outstanding Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch, which bodes well.
To cope with the extra height and weight of the SUV model the engine has had its torque boosted from 214lb ft to 236 lb ft. This extra pulling power ensures the Puma ST still feels fast even with a full complement of passengers and luggage.
So what does that translate to in numbers? The Puma ST will hit 0-62mph in just 6.7 seconds and has a top speed of 137mph.
Efficiency and muscular looks
That’s pretty quick. What’s equally remarkable is how efficient the engine is. Over 300 miles of driving round Tayside, Fife and Aberdeenshire during the course of a week saw me average 41 mpg – and that was making regular use of the car’s performance.
From the outside, the Puma ST shouts that it’s no ordinary SUV. A muscular bodykit, 19in alloy wheels with red brake calipers, twin exhausts and a high level rear spoiler give it a purposeful and aggressive stance.
My test car came with the optional performance pack and other extras such as a hands-free power tailgate and metallic paint, bringing the price up to a still-very-reasonable £31,850.
An exception to SUV rule
The Ford Puma ST was much more fun to drive than I was expecting. As a rule SUVs tend not to handle terribly well, being on the taller side.
The Puma ST is definitely an exception, however. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. It is, after all, based on the Fiesta, which has a wonderfully dynamic chassis.
Ford has also uprated all the bits that help make cars go round corners faster. The Puma ST has sharper steering, stiffer suspension, stronger anti-roll bars, an optional mechanical limited-slip differential and Michelin tyres developed specially for Ford.
In practice that means the Puma stays remarkably flat, poised and composed when it’s being hurled round a few bends. Even during hard cornering there isn’t even a hint of body roll.
A practical, daily runaround vehicle
Throw in accurate steering and a smooth six speed gearbox and you have a car that is hugely entertaining to drive.
When you’re not pressing on the Puma ST does a pretty good job of being a daily runaround. It’s practical for a start.
Headroom is good all round, and the rear is fine for children or small adults.
The boot is roomy and comes with an excellent 80 litre plastic storage space with drainage underneath the floor – you can easily fit an entire family’s muddy gear or some wet dog towels in there after a day outdoors.
The interior lets you know you’re in a sports car as well. From the Recaro sports seats to the ST detailing, digital display and various power mode options it feels sporty and special.
The only downside is the firm suspension doesn’t let you forget you’re driving a hot SUV.
Live with that, however, and you’ve got an outstanding sports car that doubles up just as well as a practical compact SUV. This is a very special car.
Model: Ford Puma ST
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Top speed: 137mph
CO2 emissions: 155g/km