The idea of the performance crossover is no longer as novel as it was a few years ago, but the Puma ST still manages to represent something of a departure from those we’ve seen before.

Where so many of its rivals rely on heavily boosted four- cylinder engines, slick dual-clutch transmissions and four-wheel drive, the Puma features none of the above.

Twin-exit exhaust peeks out from beneath the rear bumper. The exhaust note has been tuned to be slightly quieter than it is on the Fiesta ST. Ford claims a 1dB difference

The 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine of the regular Puma has been replaced by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol unit that is almost exactly the same all-aluminium powerplant that you’ll find in the excellent Fiesta ST, albeit with a bespoke air intake and new roll-restricting engine mounts.

It develops the same 197bhp at 6000rpm as in the cheaper Fiesta ST, which might raise one or two eyebrows. However, peak torque has been increased to 236lb ft at 2500-3500rpm, all of which is deployed to the front wheels via a six- speed manual transmission. Specify the ST Performance Pack (a £950 option that our test car had) and you’ll get not only an electronic launch control and interior shift lights but also a Quaife helical limited-slip differential. This works in tandem with brake-based torque vectoring.

So the Puma ST is already shaping up to be a fairly hardcore contender. And that’s before you get to the tweaks made to its chassis and suspension. To help counteract the Puma ST’s taller centre of gravity, the torsional stiffness of its twist beam rear axle – which has a 28mm anti-roll bar cleverly integrated into its U-section – has been increased by 50% compared with the standard Fiesta ST’s equivalent.

Meanwhile, Ford’s patented ‘force-vectoring’ directionally wound rear springs have also been fitted, enhancing the Puma’s stability and fleet-footedness by better locating the rear axle.

Similar to those found on the Fiesta ST, these work by applying lateral forces directly to the axle during cornering to help stabilise the wheels and contain the car’s mass. Elsewhere, new Hitachi twin-tube frequency-reactive dampers (different from the Tenneco shocks on the Fiesta ST) have been fitted at all four corners.

With a ratio of 11.4:1, the Puma ST’s steering is close to 25% quicker than the base car’s, an improvement that’s facilitated by a modified front steering knuckle with a shorter steering arm and faster gearing. We measured 2.1 turns from lock to lock, versus 2.8 in the standard car.

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The Puma’s slightly cartoonish looks have taken well to the ST treatment, too. Larger 19in wheels (an inch larger than you can get on a Fiesta ST) and a more prominent bodykit bring a welcome level of additional visual aggression, while the fact that it sits 21mm lower to the ground than a regular Puma lends the compact crossover a slightly squatter, more assertive stance.

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