It will have been tempting for Ford to look to a bigger and more powerful engine for this car, given how bold some of its rivals have been in lavishing upwards of 300 horsepower on cars of this class. What the Puma ST’s engine proves, however, is how overpowered and overcooked many of those premium- positioned competitors are.
In a slightly heavier, higher-riding car that squats more under hard acceleration and wants to move around that bit more on its springs in just about any situation than a regular hot hatchback might, the 1.5-litre turbocharged triple we first encountered in the Fiesta ST has plenty to do to make the Puma ST feel quick. But it just about manages to.
The optional electronic launch control governed the front tyres very effectively on a chilly test day. With the system switched on (it simply regulates engine revs and turbo boost to just the right levels while you’re feeding out the clutch in first gear), we recorded 7.3sec to 60mph – and with it off, we cut that down to a fastest one-way 7.1sec. Both clockings are a little short of Ford’s claim for outright acceleration (0-62mph in 6.7sec) but, with a warm, dry surface and plenty of practice, you might just about see a 0-60mph run beginning with a six for this car.
The Puma ST certainly seems to move plenty of its mass away from its front wheels when you give it full power, although even with the electronic aids off, traction remains reasonably strong. The three- cylinder engine sounds pleasingly vocal. Quite fruity and tuneful, and surprisingly bassy at times, it gives the car plenty of likeable performance presence. Plenty of torque, and real-world pace too: a Fiesta ST is only 0.3sec quicker from 30mph to 70mph in fourth gear (although fairly short gearing plays its part there).
The engine is the kind of hard- working, downsized, turbocharged motor we simply wouldn’t have imagined could exist 25 years ago. It pulls cleanly and without a hint of protest from just 1250rpm, revs all the way beyond 6000rpm with smoothness and linearity, and has great mid-range muscle and crisp part-throttle response.
And all of those things, plus operating so clearly at about the limit of traction of its front wheels, feed convincingly into the notion that the Puma ST has all the grunt it could really use.