The Puma is built in Ford’s Craiova plant in Romania and sits on the same B2 platform as the Fiesta, although this has been stretched and widened to meet the more spacious crossover brief. The upsizing is considerable, the new model being 146mm longer (95mm of which is accounted for in the wheelbase) and 71mm wider than the supermini, with track width up 58mm.

Naturally, the roofline also sits far higher, while the exterior design rivals that of the Nissan Juke for sheer individuality and references the original Puma in its slightly bug-eyed, open-mouthed face. Ford has deliberately made the car’s beltline flatter than usual in an effort to keep the car’s proportions balanced and less raked towards the nose, as is commonplace among rivals.

In what is increasingly Ford’s house style, the model name is sprawled across the tailgate in bold lettering, just as it is on the new Focus. We think it suits the compact crossover rather well, actually.

Under the bulbous bonnet is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit available in the UK with 123bhp, in both non-hybrid and mild-hybrid guises, and 153bhp, in mild-hybrid form only. Ford is marketing the Puma heavily on its hybrid status.

An integrated starter/generator replaces the alternator and, as well as recovering some energy during braking and allowing the car to coast with the engine off, provides torque fill for better throttle response and acceleration. The system can add only 37lb ft, so nobody should expect dramatically improved acceleration.

On a related note, with the mild-hybrid system masking lag, Ford has been able to add a larger turbo. Cylinder deactivation is then carried over from previous versions of the non-hybrid Ecoboost engine and can cut three cylinders down to two in just 14 milliseconds under light loads. A 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel will arrive later and an ST version is mooted, but our test car is in 123bhp petrol hybrid form with a six-speed manual and 17in alloy wheels.

With its extra ride height, there is ‘more’ suspension than in the lowriding Fiesta, although the Puma’s rear torsion beam is said to be stiffer and there are firmer suspension bushes and new top mounts. A common crossover bugbear is overly firm suspension, a result of trying to contain a taller body while cornering, so it will be interesting to see how the Puma fares in this respect as it strives for class-topping dynamics.

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