What is it?
This is the new Ford Puma, but not as we know it.
For those of a certain age, the Puma is an eye-catchingly styled compact coupé with a disproportionate ability to thrill when thrown down a stretch of twisting asphalt. However, the last one of those hit the road nearly 20 years ago, while for the youthful target market of the new car. the name 'Puma' is more likely to conjure up images of trainers and sports leisurewear than those of lithe little coupés. As a result, and rather predictably, that means the new Puma is an SUV, albeit a small one.
Yet there are reasons to be cheerful because, of all the mainstream manufacturers, Ford still knows how to engineer cars that entertain. In addition, the Puma is packed with some innovative kit to keep things interesting, including mild hybrid power, a suite of level 2 autonomous driver aids and something called the Mega Box, which we’ll get to shortly.
Sitting on the familiar Ford Global-B small car platform, the Puma is a relatively late entrant to the already fairly crowded compact crossover class, which includes the Nissan Juke, Seat Arona and Skoda Kamiq, among many. Yet the Blue Oval also has premium aspirations for the Puma (the entry-level trim is Titanium; there’s no Zetec here), pitching it head to head with the smaller but more upmarket Mini. Hmmmm.
Engine options are currently all petrol, with three versions of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost. The entry-level 123bhp unit is carried over from the Focus and Fiesta largely unchanged, but the mild hybrid versions (with either 123 or 152bhp) are new for the Puma. Using a 48V and an 11.5kW starter/generator, it allows brief spurts of up to 37lb ft of torque-fill overboost.
The extra muscle is particularly useful low in the rev range, because it has allowed engineers to lower the compression ratio and add a bigger turbo for greater top-end power, on the 152bhp version at least. There’s also cylinder deactivation under light loads and on a closed throttle – a first on a three-pot motor.
The suspension is pretty much pure Fiesta, with struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. However, there are firmer springs and dampers, tougher bushes and new top mounts designed to reduce friction but increase stiffness. All of which is in line with Ford’s claim that the Puma will be the most dynamic car in its class.
Elsewhere, it’s all about the safety technology, with traffic jam and motorway assist bringing adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping to the sector; currently only the Renault Captur offers the same kit. There’s also automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection and cross-traffic alert, as well as various camera-based warning systems, self-parking and Evasive Steering Assist, which automatically helps steer the car around hazards if you’re caught napping.
And of course the Puma is ‘connected’. The 8.0in Sync 3 infotainment screen controls pretty much all the connectivity, sat-nav and audio functions, plus there’s the option of an in-built modem so you can host up to 10 devices (although while you’d want to is a moot point) on a wi-fi hotspot.
Oh, and not forgetting that Mega Box. What is it? Well, it’s deep 80-litre compartment beneath the boot floor that’s been designed to house everything from shopping to wetsuits. Made of moulded plastic and featuring a drain plug, it can genuinely be cleaned with a hose. It the sort of thing that you never knew you needed until you try it.