What is it?
The Ford Puma is the Blue Oval's second crack at a compact SUV — the first is the marginally smaller Ecosport, now six years old — and it has been making plenty of waves since it hit the market a couple of months ago.
As well as grabbing generous helpings of buyer interest it has already collared the coveted What Car? Car of the Year award. In truth, it could hardly be more different from the Ecosport: its combination of great styling, a well designed interior, a simple but impressive spec and an ideal size, looks like sending Ford’s latest offering straight to the top of the baby SUV class.
Yet there are questions. Ford currently offers only two three-cylinder mild hybrid (MHEV) petrol powertrains: 123bhp and 153bhp. Choose the former and you'll save £750, but is it a better idea to spend the extra money? The other tricky choice is between the Puma range’s three distinct models, which offer three wheel and suspension combinations: 17in wheels and compliant suspension for the Titanium, 17in wheels and sports suspension for the ST-Line and 18in wheels, again with sports suspension, for the ST-Line X. Which setup gives the best blend of handling and ride comfort?
What's it like?
Having already driven the higher power version at launch, we grabbed a 123bhp First Edition ST-Line X model and took it on the ever-challenging roads of inner and outer London to investigate.
The First Edition comes with a comprehensive package of driver and parking aids, LED headlights, keyless entry and a powered tailgate, all for £2300. It’s a value package, though by the time you’ve paid £750 for an exclusive colour like ours (called Grey Matter) you’re in for £25,945; that's quite a lot of money for a Fiesta-based SUV, even if it has an impressive specification.
In general, the plaudits this car has so far attracted are entirely valid. Its styling is even better than in photos; its quality is very good; its interior is conventional but classy, like a well-cut business suit. The lower-powered 1.0-litre turbo triple is smooth, quiet and pulls amazingly well from low revs (helped at critical times by the 15bhp and 37lb ft that's contributed by the integrated starter-generator of the MHEV system). But it definitely lacks the sporty top end of the 153bhp edition; we’d say that the lesser engine works well enough, but the extra middle-to-top end verve of the more powerful engine suits the sporty character of the ST-Line models.