From £20,710
Two decades later, the Puma has returned to our fleet. But this one is a bit different
James Attwood, digital editor
23 October 2020

Why we’re running it: To find out if the class-leading crossover is as good to live with as it is to drive

Month 3 Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Ford Puma: Month 3

Sluggish screen becoming a chore - 14 October 2020

Two niggles have blotted the Puma’s near-flawless usability record. First, the slight lethargy of the touchscreen is beginning to grate, because this can distract while I’m changing audio sources and sat-nav destinations. Second, the flimsy load cover is in the way more often than not and has to be stowed on the back seat when not in use. I’d prefer a retractable, solid parcel shelf.

Mileage: 2307

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Ford Puma 2020 road test review - hero front

Ford aims to take the crossover class by storm as it revives the Puma name

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Life with a Ford Puma: Month 2

The only real sign of an eco boost is on our car’s bootlid - 23 September 2020

In its first two months on the fleet, our Puma has been subjected to two flat moves, a succession of arduous motorway jaunts, beach trips, dog walks and a fair few miles on London’s unforgiving side streets, which we reckon is the sort of busy lifestyle this model will lead in the hands of many of its owners.

Our Puma has covered a lot of miles, granted, but it has spent much more time at the petrol pump than I would have hoped for. In fact, it was only when a neighbour approached me recently, gestured at the ‘hybrid’ motif emblazoned on the Puma’s bootlid and asked me “where have you been plugging it in?” that I had cause to question the car’s eco credentials. Given that mild-hybrid technology such as that employed here is now so commonplace as to rarely be advertised, can the Puma really sell itself as being more environmentally friendly than its contemporaries?

We can’t ignore the fact that the Puma is an SUV, and its raised ride height and high-sided cabin were never going to let it replicate the frugality of its Fiesta sibling, but an average of 45.8mpg has left me wanting more, it must be said. That’s including some 600 miles on the motorway, most of which were covered in Eco mode, and some very judicious use of the throttle on my congested local streets, so it’s a shame I haven’t been able to grin smugly at Prius drivers in traffic.

That said, the Puma’s Eco Coach function is almost like a video game in how addictive it’s becoming. There’s a certain pleasure to be had in attaining a 100% score in acceleration, speed, braking and shifting (so I’m told; it’s a feat I’ve yet to achieve), but I wonder if jazzier graphics and better signposting would be more likely to incentivise owners to take it slowly. Currently, the programme is buried in the righthand side of the gauge cluster and can’t be viewed at the same time as overall MPG or trip data.

An easy way to boost your score, I’ve found, is by taking every available opportunity to use the Puma’s regenerative deceleration function. A drawback, most notably in urban environments, is the resultant lurchiness of stop-start driving, which several passengers have said is rather uncomfortable. It’s especially fierce in Eco mode, so I’ve been leaving that for the out-of-town trips.

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On the subject of driving modes, let’s end on a high note: Sport is, for me, where this car is leagues ahead of its Volkswagen T-Cross and Nissan Juke rivals. The artificially enhanced engine note and lairy red dials we could go without, but the snappier throttle response, heftier steering and more noticeable turbo inputs make the last few miles of any journey something to look forward to (maybe that’s where all my petrol is going…).

Whereas hot crossover SUVs like the T-Roc R and Cupra Ateca compensate for their raised stature with meatier rubber and firmer suspension, however, the non performance-oriented Puma feels hamstrung in the corners by its skinny tyres, small wheels and stilt-like struts.

Roll isn’t as catastrophic as you might think, given our ST-Line car’s handling-focused suspension tune, but the natural human instinct to remain upright forces me to back off earlier before corners than I might in something a bit lower down. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming Puma ST copes dynamically with a substantial boost in power over the standard car.

Love it:

Electric bootlid A welcome touch of luxury at this price point and, crucially, always useful.

Loathe it:

Narrow rear seats Adult passengers hail the rear leg room, but three abreast for more than 10 minutes is uncomfortable.

Mileage: 2208

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Fits more than you might think - 2 September 2020

Moving out of my flat gave me cause to use the storage cubby under the Puma’s boot floor. The MegaBox may have seemed a bit of a gimmick when the car was revealed, but it snugly accommodated a bedside table, leaving room above for a large chest of drawers. I couldn’t squeeze in much else besides, but that additional capacity would certainly prove a real boon for family trips.

Felix Page

Mileage: 920

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Life with a Ford Puma: Month 1

Is there a better car in which to lose yourself in rural Wales? - 19 August 2020

Apparently, you should never rely on sat-nav to guide you to Aston Martin’s new St Athan factory. Of course, this useful bit of information was relayed to me only once I had reached the home of the DBX (in the countryside not far west of Cardiff) via a circuitous, Google-calculated route that took in all manner of ridiculously tight and twisty Welsh country lanes.

They were the sort of exceptionally narrow lanes – heightened by dense, overgrown foliage – that feature blind crests, sweeping bends and frequent rutted and broken surfaces. A fellow journalist attending the same event made the same navigational error and arrived slightly white-faced, noting that he was glad to have been driving an SUV, given the rough roads, while admitting it was a challenge to fit his large machine down those lanes. His comments perfectly encapsulated why the Ford Puma I had arrived in had been the ideal car for the journey.

In the compact car class, the description ‘crossover’ usually suggests compromise. Sure, you can have a dash of extra ride height and more head room, but it will cost you chunks of handling and composure and won’t really add much in the way of actually useful space. But on my route to St Athan, the Puma showed that it truly does mix the best attributes of a hatchback with those of an SUV with minimal drawbacks. The Puma could attack the faster, wider Welsh roads with the relish that its Fiesta sibling would, with similar direct steering, incisive handling and remarkable poise.

Selecting Sport driving mode stiffened the ride a bit to offer some sporty relish and made it genuinely enjoyable to steer round flowing corners. That combined well with Ford’s mild-hybrid-boosted three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine, which, when worked at speed, is pleasingly responsive.

Honestly, at times on such roads, I forgot that I was driving a machine that would be classed as a crossover, rather than a supermini. Until, that is, I got to those narrower, bumpier roads. Switch out of Sport mode and the Puma’s modicum of extra ride height really helped to smooth out those lumps and bumps, maintaining a welcome poise that inspired confidence. And while this is largely psychological, the slightly higher driving position than you would find in a hatchback made me feel that I had a bit more visibility on the narrow roads – although it didn’t help me to see round the blind corners exacerbated by the overgrowth…

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Once out of the woods, the bulk of my journey was on faster roads, and here the Puma also proved its worth as a motorway cruiser, with a poise and stability occasionally missing in class rivals. That said, the low-40s MPG it achieved was a tad disappointing for an electrified three-pot, especially as much of the journey was spent trying Eco mode.

By way of a glowing effect, the digital speedometer does offer some advice on the optimum speed to accelerate in order to maximise fuel economy, although it’s hard to really achieve in the real world without exercising undue levels of restraint.

Clearly, extracting the best MPG from the Puma will require some compromise in terms of driving. But that’s a trade-off I’m happy to make, considering how few compromises it requires for you to genuinely enjoy driving it on challenging country lanes. That said, if you do ever find yourself heading to St Athan, trust me: don’t rely on the sat-nav.

Love it:

Digital puma A Puma graphic that appears when the screen turns on sounds cheesy but is pleasing in its execution.

Loathe it:

Grimy spoiler The Puma’s stylish rear spoiler looks good but is also proving to be a magnet for dirt and grime.

Mileage: 540

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Really is as useful as it sounds - 5 August 2020

I want to hate the ‘Megabox’, for the simple reason that it’s a ridiculously grand and gimmicky moniker for what is essentially just a storage well under the boot floor. But it’s proving to be exceptionally useful, whether for stopping small items from rolling around or separating messy items from other luggage. It’s actually quite… mega.

Mileage: 390

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Welcoming the Puma to the fleet - 29 July 2020

I’ve had a soft spot for the Ford Puma since I first set eyes on one back in 1997. Blame Steve McQueen. The TV advert featuring him charging round the streets of San Francisco completely sold my 18-year-old self on the Puma’s cool credentials.

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Twenty three years later, I finally find myself the custodian of a Puma. Except, much like that McQueen ad, all is not quite what it seems. That commercial used clever CGI to turn the Ford Mustang from the epic Bullitt chase scene into a Puma, while Ford has now used the nameplate from the short-lived two-door coupé to add some sporting credibility to a compact crossover. Or, to use the inevitable comparison, a Nissan Juke rival.

While the original Puma was (sort of) backed by McQueen, the new Puma has the approval of some arguably more significant (but inarguably less cool) advocates: Autocar’s road test team. They recently proclaimed the Puma the best compact crossover to drive – and by a significant margin. High praise, although in a category not exactly known for handling prowess, that’s akin to saying the car chase is the best bit of Bullitt: whisper it, but the rest of the film really isn’t very good.

Still, our mission is to find out whether the new Puma continues to shine once the novelty of a compact crossover that’s actually all right to drive wears off. Our long-termer certainly sets out to appeal. While many other compact crossover models are either styled like a miniature pastiche of a boxy SUV or look like superminis with the ride height jacked up beyond a sensible level, the Puma looks – to these eyes – remarkably composed. There’s a clear family resemblance to the Fiesta, with which it shares a platform and many technical bits, but it still feels like its own machine – and a sleek, sporty one at that.

Currently, the Puma is available in the UK only with a 1.0-litre electrified petrol powertrain, and we’ve plumped for the more powerful 153bhp version. It’s badged a Ford Ecoboost Hybrid, but it’s important to note the silent ‘mild’: the electrified element consists of a 48V integrated starter-generator attached to the familiar three-cylinder turbo engine. The electric boost can add up to 37lb ft of torque, but don’t expect to be doing any silent EV-only running, aside from the engine-off coasting kicking in a bit earlier than it otherwise might.

Still, combined with the Ecoboost’s cylinder deactivation functions and general economy, the result is an official fuel economy of 57.6mpg and a 0-62mph time of 8.9sec. Not exactly chase-down-a-Dodge Charger quick but ample for this sort of car.

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In sporty-styled ST-Line trim, our Puma comes with plenty of kit, including 17in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and sports suspension. Inside, there are more ST-Line trim flourishes, including a leather, flat-bottomed steering wheel, a wireless phone charger and a 12.3in touchscreen with Ford’s newest infotainment system.

Ford still found a few options boxes to tick on our behalf, although it could be a good few months before we make use of the Comfort Pack’s heated seats and heated steering wheel. There’s also an electric boot opening, which probably doesn’t seem necessary for a car of this size, and rear privacy glass. Our car also came in Metropolis White, which at £650 is one of the most expensive colour options. We were a bit sceptical about paying more for white, but it definitely looks stylish in the metal (at least before getting a bit mucky). This brings the total price to £25,140, which is firmly in the mix with rivals such as the Volkswagen T-Cross, the Mazda CX-30 and, inevitably, the Juke.

Happily, first impressions are positive. When you’re behind the wheel, you could easily mistake this compact crossover for a Fiesta. That’s partly because of the interior, which, while spruced up a bit (in particular with an upgraded infotainment system), is broadly similar to that of its supermini sibling: perfectly functional but not class-leading.

More importantly, it has the flair of the Fiesta when it comes to ride and handling, with positive steering and admirable poise and fluency in corners. At times, it feels as if Ford has pulled off some more CGI trickery to stick an enlarged crossover body on a Fiesta. It’s nimble enough, in fact, that I’ve even found myself humming that Lalo Schifrin theme music as I whizz round corners and up steep hills.

Making a compact crossover that has the handling verve of a small hatch is a fine achievement, but we’re asking for the Puma to prove more over the next few months: we want to find out if the added practicality and space promised by that enlarged body will make the Puma worth considering not just over class rivals but ahead of the Fiesta itself, too.

It’s a tough ask – but it’s a credit to the job Ford has done with the Puma that we’re even posing the question.

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Second Opinion

The much-ballyhooed Ecoboost triple is far peppier than it has any right to be in a car of this shape and stature. Coupled with a slick, shortthrow, six-speed gearbox, it makes the top-rung Puma unexpectedly engaging on a smooth, snaking B-road. Exploiting its performance potential will do nothing to improve the slightly disappointing MPG readout, however.

Felix Page

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Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost MHEV ST-Line specification

Specs: Price New £23,240 Price as tested £25,140 Options Metropolis White paint £650, rear privacy glass £250, Comfort Pack (heated seats and heated wheel) £300, electric boot opening £600

Test Data: Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor Power 153bhp at 6000rpm Torque 140lb ft at 1900-5500rpm Kerb weight 1280kg Top speed 127mph 0-62mph 9.0sec Fuel economy 51.4mpg CO2 126g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Mousetrap 26 October 2020

Fails to impress

Tries to be a sportscar at the same time as economical SUV and fails on all counts. Poor economy, uncomfortable and ugly.  Just look at that front bumper and ungainly bonnet height grafted onto a hatchback body. Rear end is all Hyundai bling.  Highlight is a plastic box to put your wellies in the boot. May as well buy a Honda Jazz and revel in the class winning practicality than a compromise in all other departments. 

scrap 18 September 2020

I wasn't aware the Puma has

I wasn't aware the Puma has adjustable dampers. How exactly did engaging Sport mode stiffen the ride? Are you talking manure, Autocar?

xxxx 18 September 2020

month 1 update, low 40ish cruise mpg is truly appalling

I can not believe the standard 1 litre or a 1.5 would be any worse. 

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