The Puma’s powertrain has a downsized, turbo three-pot capable of shutting off entirely when the car’s coasting; of deactivating a cylinder when running lean; and of leaning on a 15bhp, 37lb ft electric motor to boost overall efficiency, outright performance or drivability. It works really well 99% of the time to conceal the technical complexity needed to achieve all that.
It hauls the car along from lowish revs with impressive responsiveness and a pleasingly accessible sense of oomph. Perhaps more important, it only allows you to become aware of the complexity of its operating brief in the most fleeting moments – sometimes with a hint of inconsistency in its braking response if you happen to knock the car out of gear early when decelerating, or with a slightly abrupt take-up of drive just as you tip into the accelerator pedal. These are problems you’d be likely to become conscious of only if you were anticipating them, though.
Considering how much it plainly does to boost low-rev torque, saving you from otherwise necessary gearchanges, the mild-hybrid system adds much more to the car’s overall drivability than it detracts.
On a wet test day, the Puma took a two-way average of 10.0sec to hit 60mph from rest, a fairly strong if not exceptional showing. But the fact that it was almost 7.0sec (or about 40%) quicker accelerating from 30mph to 70mph in fourth gear than the 1.0-litre turbocharged Juke we tested late last year illustrates the difference made by Ford’s hybrid system.
When pulling from low engine speeds in higher gears, you can feel the torque it contributes quite clearly – and, if you watch the tacho needle, you can also feel the point in the rev range (just above 4000rpm) when the electric motor has to switch off.
The car has a healthy-feeling outright performance level for mixed road driving and a short, pleasant, well-defined gearshift action. It’s smooth enough and as powerful and stable as it needs to be, under braking, although it’s easier to judge your initial pedal inputs once you’ve learned to squeeze the middle pedal only after you’ve already selected a lower gear.
It’s best not to downshift in the middle of a deceleration phase where you can avoid it, since doing so interferes slightly with the regenerative braking you get from the hybrid system and spoils the initial braking response a little.