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Ford Performance Puma ST | Review

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Ford’s new Puma ST is a significant car for Ford performance in that it’s the first SUV they have engineered for the European market. Ford have put two inches in the suspension travel because it’s a crossover and then they’ve taken one of them back out because it’s a performance SUV.

Special mention : Huge fun to drive every day as well as on B roads, not an easy task for manufacturers to master. Space is better than the Fiesta ST and the latest Sync 3 system is brilliant. Megabox is a great addition. B&O Soundsystem matches the hot hatch vibes.

Needs work : Some may find the suspension a little hard, looks are far from hot hatch. Spend time getting your driving position right.

Specs: As tested

Max Power 200 PSPetrol / 6 Speed Manual
0-100 km/h in 6.7 secondsRoad Tax €280

Price: €33,377

As spec’d :€44,820
Boot 456 litres

It’s a significant car for Ford, you’ll probably already know that to a greater or lesser extent the Puma is a jacked up Fiesta ST, it uses the same platform but there are some details about it that make it quite different.

The Puma is fun, feisty and firm, you expect it to be a slightly more mature take on a Ford performance car because it’s an SUV. But Ford have obviously decided they’re going to go all guns blazing with the chassis on this car just to prove a point. To prove that Ford remember what the ST performance cars are for and why people buy Ford ST’s, it’s all about involvement and driver appeal with the SUV body shape adding an extra sense of practicality.

The Puma ST uses the same 1.5 litre three-cylinder engine as the Fiesta ST with 197 hp. Unlike some of the other cars in the hot crossover market, Volkswagen T-Roc’s and the Mini Countryman JCW, the Puma is still only front wheel drive and it’s also priced below those cars.

Ford have stuck with front wheel drive and they’ve gone with an optional quaif limited slip differential for the front wheels which makes it unlike any other performance crossover that you can get at the moment. There was a slightly daft Nissan Juke Nismo a few years ago that had a diff but they didn’t really use it to its best advantage. Having left the engine and the gearbox basically similar to the one you get on the Fiesta ST it’s interesting how different they feel.

On the point of difference, the suspension of this car is differently specified than the Fiesta, you get 19” wheels as standard, whereas the Fiesta gets 17’s as standard and 18’s as an option.

That’s a big wheel jump for what’s still quite a small car. You also get some twin tube frequency selective hitachi dampers and you get much stiffer anti-roll bars on the Puma than you do on a Fiesta ST. The Puma is taller and so Ford have increased the torsional stiffness on the beam at the back with a similar change on the anti-roll bar at the front. 

It really is a much more laterally stiff car than a Fiesta and is much more fun to drive due to its deftness. It’s a feisty little supermini, combined with the slipp diff and the bigger wheels it makes for a pretty full-on driving experience. The interesting thing with the 19” wheels is that it changes the dynamics, but not in a bad way.

If you ever put big rim 17” alloys on your one litre Corsa or Fiesta or as a teenager you probably will have encountered a phenomenon known as scrub or offset. You get the sense that the car just wants to go straight and you have to do quite a lot more to get the wheel to turn and then as soon as you’re done turning it wants to come straight again. 

With modern power steering systems you can do quite a lot to tune that out but you can never eradicate it completely and the Puma feels like a car with a lot of front offset. The other thing you get as a result of all that scrub is torque steer and a bit of tram lining, this inevitably is what gives the car its character, something a lot of manufacturers have left out.

There’s a lot to like about the Ford Puma ST, not least it’s tiggerish dynamic temperament like so many fast Ford’s have had over the years. It’s fun to drive and very usable with it and while the 197 horsepower three-cylinder engine isn’t one to blow your socks off for outright pace, it’s more likeable than the Fiesta ST and it makes the hot Puma pretty good value too.