There have been some tremendous fast Fords over the years, and one of the best in recent years has been the current Fiesta ST – a truly thrilling hot hatch.
And now the Fiesta is serving as the basis of Ford’s latest hot model – the Puma ST crossover. It’s the first time you’ve been able to choose a sporty SUV from the firm in the UK, and bodes well given the Puma is already one of the best cars in its class to drive.
In the switch to ST it gains a more powerful engine, a host of chassis tweaks and the sporty styling expected from a hot model, yet without sacrificing on practicality and spaciousness. On paper it sounds very promising, but can this package all come together? Let’s find out.
It’s exactly the same engine that underpins the Puma as in the Fiesta ST – a turbocharged three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine, which produces 197bhp and 320Nm of torque. Power is delivered to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, while a limited-slip differential is available as an option to maximise cornering ability further.
The sprint to 60mph takes 6.5 seconds (only 0.3 more than the Fiesta) and flat out it would hit 137mph.
But if you’re looking for a crossover that won’t cost the earth to run, the Puma ST could be the real deal. Ford claims it’ll return 40.9mpg, while CO2 emissions are pleasingly low for a car of this type at 155g/km.
Ride and handling
Despite the Puma being a crossover, it doesn’t offer the overly high ride height of other models in this class, which is an ideal starting point for a sporty model thanks to its lower centre of gravity. Ford has also revised the suspension and stiffened the anti-roll bars.
And it’s truly impressive how keenly the Puma ST corners, with minimal body roll, which is almost unheard of for a crossover. In short, it feels just as fun to drive the standard Fiesta ST, while the gearbox and engine itself both impress. One of the few gripes with it are its firm ride, which is just a bit too harsh (likely to do with the large 19-inch alloy wheels), though it’s never uncomfortable and is still well-judged for the UK’s roads.
Interior and equipment
Ford hasn’t gone overboard with changing the ST’s interior next to the regular Puma, with some large and supportive Recaro sports seats being some of the few changes made here. You also get digital dials and a good touchscreen included, while the material quality is good throughout.
But for one of the key benefits of choosing the Puma ST over the Fiesta is for practical reasons. There’s more space in the back, though not exceptionally generous amounts, though boot space is more impressive. Not least thanks to Ford’s brilliant ‘MegaBox’ solution – essentially a plastic storage area under the boot floor, which can store muddy items and can even be washed out thanks to having a plug at the bottom. It does mean there’s no spare wheel option, though.
All Puma STs also come with plenty of kit as standard. You get the aggressive bodykit, large 19-inch alloy wheels and Recaro seats to separate it from any normal version. Then it gains digital dials, which can be configured depending on your tastes, along with an eight-inch touchscreen system that comes with a range of connected services, satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. LED headlights, a suite of parking sensors and heated front seats are all included, too.
Prices for the Puma ST start from £28,495, which gets you a lot of car for your money – both in terms of standard kit and performance. Granted, it is about £3,500 more expensive than the equivalent five-door Fiesta ST, though.
There aren’t too many optional extras available, too, though we’d be keen to spend £500 for the cool Mean Green paint job (pictured) and also for the £950 ST Performance Pack, which adds a mechanical limited-slip differential, performance shift lights and launch control.
Combine one of the most fun hot hatches with one of the best-driving crossovers and the result is unsurprisingly brilliant. The Puma ST is unquestionably one of the best cars of its type to drive, but offers just that bit more practicality than the Fiesta ST with its larger boot and more generous rear seat space.
If you’re looking for a small family car but really don’t want to sacrifice on driving enjoyment, the Puma ST is quite the ticket and should go down an absolute treat.