We review the new 2020 Ford Puma ST-Line crossover powered by a 1.0-litre three-pot turbo engine.
Cast your memory back to 1997, and you may remember Ford launched a small, front-wheel-drive coupe based on what was then the fourth-generation Fiesta. The Ford Puma had landed.
Now, the Puma name is back, and it’s an extremely similar story save for one very important detail; the new Ford Puma is not a small coupe, but a small five-door SUV. It’s based on the current, seventh-generation Fiesta supermini, sharing its chassis and its engines, as it enters a market that’s overflowing with choice at the minute.
Chief rivals include the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, Toyota C-HR, Kia Seltos, Renault Captur and Skoda Kamiq, while the handsome Mazda CX-3 and spacious Volkswagen T-Cross offer further possibilities for customers considering a small family SUV. A left-field alternative includes the design-led Nissan Juke.
The Puma line-up isn’t quite as expansive as the Fiesta’s, but there are still plenty of models to choose from and even more engine options will be available soon. The trim structure is very straightforward too.
The Puma is front-wheel-drive only and offered with only a 92kW, 170Nm 1.0-litre turbo petrol. Later this year will be unveiled a hot version too – the Puma ST, powered by the Fiesta ST’s 1.5-litre engine for a total of 147kW.
Ford’s reputation for fun family cars has been sealed with models like the Focus and Fiesta, while the original Puma – though short lived – is another prime example of the Blue Oval’s proficiency in chassis development.
Much the same can be said of this Puma, thanks in the main to the Fiesta chassis that sits beneath it. It links up with a solid 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine to deliver a family crossover that’s good to drive.
Get on the move and the steering feels light – even if you put the Puma into the Sport mode using the drive mode selector. But, it’s well resolved for a car like this, accurate, keen to re-centre and with a great steering ratio. There’s a good level of grip too, so immediately the Puma feels like a crossover that you can flick through corners nicely. The six-speed gearbox is lovely, too, while Ford’s engineers have also done a good job with the Puma’s suspension.
Even with the sports suspension on the ST-Line model, the damping is very well set up and it has a decent level of compliance. It all comes together to mean that the Puma has brilliant composure and the ability to offer an engaging drive.
All three engines are based on the same 1.0-litre engine block, but there’s quite a difference between them, owing to the Puma’s various drivetrain technologies and power outputs. The only engine option offered in Australia will be the 1.0-litre three pot, unless, of course, the ST with it’s more powerful engine arrives here.
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has been a really strong contender in its various applications over the last few years, and the Puma is another vehicle where this small engine shines. It may no longer be the outright best three-cylinder engine on the market and some engines – such as the TSI units used in the Volkswagen Group cars – may be more refined these days, but you shouldn’t be disappointed.
The 92kW and 170Nm torque served up by the base model is enough for most family motoring, propelling the Puma to 100km/h in 10.0 seconds.
Ford’s new small SUV is based on the best-selling Fiesta, which is no bad thing. Despite being one of the smaller B-segment models, the Puma has ensured it stands out from competitors with a distinctive design and impressive levels of standard equipment.
In the cabin, the dash and centre console will be familiar to those who’ve peered inside a recent Focus or Fiesta, although the visible plastics aren’t the Puma’s greatest quality. There’s far too much hard black stuff to be found, while other small SUVs are available with nicer interiors, and for similar money.
All Puma models come with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, including navigation, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. There’s also a wireless charging pad as standard.
ST-Line cars feature a 12.3-inch digital instrument display which, along with the central touchscreen, is sharp and easy to navigate. And, if you feel the need for better quality audio while on the move, the ST-Line V models add a B&O Premium stereo with 10 speakers.
Ford has worked hard to ensure the compact Puma combines its athletic low stance with plenty of practicality and comfort. From the driver’s seat, the links to the Fiesta’s chassis are clear, with ability to tackle the twisty stuff with vigour as well as being a solid, quiet performer at motorway speeds.
ST-Line cars get sports suspension, and while on the firmer end of the spectrum for SUVs of this size, it’s not overly harsh. The driving position definitely feels sportier while there’s a great level of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, a typical Ford trait.
The Puma is one of the smaller options in the supermini sized SUV class. It measures 4207mm in length, 1805mm wide and stands 1537 tall. By comparison, the Peugeot 2008 and Mazda CX-3 are 93mm and 68mm longer, respectively.
It offers decent passenger space, despite its sloping roofline. Room up front is very good, while the rear bench is an acceptable size.
Passenger space in the rear is compromised when compared with a Renault Captur. Passengers in the back sit higher up, which brings your legs back towards the seat base, so although there’s enough space overall, the seating position might not be as comfortable.
A boot of 456 litres is on-par with competitors in this class, and there’s virtually no lip to get over, so awkward items shouldn’t be too tricky to load.
One area where Ford has been rather clever is in the Puma‘s adjustable boot floor with the so-called ‘Megabox’ hidden storage area beneath. This is a 68-litre plastic compartment that you can use to store muddy boots or wet clothes, for example. It also has a drain plug so you can hose it out. Plus, Ford claims that using the MegaBox allows you to stand a golf bag upright in the Puma’s boot.
We’ve waited a while for Ford to give us a proper compact SUV based on the Fiesta. Until now, the firm’s sole offering in the B-SUV market – the EcoSport – has not been good enough. The new Ford Puma hits the right notes and is precisely what you’d expect of the brand, blending practicality and affordability into a package that’s good to drive.
The Puma’s looks won’t appeal to everyone, but few rivals can better it for boot-space and virtually none can outshine the Puma from behind the wheel – equipment levels are strong too. However, there are more upmarket-feeling and spacious rivals out there for this sort of cash.
The new Ford Puma is due in Australian showrooms later this month.
2020 Ford Puma pricing Australia
- Puma – $29,990/$31,990 drive-away
- Puma ST-Line – $32,340/$33,990 drive-away
- Puma ST-Line V – $35,540/$36,990 drive-away