Ford Puma ST review
Ford Puma ST review
The Ford Puma ST is the sportiest version of the Puma compact SUV, with meaner looks, a racier setup and 200hp to make it the most fun car of its type.
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The Ford Puma ST is what happens when the normal Puma hits the gym hard and becomes addicted to energy drinks: it’s more muscular, more aggressive and definitely more hyperactive.
Ford has created the Puma ST by taking the oily bits of the Fiesta ST (the Puma and Fiesta are closely related underneath) and grafting them under a compact SUV body. The upgrades to the Puma’s body itself to create the ST are just the right balance between subtle and OTT, too.
It sits 21mm lower to the ground than the standard Puma, allowing the bigger 19in alloys to fill the arches nicely. A new bodykit brings more aggressive bumpers, chunkier side sills and a neat rear spoiler, too. Red painted brake calipers, ST badging and twin exhaust tailpipes complete the look.
Inside it’s a bit less special, though; clearly the budget for racy additions was cut here. Still, you do get some figure hugging Recaro seats with red ST logos, a sports steering wheel with a flat bottom and ST badging and a metallic gearknob, among other detail changes.
Otherwise it’s much the same as the standard Puma, so quality is decent enough, but the materials are a little dark and drab. Happily, though, the tech is easy to get on with and there’s more space in back of the Puma than there is in the Fiesta, while the boot is super practical.
The Puma ST is basically a Fiesta ST with a taller body and more space in the back. That's definitely no bad thing!
If you’re hoping the Puma ST drives much like the fantastic Fiesta ST, you’ll be pleased by the recipe. It gets the same 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder engine pumping out the same 200hp, but even more torque to make up for the heavier body. With lower, stiffer suspension, wider, grippier tyres and the option of a proper limited-slip differential, this definitely isn’t all show and no go.
The engine pulls strongly even from low revs, making a fruity noise as the revs rise, and stirring the slick six-speed manual gearbox is a joy in itself. The body stays flat in the bends, while super-quick steering and a keenness to change direction means the Puma ST feels properly agile.
The car’s super quick steering does have a drawback, though – it’s almost too sharp at times, meaning you have to make constant corrections and can never really relax, particularly on bumpy roads where the wheel wriggles around in your hand. Speaking of bumps, the Puma ST can also get unsettled by really rough roads – it’s never jarring, but it’s certainly firm.
Overall, though, the Puma ST is a fun and accessible hot crossover that only has a few direct alternatives.The Hyundai Kona N offers very similar performance at a similar price, but other than that you’ll be looking at traditional hot hatchbacks or more expensive four-wheel drive SUVs such as the Volkswagen T-Roc R.
The Puma ST is just as roomy as the regular model, with decent space for four adults and a useful boot
The main advantage of buying the Puma ST over, say, the Fiesta ST is that it offers more room for passengers and luggage alike.
Even those well over six foot won’t have much trouble getting comfortable in the front. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seats and steering wheel, although some may find that the seat doesn’t go low enough for their tastes. This is a classic fast Ford trait that’s more forgivable in the Puma ST because it’s meant to be a high-riding car.
The standard Recaro sports seats are firmly bolstered but very comfortable, with a nice mix of leather and grippier faux suede. It’s a shame that the rear seats are basically the same shape as the standard Puma’s, but they are at least covered in the same upholstery as the fronts.
Despite those chunkier seats there isn’t much effect on rear seat space, which is decent; a couple of six footers could sit behind themselves without too many complaints. Those front seats don’t have integrated headrests, either, so they don’t block the view out from the rear as much. The Puma isn’t the widest SUV around, though, so an adult in the middle seat would struggle for shoulder room, while headroom isn’t overly generous.
With black seats and black headlining the rear of the Puma ST can be quite dark, too, although there is the option of a panoramic sunroof to help lighten things up.
The Puma ST gets the same level of storage as the standard Puma. The glovebox is pretty large; there are a number of cupholders in the centre console; and there’s a handy storage tray beneath the dashboard. This features a wireless charge pad on higher-spec models. There are a number of USB ports dotted around the cabin too.
Meanwhile, there’s also a storage compartment beneath the front armrest, but it isn’t all that big. Still, it’s deep enough to hold a one-litre bottle of water securely in place. The rear door bins are big enough to hold a small-ish bottle and you can get some netted cubbies on the back of the front seats.
There is no compromise to the boot space of the Puma ST when compared to the standard Puma. It still has a surprisingly large luggage space for the car’s size, with a 456-litre capacity.
At first glance there is nothing special about the Puma’s boot – it’s well-shaped, there’s some hooks and tie-down points and an adjustable boot floor. But it’s what’s under that boot floor that’s pretty unique:
Every Puma gets what’s known as a ‘Megabox’; a deep, rubberised storage area that has a drain hole to below the car and a plug. The idea is that you could, for example, fill it with ice and store drinks, or chuck muddy boots inside and hose it down afterwards. It’s a really neat touch.
The Puma ST is great fun for a small SUV, being agile, grippy, fast and engaging. The trade-off is a ride that’s definitely on the firm side.
There’s only one engine choice with the Ford Puma ST, but it’s a belter.
It’s a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine with a beefy turbocharger to take power up to 200hp. That’s the same power figure as the Fiesta ST with, you guessed it, the same engine. But to account for the Puma ST’s extra weight (a modest 80kg or so) torque is up slightly to 320Nm.
That’s enough for a 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 137mph. While those figures are well down on the more expensive and powerful four-wheel drive T-Roc R, the characterful power delivery, snappy manual gearbox with short gear ratios and front-wheel drive friskiness makes the Puma feel faster than it looks on paper.
The rorty three-cylinder engine note can be made even louder by putting the car into Sport mode, which pumps some extra sound in through the speakers. Either way, it’s a terrific little motor that’s both torquey at low speed and willing to rev out. Officially it’s capable of over 40mpg, too.
Could Ford really mess up the Puma ST given the brilliance of the Fiesta ST on which it’s based? Spoiler alert: no, it could not.
The ST version gets lower, stiffer suspension, a tauter rear axle and new anti-roll bars, quickened steering and numerous other changes to make it feel like a much more sporting car on the road. You feel this from the get-go: it immediately feels eager to change direction.
The steering itself is extremely darty and direct. This means the car very quickly points where you want it to go, but with only tiny movements having a big effect on which way the front wheels are going it can be a bit frantic over bumps or on busy country lanes. The ride, which is always firm but never truly jarring, plays some part in this too.
But that’s our only complaint, and something you’ll likely get used to. It has impressive levels of grip, virtually no body lean for a taller car and you can even coax some lift-off oversteer out of it with relative ease. Push really hard in tight corners and it’ll turn into a tripod, with the inside rear wheel lifting up. It’s really good fun, if not quite as hilarious as the smaller, lighter Fiesta ST.
If you want to add even more sportiness you can specify the ST Performance pack. For a reasonable £950, it adds a proper mechanical limited slip diff (which stops wheelspin on corner exit and pulls the car in the direction you want it to go), launch control and a shift indicator for the digital dials.
Once you’re used to the firm ride, the Puma ST is a decent everyday companion. The exhaust note is ever present and there’s some road noise, but it’s certainly not too hardcore for the school run or motorway drives, while wind noise isn’t ever an issue. Visibility is decent for town driving, too, although the turning circle is wider than a regular Puma.
The Puma’s cabin is practical and well-equipped, while sporty ST touches are welcome. There are better quality alternatives, though.
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