Ford Puma SUV - Engines, drive & performance
Fun handling makes the Ford Puma a potential class-leader for enthusiasts
Rekindling the Puma model name for an SUV, rather than a small coupe, has been a polarising move among enthusiasts, so does the new Puma have the driver appeal to pull it off? Our experience indicates it's certainly a contender as the most fun crossover, thanks in no small part to its stretched Fiesta underpinnings.
We praised the Ford Fiesta for its handling and the Puma loses little of that with its taller body and ride height. Ford has done an impressive job of maintaining the best aspect of the Fiesta, by firming up the Puma’s suspension. With 18-inch wheels, it is fine on smoother sections of road but less able to soak up particularly poor surfaces.
Ford Puma petrol engines
Both of the Puma's petrol engines are 1.0-litre EcoBoost units with three cylinders and Ford's new mild-hybrid technology, producing 123bhp and 153bhp respectively. Acceleration is competitive for a crossover, with 0-62mph taking nine seconds for the more powerful version with its six-speed manual gearbox, while the 123bhp engine with manual gears is reasonably close behind at 9.8 seconds.
The automatic transmission is currently only available on the 153bhp model as of August 2022, although as supply chain issues ease over time we may see a return to the automatic in the 123bhp version. A price difference of £1,500 separates the manual and automatic gearbox and adds a couple of tenths to the acceleration figures, but this is unlikely to be noticeable most of the time.
In ST-Line Vignale trim, the automatic gearbox feels jerky when driving at low speeds around town, with an eagerness to shift up very quickly as you move off from a standstill. In our test car, we found the automatic gearbox was easier to operate via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which helped make it far smoother to drive. At faster motorway speeds, the gearbox is far less intrusive and helps to make the Puma a reasonably relaxed long-distance cruiser.
Overall, the automatic version of the Puma is not as sharp or as involving to drive as the car with a manual. It’s also a lot more expensive to buy and slightly less efficient, making it difficult to recommend unless you absolutely need an automatic.
At the top of the range is the Ford Puma ST, which we’ve reviewed separately. It’s the most powerful model in the range by some margin with 197bhp, and is powered by the same turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine as the Fiesta ST. This makes it the quickest version of the Puma, managing 0-62mph in only 6.7 seconds. It has impressive poise that makes it genuinely satisfying to drive; it’s a rival not only to small fast SUVs but some of the best hot hatchbacks too.