Ford Puma ST SUV review
"The Ford Puma ST is great to drive, has a brilliant engine and offers all the practicality of an SUV with hot hatch thrills"
- Great to drive
- Good value
- Impressive practicality
- More expensive than Fiesta ST
- Steering can be oversensitive
- Jiggly ride at low speeds
As SUVs continue to dominate the UK sales charts, the demand for performance versions like the Ford Puma ST has steadily increased. It’s based on the regular Puma, which is both practical and great to drive, but gets more power, a sportier chassis and a range of other upgrades.
While the Puma ST is aimed at buyers who want a performance car with enough space for a family, it has few direct competitors. Alternatives include the Volkswagen T-Roc R, Audi SQ2 and the new Hyundai Kona N, although all three are far more powerful than the Ford and much more expensive. Don’t, however, assume that this automatically makes them more fun or better to drive.
Combining a crossover with hot hatch performance was a relatively easy task for Ford, as the Puma ST shares mosts of its underpinnings with the fantastic Fiesta ST hot hatchback. Power comes from the same 1.5-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. It produces 197bhp and 320Nm of torque, the same as in the Fiesta ST supermini, and there’s a six-speed manual gearbox, bigger brakes, plus stiffer and lower suspension.
Because it’s larger and heavier than the Fiesta ST, the Puma does drive slightly differently and the extra ride height results in more body lean in corners. The trade off is that the car is more practical and a little easier to live with than a Fiesta.
On the road the Puma ST feels very agile, with nicely weighted, accurate steering. While the lean in corners is noticeable, the car always feels secure and the plentiful grip on offer helps to make it very entertaining to drive on twisting B-roads. While it’s slightly slower and not quite as sharp as the Fiesta ST, it’s still great fun to drive. The sporty engine note and synthetic pops and bangs from the exhaust only add to the experience.
Like the regular Puma, the ST is a competent family car but one that’s also a very capable performance car too. If you want an SUV that’s thrilling to drive, then the Ford Puma ST could be a brilliant buy. Read on to find out more in our full review.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Since the Puma ST uses a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine, it’s actually fairly economical for a performance car. Don’t set your expectations too high, though, as the ST isn’t as frugal as the regular versions of the Puma.
Official figures suggest that the Puma ST will return around 41mpg and emit 155g/km of CO2, which is better than the Audi SQ2’s 33mpg and the VW T-Roc R’s 32mpg. While those are all figures from official tests rather than real-world driving, during our test the Puma ST managed around 35mpg overall, a fairly decent figure for this type of car.
The Puma makes more sense than either of those models to buy; it’s around £10,000 cheaper than the Audi or Volkswagen, depending on specification, yet is more fun to drive than either of them. The forthcoming Hyundai Kona N is likely to be more closely matched in the dynamics department but it’s still expected to be more expensive to buy.
Engines, drive & performance
Fast Fords are consistently excellent to drive and the Puma ST is no exception - in fact, we’d argue that it’s the most fun you can have in any small SUV.
At lower speeds, the ride quality can be a little fidgety due to the larger wheels and sporty suspension setup. Once you're up to speed, however, the Puma ST is more refined and feels at home on twisty country roads. Its composure in corners is largely down to the excellent suspension setup, which helps make the car feel agile and adjustable.
The steering is sharp and precise, giving you confidence to turn into corners quickly. The grip generated by the front tyres helps make the Puma capable of rapid changes of direction, something we’re familiar with from the Fiesta ST. In fact, the sharpness with which the car turns can occasionally be disconcerting; it’s fine once you’re not used to it but the steering can feel slightly oversensitive.
Straight-line performance is very good too: the Puma ST goes from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds, which is more than quick enough for UK roads. Unlike some faster performance SUVs, the Puma is fun to drive without needing to keep a watchful eye on speed limits. While it’s slightly slower than the smaller Fiesta ST, it closely matches it for driving thrills; outright straight-line speed is not what this car is primarily about.
The rest of the driving experience is great too; the manual six-speed gearbox is fun to use with a precise and positive feel to the gearchanges, the pedals are nicely placed and the brakes are powerful, delivering plenty of feedback through the pedal as well.
Interior & comfort
In the Puma ST you get some really supportive and comfortable Recaro sports seats as standard, which help to keep you in place when cornering. Larger drivers might find they’re a bit tight.
The ST also comes with a flat-bottomed steering wheel with ST badging, some new pedals and a different gearknob. You also get wireless charging for your smartphone, parking sensors, a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display and an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with Ford's SYNC 3 software, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
This makes the Puma ST one of the best-equipped models in the Puma range and while the interior does have some cheaper-looking plastics, the level of technology means it feels modern and pleasant inside.
Practicality & boot space
All of the regular Puma’s neat practical touches are still present in the ST model, which is great to see. The fantastic ‘Mega Box’ is present in the boot - this is a huge 80-litre storage compartment under the floor that’s big enough for a whole family shop.
The boot itself is excellent at 456 litres, and the plastic floor means you can even hose it out - there’s a plug at the bottom of the Mega Box that lets water drain away.
Inside the Puma you’ll find a good amount of passenger space, though adults in the back might start to feel cramped on a longer trip.
Reliability & safety
The Puma ST takes the same Euro NCAP safety rating as the normal car - that being a five-star score with an excellent rating for adult protection. Thanks to autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control, it’s packed with safety kit.
Ford came in 24th place in this year’s Driver Power survey, which was disappointing as it’s near the bottom of the list. It indicates that, on average, the ownership experience isn’t as good as it is for many other brands.