Ford Puma ST-Line X

Ford Puma, front action 1
Ford Puma, front static
Ford Puma, front action 2
Ford Puma, side static
Ford Puma, rear static
Ford Puma, boot 2
Ford Puma, rear seats
Ford Puma, dashboard
Ford Puma, boot 1

THEY didn't notice me sitting quietly at the wheel as they strolled past in the car park.

"That's the new Puma," said he. "Nice, isn't it", said she. A couple of minutes later they both purred past in their Porsche SUV.

Two days later, in a different (pre-coronavirus) car park (this man gets around, you'll be thinking), a lady passed on foot with her laden shopping trolley. "I like your car and especially the colour. Lovely."

So there you have it; a new Ford making strangers remark on its looks and paint (£750 worth of Grey Matter, since you ask). Been some time since that's happened, I'd wager.

If you think a lot of people buy a car because they like the looks - and then argue they bought it for more commonsense reasons - this latest medium sized SUV promises a healthy bottom line for Ford.

Underneath the smart body sits a lot of a current Ford Fiesta, including engine and gearbox. But the bits you can see are all new and stretch further in every dimension than the Fiesta donor.

And that Fiesta heritage promises to make the new Puma at least a contender for best-to-drive in its class.

Ford has a hard won reputation to maintain for building affordable cars that bring a smile to their driver's face.

It does too, with the sort of eagerness to tackle a corner that the highish body might warn against. Positive steering and a pretty snappy gearchange add to the fun.

You can pay as little as £20,545 for a Puma, which will come with a 1.0-litre 123bhp engine and share all the attributes of dearer cars, and perhaps better them in one aspect, of which more later.

The pricier Pumas add a very mild hybrid system with an integrated starter/generator for a little more power and improved green credentials.

Every Puma gets a cockpit that looks modern, works well but lacks the surface shine of some rivals, with a bit too much hard plastic scattered about.

There's plenty of room up front and just about enough in the back, before we reach the clever bit in the boot. Lift the boot floor and you discover what Ford calls a MegaBox, an 80 litres waterproof compartment, complete with drain plug that makes it a fine place for dirty wellies and the like.

The car you see here sits at the top of the Puma tree and comes with bigger alloy wheels and stiffened suspension, neither of which do the car any favours on a typically patchy British road. Lesser versions have softer springs and smaller wheels and ought to ride more smoothly.

No complaints on the goodies count though, with this posh 'un coming with heated windscreen, fine sat nav, cruise control and a B&O 10 speaker sound system. An extra £3,700 adds a Plus Pack with things like 19ins alloys and lots of driver assistance, from active braking to park assist, and reversing camera and powered tailgate.


Ford Puma ST-Line X

Price: £23,645

Mechanical: 153bhp, 998cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 8.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 54.3

Insurance Group: 15

C02 emissions: 101g/km

Bik rating: 25%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles


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