By Mike Torpey on 2021-01-02 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Ford Puma 1.0
IT'S a rare treat these days to find a car that truly raises the bar through its design, innovation and equipment - while adding a shedload of efficiency too.
That's the case though with the new Ford Puma, the most enterprising and one of the most enjoyable cars I have driven in years.
Let's not confuse this newcomer, which hit UK streets earlier in the year, with its sports coupe namesake produced between 1997 and 2001.
This latest wildcat is destined for far greater rewards, both for its maker and those who buy and drive it.
While the majority of crossover models stick to a fairly standard shape and format, the Puma has plenty of wow factor thanks to its edgy design as well as being fun and frugal in equal measure.
Fire up the engine via the push button start and the image of a stalking Puma materialises on the screen ahead of the chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The dashboard layout is fairly standard Ford with a central display screen for connectivity and sat nav but comes fitted with a classy looking 12.5-inch TFT instrument panel.
Settle into the comfortable fabric seats, the coverings of which can be zipped out for washing, and you get clear visibility and - like every Ford model - find switches, gearshift, lights and traditional handbrake exactly where you would expect to find them.
No surprises, just simple straightforward common sense.
Cabin space is well up to scratch for a size of vehicle based on the Fiesta with ample seating for four, five at a squeeze.
It's the overall carrying capacity that really impresses though, and it comes principally through something Ford calls the MegaBox.
This is a deep 80-litre storage space beneath the split level boot floor capable of housing unstable items like houseplants or wet gear like sports kits and muddy boots and even has a drain plug at the bottom for flushing it clean.
And with the rear seats folding down there's a class-leading capacity for up to eight suitcases.
Buyers also get advanced driver assistance aids like Adaptive Cruise Control and Pre-Collision Assist plus drive modes for Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail conditions.
Power comes courtesy of a strong 1.0-litre EcoBoost three cylinder petrol engine coupled with some clever mild hybrid technology and available with both 125ps and 155ps of wallop.
Our variant in sporty ST-Line trim came with the higher powered of the one-litre engines and helped along by the mild hybrid system can boast average fuel economy of 64.2 miles per gallon.
Our own return, over 200 miles of mixed motorway, rural and urban driving, was closer to 55mpg - still a useful figure for a compact SUV that was mostly carrying either four passengers or a full complement.
Fuel economy apart, the Puma is a terrific car to drive with plenty of punch and sharp handling made all the better in our tested version due to its sports suspension with specially tuned springs and shock absorbers.
ST-Line models also get 18-inch alloy wheels, a front grille with matt black elements and a high gloss surround, drilled alloy pedals, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, aluminium gearshift and a black headliner.
The beauty of the Puma is that it's not only a stylish, entertaining car to drive but it ticks all the necessary economy and practicality boxes as well.
Ford Puma 1.0 EcoBoost ST-Line
Mechanical: 155ps, 998cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Combined MPG: 64.2
Insurance Group: 17
C02 emissions: 99g/km
Bik rating: 24%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
Choose from one or more of the options to find the car for you.
Based on your search find the dealership
nearest to you.