REMEMBER that small coupe model from the 90s called the Ford Puma? Well, the name has made a comeback and the car itself has certainly matured with age.
The all-new 21Century Ford Puma has many structural similarities to the ever-popular Fiesta, but its bigger and higher so becomes yet another vehicle vying for sales in the compact crossover sector.
And although that particular sector is bursting with models these days, the five-door Puma has some unique selling points to grab potential buyers' attention, including great styling and punchy economical engines, plus class-leading load space which is vital for anyone who needs to fill every inch of their boot.
There is also a rather clever underfloor compartment in the boot which is ideal for storing muddy boots etc. And when you get home you can rinse this Megabox area out as it has a plug that can be removed to drain away dirty water. Very clever and practical. I transported a number of plants from a garden centre and this storage area was ideal for keeping them upright and then any excess dirt was quickly washed away.
We tried the Puma in Titanium guise powered by a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder mild hybrid engine delivering125ps and 210Nm of torque mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
This car, priced at £21,640 (£23,840 with options) could reach 62mph from a standing start in 9.8 seconds, maxed out at 119mph and delivered 51.4mpg along the way with carbon emissions of 96g/km.
Out on the open road, the acceleration from the three-pot engine is both instant and constant with plenty of power on tap for overtaking slower moving vehicles.
The front wheel drive Puma offers good levels of grip and it's also nicely balanced with very little sign of any body sway.
In fact, it's composed manner is very similar to that of a hatchback rather than a compact SUV and the nicely weighted steering offers ample driver feedback.
It cruises with ease on motorways, although the engine does get a little more vocal when pushed on, and then the Puma is agile and easy to manoeuvre in busier town centre settings with a 10.5-metre turning circle.
The driver can select from drive modes calledNormal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail that alter the car's responses - the Sport setting really sharpens up the performance and is best saved for quieter country lanes.
There's no denying the Puma, which is built in Romania, is a looker with its athletic SUV stance, neat curves, tinted windows, LED daytime running lights, distinctive grille, lotsof chrome trim, plus 10-spoke, 17-inch alloys.
The interior is clutter-free and very driver friendly. The cloth seats are comfy with plenty of support and there is a wealth of on-board kit to explore, with techno treats including full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a wireless phone charger pad, a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and Ford's SYNC 3 set-up that features a sat nav, an eight-inch display touchscreen and a 12.5-inch configurable instrument cluster behind the steering wheel.
Comfort levels are impressive and there is room for a couple of adults in the back if the front seats are not pushed back too far. Storage options are good too with the boot capacity ranging from 466 litres to 1,200 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. And that Megabox means you can carry two sets of golf clubs in an upright position if so desired.
The Ford Puma also boasts a comprehensive list of safety features that helped it secure a maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP rating. Our car also had a Driver Assistance Pack costing £900 extra that introducedblind spot monitoring, city traffic assist with active braking, intelligent adaptive cruise control with evasive steering, active park assist, front parking sensors and a rear-view camera.