By Mike Torpey on 2021-09-19 - 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
ST-Line X Vignale
WHEN you've got some serious momentum underway, the trick is to step it up a notch or two.
That's exactly what Ford chose to do with its popular Puma model when the compact SUV began sweeping up a gallery of awards almost from the moment it was unveiled.
Adding some extra choice aimed at a pair of widely differing types of Ford fan, the brand launched two new Puma variants in the shape of an all-singing, all-dancing ST-Line X Vignale model followed by a fiery Puma ST introducing Ford Performance driving dynamics.
The former, our model, is available with a choice of 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines producing either 125 or 155ps of wallop plus premium styling like 18-inch black/silver alloy wheels and quilted Windsor leather sports seats.
These engines also feature mild hybrid technology combined with a six-speed manual transmission, though a seven-speed auto gearbox is an option.
Mild hybrid means that the engine is boosted by a small battery and electric motor but not able to run solely on electric power the way a self-charging or plug-in hybrid could.
In the case of our lower powered ST-Line X Vignale, the best part of 300 miles of mixed urban and motorway driving saw the Puma return an average fuel consumption of 58 miles per gallon - not too shabby compared to the official 65.7mpg combined figure.
Performance from this model was also perfectly adequate for family motoring with its acceleration capability of 0-62 in 9.8 seconds and potential 119mph top speed.
But what really makes this car such a winner is it's driving experience and fun nature - starting with its smart design.
The majority of small SUVs or crossovers stick to a pretty predictable shape while the Puma's edgy appeal reflects its mountain lion namesake.
In fact when you start the engine the image of a stalking Puma appears on the screen ahead of the flat-bottomed leather steering wheel and in the dark the same image materialises on the road or driveway via puddle lights on the wing mirrors.
While the interior is trademark Ford, the benefit is that everything is where you would expect to find it - from the gearshift and traditional handbrake to the lights and main switches.
There's also a standard dashboard layout with a central display screen for connectivity and sat-nav but fitted with a 12.5-inch TFT instrument panel.
Passenger space is well up to par for a vehicle based on the Fiesta with ample seating for four, though squeezing three across the back is tight - especially if they are adults or teens.
But carrying capacity is terrific, in no small part due to the 80-litre MegaBox storage space beneath the split-level boot floor.
It's ideal for loose shopping, unstable items like houseplants or soaking sports kit which can drain out via a plug in the base.
Driver assistance aids like Adaptive Cruise Control and Pre-Collision Assist are present on all Puma models along with drive modes for Normal, Eco, Slippery and Trail conditions.
And ST-Line X Vignale spec adds unique details like a satin aluminium upper grille and surround, ebony lower grille and body-coloured lower rear bumper plus LED headlights, heated front seats, parking sensors and a Ford KeyFree system.
Ford Puma 1.0 ST-Line X Vignale
Mechanical:125ps, 999cc, 3-cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
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