THE Ford Puma is one of my favourite cars at the moment and I have sampled several versions since it arrived last year.
It brought something new to the Crossover party and rightly met with huge praise for its style and innovative features.
The Puma has deservedly collected numerous awards and it is destined to become Ford's biggest seller in Europe.
The Puma name first arrived on a Fiesta based sports coupe back in 1997 and it was very popular but only stayed in production for four years. This time the Puma in a completely different form is certain to be a much bigger success and stay around for much longer.
Anyone who buys the new Puma is going to find it a great companion because it has bags of style, great looks, is fun to drive, economical to run and very practical.
It also has some neat touches like the pouncing Puma that appears in the dash when you press the starter button or as a puddle light in the dark.
It also stands out from the rest of the crossover crowd because of its stylish looks.
Inside you notice that it is still clearly takes much from is Fiesta sibling but that is no bad thing.
There is plenty room for four to travel in comfort and you can pack in five for shorter journeys.
A smart flat-bottomed steering wheel houses the usual push-button controls while the dashboard layout is typical Ford with a central display screen for connectivity and sat nav but it also comes fitted with a smart 12.5-inch TFT instrument panel and in this Titanium model I sampled a huge amount of equipment.
The seats are very comfortable and fully adjustable and there is good all-round visibility. As in all Fords the switches and controls are clear and easy to read and use. There is even a traditional handbrake which is a bit of a surprise.
A Quickclear heated windscreen is ideal for winter motoring and there is a decent sound system as well as Ford SYNC 3 navigation and full smart phone integration.
On the practical side the Puma boasts impressive carrying capacity. The boot is large for a car of this size but comes complete with Ford's MegaBox. This is an 80-litre storage space which lies beneath the split level boot floor and is ideal for carrying wet sports equipment, muddy wellies or anything else that is liable to cause a mess. It has a drain plug at the bottom and can be hosed out afterwards.
If you need even more space you can collapse the split-folding rear seats to get class-leading room.
A 1.0-litre EcoBoost three cylinder petrol unit linked to mild hybrid technology provides the power and it is good for 125PS. As a result the Puma in this version with its automatic 7-speed box takes 9.6 seconds to tackle the sprint to 62mph before going on to a top speed of 118mph.
According to the WLTP figures it is capable of as much as 58.9mpg with a low figure of 38.2mpg and I averaged almost 50mpg during a week of mixed driving.
You get lots of advanced driver assistance aids like Cruise Control and Pre-Collision Assist plus Lane Departure Warning andhandy drive modes for Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail conditions. You also get pre-collision assist, autonomous emergency braking, hill start assist, pedestrian/cyclist detection and hill star assist
This model features exclusive 17-inch alloys, privacy glass for the rear costing £250 extra, front fog lights with cornering lights and LED rear lamps.
I loved this Puma and it was a smashing car to drive with great handling and a comfortable ride even with its sports suspension.