THE Ford Puma brought something new to the crossover party when it first arrived and was rewarded for its style and innovative features.
Since then it has collected numerous awards and has become one of Ford's biggest sellers throughout 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 is a completely different animal and is set to 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, fun to drive, economical to run and very practical.
It also stands out from the rest of the crossover crowd because of its striking looks and I have enjoyed all of the models I have sampled including this ST version which adds real performance to the Puma mix.
The Puma ST introduces FordPerformance driving dynamics to the compact SUV segment for the first time and its 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine is shared with the Fiesta ST.
It packs real punch and reaches 62mph from a standstill in 6.7 seconds before going on to a possible 137mph.
This sporting model still offers the standard Puma's flexible space and practicality including its innovative 80-litre MegaBox addition to the boot with plug hole for washing out dirty loads.
The car came with a hands-free power tailgate at an extra cost of £350 and its special pain added another £425 taking the total cost to £31,850.
The smart powertrain can be enjoyed with four driving modes from eco, normal and sport to track settings. It also has a sports tuned suspension and the modes will affect power output limits, throttle and steering responses as well as grip.
You quickly get used to the extra power from the three-pot engine which is surprisingly smooth.
The six-speed box offers crisp changes and if you work it hard you will get the best out of the 200ps power plant.
Treat it gently and you can still get up to 47.9mpg but if you push it hard that will drop to just over 30mpg with a combined figure of 41.5mpg.
The steering is excellent and the ST always offered stacks of grip despite being only front wheel drive.
The handling is sharp and responsive and although the sports suspension is firm it never felt too harsh even on bumpy roads.
The sports seats certainly hold you in place while you enjoy the cockpit but I found them a bit too tight for my liking.
The Puma offers good all-round visibility and there is room for four to travel in comfort.
With its 19-inch Magnetite alloy wheels, ST front and rear body styling kit including Ford Performance embossed splitter, ST badging and red brake calipers, the ST certainly looks as if it means business.
It also has a black painted contrast roof, a dual slash cut exhaust and an engine sound enhancer.
Inside the sporty theme is continued with sports seats and a unique ST gear shift knob as well as a flat bottomed steering wheel with red stitching and alloy sports pedals.
The high performance cornering headlights are another bonus as are the rain sensing wipers and the Quickclear heated windscreen.
You can also enjoy the full digital instrument cluster, heated seats, privacy glass and wireless mobile phone charging pad.
The large infotainment screen provides a sharp display and is easy to use and there are plenty plug points for all your gadgets.
The Puma ST is a real driver's car which can still be enjoyed by all the family and it is happy in town or being pushed out on open roads or motorways.