- Published 17 June 2020
- 5 minute read
- By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
I’ll spare you the bit about the Ford Puma SUV not being a real Ford Puma, because there are enough people trotting out the same tired story on social media. If you’re too young to remember, the original Puma was a stylish coupe from the turn of the millennium that was more fun than a night out with the Spice Girls.
Ford has attempted to retain an element of sporty spice in the new 2020 Puma, which taps into the burgeoning small SUV segment. Unlike the decidedly dreadful EcoSport, there’s not a whiff of scary spice about the Puma – it’s amazing that the two cars are built by the same company.
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Although comparisons with the original Puma are largely redundant – not least because the Puma coupe arrived nearly a quarter of a century ago – it’s worth commenting on the fashion thing. Before the arrival of the new Mini hatchback, the Puma of the 1990s was one of the most fashionable cars in the UK, as well as being devilishly fun to drive.
As the newest member of the burgeoning small crossover segment, this new Ford Puma is more fashionable than a catwalk model. Put simply, this is the small crossover you’ll want to be seen driving in 2020. If nothing else, it will upset the bores who dismiss it as ‘not a real Puma’. #whatever
Read on for our full Ford Puma review.
Looks, tech and design
While the majority of small SUVs look aggressive or gormless, the new Ford Puma 2020 wears the face of a smiling emoji, as if it’s laughing in the face of its detractors.
I’m not sure it has a bad angle, looking great in profile and particularly good from the rear three-quarters. Not bad for what is essentially a Ford Fiesta on steroids.
The inside is less successful. Although quality is good, especially for a car of this price, it’s just a little unadventurous. Swathes of grey and black plastic do little to lift the mood, while the sheer number of different switches and buttons create a look that’s not easy on the eye.
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Cleverly, Ford has launched the 2020 Puma SUVwithout a poverty-spec model. Even the ‘entry-level’ Titanium trim (which isn’t entry-level at all in Ford world) features 17-inch alloy wheels, a heated windscreen, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, climate control, wireless phone charging, LED rear lights and rear parking sensors.
The ST-Line model adds sports suspension, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, sport seats and a host of interior and exterior cosmetic upgrades. But it’s worth noting that you’re also downgraded to manual air-conditioning.
Proper climate control is restored on the ST-Line X, which also adds 18-inch alloys, tinted glass, part-leather seats and an impressive B&O premium audio system. There’s no performance Puma ST model yet, but this is likely to follow soon for hot-hatch fans.
Importantly, it feels significantly bigger than a Fiesta, with ample space for four adults. You could squeeze a third person into the middle of the back seat, but they’ll be filling your rear-view mirror with angry faces if you’re on a long journey.
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The boot offers an impressive 456 litres of luggage capacity, which is 164 litres more than you’ll find in the Fiesta. This includes an 80-litre ‘Megabox’ below the boot floor. It looks and feels like one of those fish ponds you might buy at a garden centre, and it comes complete with a drainage hole – ideal for soggy footwear, or fill it with ice and use it as a mobile drinks cooler. It’s a useful feature, but the use of the word ‘mega’ is a bit of a stretch. Still, it’s more marketable than ‘Usefulbox’.
Options include full LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof (which eats into headroom), heated seats and steering wheel, and a driver assist pack. This comprises pre-collision assist, adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alert, blind-spot information and a rear wide-view camera. I’d recommend this if you intend to cover many miles over the course of a four-year leasing contract.
If you want a Ford Puma automatic, you should look at the petrol: while hybrids are manual only for now, the 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS comes with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
The fact is, the 2020 Ford Puma is a fantastic steer.
It’s not quite as enjoyable as a Fiesta – it’s heavier and taller than the supermini – but it’s better than any small SUV rival when it comes to driving fun. Ride comfort is good, if a little too firm if you go for the fancy (and enormous) 19-inch alloys, while the steering feels great around town and excels whenever you want to take the long way home.
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I’d recommend the ST-Line as the range sweet-spot. You get the sports suspension, but because it rides on 17-inch wheels, and not the 18-inch alloys of the ST-Line X, comfort isn’t compromised. Both ST-Line models get figure-hugging seats, which will come in handy if you’re keen on driving like a demon. Which the Puma does tend to encourage.
There’s one engine at present: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, which is available with mild hybrid technology. It’s not a hybrid in the usual sense – you can’t drive on electric power alone – but the batteries harvest braking energy to boost the engine when needed. Honestly, it’s hard to notice, just chalk it up as an eco-win and move on.
The engine comes in two power outputs: 125hp and 155hp. Neither is thrillingly fast, but they sound quite interesting and it’s great fun to make progress using the delightful six-speed manual gearbox. There is no automatic Puma available yet, nor any full electric versions.
All models get a choice of driving modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail. These do exactly what they say on the tin, tuning all the car's systems for day-to-day driving, sporty back-road blasts or fuel-supping miser mode. As for the 0-62mph times, the 125hp version will complete the sprint in 9.8 seconds, while the 155hp Puma gets there 0.8 seconds sooner.
Cost and economy
You can lease a new Ford Puma SUV for around £205 a month, which is roughly the same amount you’ll pay for a Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta might be slightly sweeter to drive, but there’s a real sense you get more for your money with Ford Puma prices.
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According to the official figures, the 125hp engine should return between 48.7mpg and 51.4mpg, while the 155hp version offers a claimed 49.5mpg to 50.4mpg. CO2 emissions range from 96g/km to 101g/km. Because the more powerful engine requires less revving, you could actually find it delivers better fuel economy. Either way, if you top 40mpg in the real world you’re doing well.
Insurance groups range from 17 for the 125hp version to 20 for the 155hp model – pretty modest, so finding cover shouldn’t be a problem, even for younger drivers.
The Ford Puma is the best new fish in the overstocked small crossover pond. Dismal cars like the Vauxhall Mokka X and Ford EcoSport are rendered null and void, while even good crossovers like the Renault Captur, Skoda Kamiq and Seat Arona look a bit dull and predictable.
It’s not that the style and great driving experience come at the expense of practicality and common sense, either. There’s room for four adults, the specification is generous, and you get a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
The original Puma was the small coupe to beat in the late 1990s. This second coming of the Puma name is the benchmark small crossover of the 2020s. There is fashion, there is fad. Some is good, some is bad. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating…
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