Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan test drives the new 2020 Ford Puma and sees first-hand how Ford has reimagined it as a crossover SUV.

The omens for the keen driver are especially good with Ford’s new Puma. Reborn from the original 2007 small coupe Ford has reimagined its fun trailblazing car into a crossover to fit the current market clamour for small SUVs.

Prices for the new Ford Puma start from €24,835 in basic titanium trim and rise to €31,450 for the ST-Line X Vignale. Ford gave me the Puma ST-line X to test from €27,917 with the 1.0 litre EcoBoost 48-volt mild Hybrid that’s standard across the Puma’s range. You can also buy an auto version but it’s the 6-speed manual that matches the car’s peppy personality.

“No rival in the class comes close to the outright enjoyment you’ll have when setting off in this little car”

Power is either 120ps in the EcoBlue Diesel or 125ps in the petrol engine. The 128 CO2 is competitive in this class. Rivals for the lively Puma include the (yet to be tested) new Nissan Juke, the stolid Volkswagen T-Roc and the satisfactory but popular Renault Captur.

Built in Romania using the Ford Fiesta platform the Puma is longer, wider and has an extended wheelbase of 95mm to offer greater interior room. It sits 30mm taller than the Fiesta but it’s not that noticeable when driving as you can adjust the seating position lower to give the optical illusion of sitting deeper into the car.

If you are confused where exactly the Puma sits in Ford’s model line-up, it’s slotted in between the EcoSport and the Kuga. Speaking of the charmless Ecosport it’s interesting to realise it too is based on the Ford Fiesta but somehow the recipe went flat. The EcoSport oddity lacks any interior or driving appeal. So, it’s good news that the Puma, which shares the Fiesta’s lineage, is such sweet ownership proposition.

Clever tech

Without gushing, there’s much to commend the little Puma. Take the car’s looks which are curiously not unlike a baby Jaguar e-Pace with front high-mounted headlights that sit almost on top of front bonnet. Or the sweeping roofline that humorously hints at the original Puma’s cute small coupe design. Shapely and adorable, this is Ford’s best-looking small car.

Overall it’s the Puma that bypasses Nissan’s Juke and Renault Captur when tugging at your heart strings. There’s plenty of clever tech under the skin as well. Standard on the ST-Line is a front binnacle digital display and the SYNC 3 infotainment touchscreen that works fine but looks dated with a two dimensional appearance when compared with swisher rivals. The Puma earned a full 5 Stars in the Euro NCAP crash test and is fitted with auto emergency braking and lane keeping assist as standard throughout the range.

Power and performance

The Puma’s little three-cylinder 1.0 litre petrol engine is smooth and gutsy unit when on the move. The added 40-volt mild hybrid electrification cleverly uses regenerative braking to charge up the lithium ion battery to keep the CO2 emissions low. I found the engine had strong low down torque from the electrification – surely a foretaste of the future – and pulled well in higher gear when launching out of a corner. There is just the slightest whiff of a Mazda MX-5 in the Puma’s feel and handling which is a high bar for a recommendation.

Where the Puma does so well is in the marriage of the brilliantly precise steering, gearbox and perfectly weighted pedals. No rival in the class comes close to the outright enjoyment you’ll have when setting off in this little car. Which is good as the interior is still a work in progress. Fine in execution and largely from a Fiesta or Focus it looks dark and offers little cheer.

But Ford at least knows how to offer a great seating position and you’ll instantly find a comfortable setting. For a grown family of four people make sure you can fit them all in comfortably as the Puma’s rear seat legroom and headroom is restricted. If you have a younger family you’ll get away with it. The rear luggage capacity is 405 litres/1161 litres. I liked the addition of a novel extra holding area under the boot floor. It even has an actual plug hole allowing you to hose the loading area down – unique and clever feature we like those practical touches.

Might we suggest the Ford Puma is bordering on brilliant? I think we could and go further in saying it has bags of personality thrown in. Well priced, cute, great to drive, practical and has a big-hearted 1.0 litre petrol engine. If you’re hunting for an outstanding small crossover go here first. The 2020 Ford Puma: the most loveable car in the same-as-the-rest small crossover SUV class. Well done, Ford.

Recommended