REVIEW: A fun but pricey drive, the Ford Puma is a crossover with Fiesta genes

Published Apr 8, 2024


When Ford South Africa announced that the end of the line had come for the Fiesta, Figo and EcoSport the impression it created was that if you didn’t want a Ranger, Everest, Tourneo van or Mustang, buyers would have to look elsewhere.

The Silverton-based company needed a car to fill the void which saw the arrival of the compact crossover Puma albeit almost four years after its debut.

Built in Hungary and based on the seventh generation Fiesta underpinnings, the bug-eyed, three cylinder offering has proven a popular choice in Europe and I saw plenty of them on the Streets of Barcelona and Paris last year.

Locally it entered a cluttered segment, competing with the Volkswagen T-Roc, Hyundai Kona and probably the Opel Mokka as well.

To date it hasn’t exactly topped the sales charts but there’s a steady trickle of between 70-80 or so of them sold every month.

At launch Ford were at pains to explain that the Puma is not a replacement for the EcoSport and while at first glance it may look smaller it is in fact longer, wider and has more boot space than the EcoSport.

Ford Puma in Titanium trim.

Styling is subjective but for me the Puma is better looking too.

It looks as though the designers were keen to make it stand out from the ordinary with pronounced wheel arches, “canoe-shaped” headlamps high on the wings, grille design and sloped roof.

We had the “entry level” Titanium Puma on test that comes with chrome elements for the grille, side skirts and fog lamps, window surrounds in high gloss black, metallic grey rear diffuser and skid plate, standing on 17-inch alloy wheels.

Both the Titanium and ST-Line Vignale are powered by Ford’s well-proven three cylinder turbo-charged EcoBoost petrol engine providing 92kW and 170Nm of torque driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

As a European specced car, the Puma interior reflects a fairly refined image with soft touch surfaces and quality finishings throughout.

The Titanium has comfortable and well-supporting cloth trimmed seats with Metal Grey stitching that Ford say are a sculptured slim-back design maximising knee clearance for rear passengers.

Perhaps, but with the sloping roof and my almost adult son in the back, a long trip could become a bit tiresome.

While the ST-Line has the almost obligatory digital driver display, our test Titanium Puma still has a good old fashioned analogue rev counter and speedometer with a central digital display for consumption, settings and the like.

The eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system has Ford’s older SYNC3 fitted and while we’ve become accustomed to and spoiled with the updated SYNC4 on the new Rangers and Everests, it’s still one of the easiest to use and better systems out there.

The wireless charging pad allows you to connect Android Auto and Apple CarPlay but I preferred connecting via a cable through one of the two USB ports.

Oh, and I know puddle lights are almost standard these days, but the leaping Puma when you open the door adds a nice touch.

Thanks to the Fiesta platform the Puma has very good driving dynamics, almost better than it needs to be for its intended target market.

2024 Ford Puma Titanium

The award-winning three pod engine provides a lively and entertaining driving experience and there’s no intrusive thrum often associated with three cylinder power plants.

There’s a slight turbo lag on take-off but once the turbo spools up it’s a willing mill that doesn’t mind heading towards the red line. It will easily cruise at highway speeds and will quickly up the pace to pass slower traffic without protest.

There are five driving modes with Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Trail that adjust throttle response, gear changes and steering accordingly.

Most of my driving was in default Normal mode and it’s perfect for everyday driving and long trips. The driving position in the Puma is nice and high giving you a decent view of your surroundings and switching to Sport on a twisty pass towards Hartbeespoort, it showed some deft skills although it did run out of steam fairly quickly between second and third gear.

Still, gear changes were slick and effortless although steering paddles would have added an extra dimension, but again, it won’t make a difference to prospective owners.

After a week of mixed driving fuel consumption stood at 7.2l/100km against Ford’s claimed figure of 5.3l/100km.

It’s not a cheap car, so you would expect a host of features as standard as well as decent safety technology that the Puma offers as standard.

It does so with aplomb and includes ABS, Electronic Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Launch Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Auto High Beam headlight activation, Lane-Keeping System incorporating Lane-Keeping Aid and Alert functions as well as Lane Departure Warning.

Road Edge Detection recognises where the tar ends and applies torque to the steering wheel to prevent the vehicle from drifting off the road.You also get Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and and Post-Collision Braking.

The Ford Puma is a welcome yet pricey addition to the broader family that fills the gap left by their dearth of passenger car options.

There’s a significantly updated version about to be launched overseas so if you’re in the market, perhaps stick around if you want the latest one or wait till dealers start putting together deals to swing the last stock.

It comes with a four-year/120,000km warranty. Service or maintenance plans up to eight years or 135,000km are sold separately.

Ford Puma pricing (April 2024)

1.0T Titanium: R569,900

1.0T ST-Line Vignale: R613,900

IOL Motoring

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