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New 2021 Ford Puma ST review

Rory White

09 Apr 2021

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1/8
Hot hatches used to be lower to the ground, but with peoples' penchant for SUVs ever growing, does the Ford Puma ST justify its existence next to Ford's fantastic Fiesta?

PROS:

+ Great fun to drive fast

+ Brilliant three-cylinder engine

+ Stacked with standard equipment


CONS:

- Bouncy at low speeds

- Average rear space

- What's wrong with a Fiesta ST?


Verdict: If you want a sporty small SUV, none are better to drive hard than this Puma ST. But if you simply want a hot hatch of a similar size, you'll be better off sticking with the already brilliant (and much cheaper) Fiesta ST.



2021 Ford Puma ST review: the five-minute read


The Ford Puma ST is a response to demand. People used to be happy with a hot hatch being a tricked-up version of a family hatchback, but these days its higher-riding SUVs that get signatures on dotted lines.


So, despite having one of the best small hot hatches ever made in its Fiesta ST, Ford has decided to also ST its Puma. Given the standard Puma's success, plus the growing number of other small hot SUVs on sale, it's no surprise.


Those other spicy small SUVs include the Audi SQ2, BMW X2 M35i and VW T-Roc R, which all cost a fair chunk more than the Puma to buy with cash or finance. Of course, the other question is, do you need a Puma ST when the Fiesta ST exists?



If you like standing out, then yes you do need a Puma ST. Its bug eyes, smiley-face grille, lumpy arches and aggressive 19-inch alloys give it a precense on the road the Fiesta can't offer, plus the Puma ST comes in some lary colours like the 'Mean Green' in these pictures.


The sporty theme continues inside with more red ST badges, Recaro sports seats in leather and Alcantara, shiny sports pedals and fake carbon fibre trim detailing. It's a nice looking cabin, but it isn't up the same standard of quality as any of those aforementioned German rivals. Again, though, it is much cheaper to buy.


Its infotainment system isn't as convincing, either, especially next to BMW's, but again you won't feel shortchanged. The Puma's touchscreen looks a little like an old iPad stuck on the dash, but it is sharp, responsive and its menus are easy to follow, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard if you prefer your smartphone.


The driver gets a good seating position with plenty of manual adjustment and the sports seats keep you snuggly in place in tight bends. There's good room up front, but head room in the back is on the stingy side, especially next to a T-Roc R. Still, the Puma's boot is huge and has practical touches such clever under-floor storage.



Ford's turbocharged 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol is a brilliant engine, producing 200hp and 320nm of torque to the front wheels via a lovely six-speed manual gearbox. 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.7 seconds if you get your gearchanges right and it'll go on to 137mph. The little engine feels fierce at low revs, but loves being pushed heard too, plus sounds great with it.


The Puma ST isn't as quick as its German competition, but it beats them for fun factor. Its steering feels razor sharp, it keeps itself very well upright for an SUV and can be provoked into some rear-axle movement off the throttle too. Is it as good as a Fiesta ST? Well, pure physics means it isn't, but it is still very good fun to drive nonetheless.


The trade-off is a slightly firm feel at low speeds such as in town, but otherwise the Puma is easy to park and has a decent turning circle. It's noisier on the motorway than standard Pumas, but it's never terrible and there's more than enough power for safe overtaking.


So, you can either look at the Puma ST as the best driving car of its type and a genuine bargain versus the cars it's competing against. Or, you can look at it as a very expensive Fiesta ST that isn't quite a fun to drive. Take your pick.


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Extended read…



2021 Ford Puma ST interior and infotainment


There's no denying the Puma ST's cabin isn't of the same quality as those from, say, Mini, BMW, Audi or VW, but then the Puma does cost a fair bit less no matter how you buy it.


And anyway, everything is solidly constructed and looks good, with red ST badges, Recaro sports seats in leather and Alcantara, shiny sports pedals and fake carbon fibre trim detailing. OK, that last bit isn't so good.


And the Puma's infotainment system isn't as convincing as rivals', either, especially next to BMW's, but again you won't feel shortchanged. The Puma's touchscreen looks a little like an old iPad stuck on the dash, but it is sharp, responsive and its menus are easy to follow, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard if you prefer your smartphone.


The Puma ST also comes with a set of digital driver's dials. They aren't quite as nice as the sets you get from Audi or VW, but they're still a very decent effort, giving you bright, clear info and the ability to personalise how you a arrange it.


All ST's also get wireless smartphone charging included and a premium B&O sound system that really does sound very good indeed.



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2021 Ford Puma ST practicality and boot space


The Puma ST is a five-seat car, but despite being a high-riding SUV, it isn't really much bigger than a Fiesta inside. That means two adults in the front will be fine, but three across the back is going to be a squeeze. In truth, a couple of tall adults will struggle for head room in the outside rear seats too, even in knee room is OK.


Those inside are well catered for when it comes to storage too, because the door bins are decent size front and back, there are a couple of generous cupholders between the front seats and the glovebox is better than most too.


The largest cubby in the Puma ST, though, is in its boot, called the Megabox. Yep, really. It's pretty, er, mega, though, providing an extra 80-litres of storage beneath the boot floor. That's on top of an 456-litre boot, which is bigger than a T-Roc's or SQ2's.



2021 Ford Puma ST engine


We already know ford's turbocharged 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol is a brilliant engine, because it's the same one in its Fiesta ST. Here it produces the same 200hp, but slightly more torque (320nm) to the front wheels via a fantastic six-speed manual gearbox.


0-62mph is dealt with in 6.7 seconds if you get your gearchanges right and it'll go on to 137mph.


The little engine feels fierce at low revs, but loves being pushed heard too, plus sounds great with it. There's even the odd pop and crack on the overrun, which is welcome.


That doesn't do much for the fuel economy, although we managed around 30mpg in mixed driving, which isn't brilliant, but also not terrible given the ST's intention.


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2021 Ford Puma ST driving


Look up the performance figires of an Audi SQ2, Mini Countryman JCW, BMW X2 M35i or VW T-Roc R and all will get to 62mph more quickly thanks to all-wheel-drive and hold a higher top speed. However, that will all be forgotten once you're on the right stretch of country road.


The ST's steering feels razor sharp and it keeps itself very well upright for an SUV, plus can be provoked into some rear-axle movement off the throttle. Our car was fitted with Ford's optional and fairly reasonably-priced Performance Pack which adds a front limited-slip differencial. On balance, it adds to the cornering enjoyment and also gets you a launch control function and shift lights, so is worth having. OK, you'll never use them, but you can at least brag about them.


But is the Puma ST better than its rivals to drive? It definitely feels more alert and is bags of fun. Is it as good as a Fiesta ST? Well, pure physics means it doesn't seem to change direction with quite the Fiesta's confidence, but it is still very good fun to drive nonetheless.


The trade-off is a slightly firm feel at low speeds such as in town, but otherwise the Puma is easy to park and has a decent turning circle. It's noisier on the motorway than standard Pumas, but it's never terrible and there's more than enough power for safe overtaking.


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WATCH: Ford Fiesta ST-Line video review

Rory White

09 Apr 2021

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