Amongst a sea of derivative small crossovers available on the market today, the Ford Puma stands out to be the most chic of the lot. This pint size SUV proves that grand, bold designs aren’t limited to just big vehicles. From the prominent grille and swept back headlights to the sculpted fenders and pronounced haunches, the Puma looks to have packed some of best work from Ford’s styling department in a small yet perfectly proportioned package.
Of course, styling isn’t everything. Does the Puma have the substance to back its good looks? We spent a week with the mid-spec Puma ST-Line to find out.
Slotted between the entry-level $30,840 Puma and the range-topping $36,390 Puma ST-Line V, the mid-range Puma ST-Line costs $33,190. All prices exclude on-road costs.
Compared to the competition, the Puma is certainly not a cheap option. The similarly-spec’ed Kia Stonic GT-Line or Mazda CX-3 sTouring could be had for around $30k. That’s a sizeable savings over the Puma, but then again there’s always a price to pay for being a bit fashionable.
The ST-Line rolls on stylish 5-spoke 17-inch wheels, with LED lighting for the headlights and taillights – the former features high beam auto dipping. Also LED are the daytime running lights and there’re illuminated puddle lamps integrated neatly into the door mirrors.
Getting into the car is easy with the proximity-sensing key fob. With it in the pocket or handbag, simply pull the handle and the car will unlock. Once inside, you’ll be greeted with a cozy yet well-presented and equipped cabin. It doesn’t take long to find where things are at because the Puma’s interior is well thought out. The dashboard has minimum clutter and is very functional with essential controls within easy reach in the centre console.
The 8.0-inch centre touchscreen is where functions like navigation, media and smartphone mirroring are operated from. It runs Ford’s older but still good Sync 3 infotainment system, with satellite navigation built-in and support for Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The interface design may not be the flashiest but it’s fit for purpose and response to the touch is good as well.
The reverse camera feed comes through the centre touchscreen also and while the video quality isn’t too shabby the location of the camera itself is a bit of a problem when it rains. Because the camera is quite exposed, rain water tends to cover and distort the camera lens rendering the video feed pretty much useless. A more discrete mounting for the camera would certainly help address this issue.
In front of the driver and behind the flat-bottom steering wheel is a 12.3-inch digital instrumentation cluster which presents various driving info with vivid graphics and animation. While it’s good enough for a small car like the Puma, it doesn’t offer much by way of customisation, like bringing up map view or adding widgets.
A wireless phone charger is standard, so is a six-speaker audio system which is one of the better sounding ones in class. There’re two USB ports for the front row seats but none in the back.
Comfort levels are good, with the front seats – neatly trimmed in dark fabric with red contrast stitching – offering good support. The rear seats have subtle bolsters for the outboard seats for better comfort. The narrow cabin means two adults are the most you’d want to carry in the back seats, with the middle seat best left for the little ones. There isn’t a lot of knee room either.
The front centre armrest with storage underneath is proper, unlike many other small cars. In front of it are two decent size cup holders. There’s more storage in the glovebox and the door pockets can easily fit your water bottles.
For a small car, the boot capacity of 410 litres is quite impressive. The boot floor cover has two height levels, allowing two levels of boot depths. The 60/40 split rear seats can be folded for extra boot space.
In terms of safety features, the Puma ST-Line is equipped with six airbags, cruise control, lane-keep assist, traffic-sign recognition and automatic emergency braking. It’s disappointing to see that other essential safety tech like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are all packaged under a $990 optional Park Pack, when these features come as standard in many similarly priced rivals. Until Ford includes them as standard, we recommend ticking this option.
Under the bonnet, the 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine is small in capacity but punches out quite a hearty 92kW and 170Nm, the latter available from just 1400rpm. It’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT), driving the front wheels.
Quite often, three-pot engines can feel a little gruff, but the one in the Puma is an exception. It’s smooth and quiet for the most part, only starting to become vocal when you rev it out. But even that it’s not exactly coarse either.
It’s quite a joy to poke around in this thing, largely thanks to the chubby torque down low in the rev range. The throttle response is pretty fine, too, and there’s a nice feel through the steering.
The DCT is crisp and quick in its gear changes, as expected, but it’s a little indecisive at times at low speeds. This can be easily fixed with a more consistent throttle input. Once on the move and up to speeds it’s generally in the right gear, making the most use of that torque and optimising fuel efficiency.
The suspension is tuned to strike a good balance between ride and handling. This isn’t the cushiest car in class but the ride is perfectly fine for the daily grind. At the same time, body control is good around the bends delivering a secured driving feel.
Average fuel consumption for the Puma is rated at 5.3L/100km. In the real world we achieved 5.7L/100km after about 450km of mixed-route driving, a figure not far off the official claim. This makes the Puma one of the more fuel efficient cars in the segment.
A five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is standard for the Puma, along with 12 months free roadside assistance. The service interval is 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, with each visit costing around $300.
Design & Comfort
Performance & Handling
Equipment & Features
- Sporty and stylish looks
- Eager and efficient turbo engine
- Well-presented cabin with advanced tech
- Admirable ride and handling balance
- Some safety features are optional add-on
- Tight rear seat space
- A little pricey
If you’re looking for a stylish little SUV with advanced tech that drives well, don’t look past the Ford Puma, especially in the ST-Line guise as tested here. It may not be the most budget-friendly option, but it surely does come across as one of the better performing, more advanced and more efficient players in its class.
We just wish it had a more comprehensive safety suite fitted as standard and not available as an add-on option.
2023 Ford Puma ST-Line pricing and specification
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||From $33,190|
|Country of Origin:||Romania|
|Warranty:||5 years / Unlimited km|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/15,000 km|
|Engine:||1.0-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder petrol:|
92kW @ 6000rpm; 170Nm @ 1400rpm
|Transmission:||7-speed dual-clutch automatic (DCT)|
|Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 5.3 / Tested: 5.7|
|Fuel Tank Capacity (L):||42|
|Safety:||ANCAP 5 star, 6 Airbags, AEB, Lane Keeping Aid with Lane Departure Warning, reversing camera, cruise control, traffic-sign recognition|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4,207/1,805/1,548/2,588|
|Tare Mass (kg):||1263|
|Entertainment:||8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, AM/FM/DAB+ audio with 6 speakers, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 750|