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What Car? says

5 out of 5 stars

For Brilliant to drive and inexpensive to own

Against The driving position won't suit everyone

Verdict A distinctive coupe on robust Fiesta chassis that's big on value

Go for…

Avoid…

Ford Puma Coupe
  • 1. The odd knees-up, bottom-down driving position won't suit everyone
  • 2. Rear visibility is restricted by the swooping roofline, which also limits the headroom in the rear seats
  • 3. Check the car tracks properly on your test drive, as the suspension can easily be knocked out of true by careless bumps on the kerb
  • 4. Listen for knocks from the suspension, especially at the front - the bushes are liable to wear
  • 5. Check the car - and its paperwork - for any sign of any skimping on the maintenance
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Ford Puma Coupe full review with expert trade views

You'll struggle to find a small coupe that's as much fun to drive - and you certainly won't find one for this kind of money.

The Puma takes the already good Fiesta underpinnings and hones them until they're as sharp and agile as a barrister's brain. You get almost kart-like steering, terrific roadholding, strong brakes and a fantastic gearshift.

Each of the engines is willing and makes a good sound, although the 1.4 doesn't have the pace to match the car's looks.

The cabin has aluminium highlights, such as the gearlever knob, to add a touch of sporting flair. However, not everyone will get on with the knees-up, bottom-down driving position, especially given that the steering column is fixed.

Rear visibility is restricted by the coupe's racy lines, which also limit the headroom in the rear. Anyone much above average height will find it cramped, but at least the reasonable boot gives it some practicality.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Specialist market now, 1.7 preferred and limited editions like Millennium

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The 123bhp 1.7-litre is the one to go for. It's smooth, frugal and makes a tuneful, sporting noise. There isn't much pull at low revs, but it revs so freely - and the gearchange is so rewarding and addictive - that this isn't a problem. In fact, it suits the car's character perfectly.

The 89bhp 1.4, launched in February 1998, is flexible enough but can feel short of performance. It was replaced in October 2000 by a stronger 101bhp 1.6. However, neither is a patch on the 1.7.

You may come across a Puma Racing - a lower, wider, 153bhp 1.7-litre version. It's a great drive, but far rarer and more extreme. Unless you're a track-day regular, the standard car is the better bet.

There was only one trim level and many cars won't have a passenger airbag or air-con unless their first owners paid extra for them.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good reliability, but watch for suspension and brake problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Not by any stretch of the imagination. This car is based heavily on the Fiesta, so parts are cheap and servicing easy.

It's also very robust if it's looked after, so there should be no unexpected maintenance bills to wipe the smile off your face as you drive all the way to the bank.

Insurance costs are reasonable, but not exactly cheap. Our favoured 1.7 qualifies for group 12, while the 1.6 falls into group 10 and the 1.4 sits in group 9.

You won't be spending much on fuel, though. Whichever model you choose, a gallon should take you within a brisk walk of 40 miles, provided you don't go too mad with your right foot.

Best of all, the Puma doesn't cost a huge amount to buy, especially given the fun and distinctive looks - and it won't lose much value over coming years, either.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Specialist market now, 1.7 preferred and limited editions like Millennium

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The good news is that the engines and gearboxes are largely trouble-free, and electrical faults aren't that common. In fact, any faults on a Puma will almost certainly be the result of abuse, not use.

For a start, watch out for any evidence - on the car and in the accompanying paperwork - that the owner has skimped on maintenance. A fully stamped-up service book is your target.

Pay particular attention to the oil level and colour, and inspect the tyres for even wear and the wheels for signs of damage. The Puma's suspension can easily go awry with careless knocks on the kerb.

Once you're out on the test drive, listen for suspension knocks, especially at the front, where the bushes are liable to wear. The brakes can wear quickly, too, so give them a thorough test.

Finally, watch out for signs of poorly executed crash repairs (uneven panel gaps, overspray, misaligned chassis legs) because the Puma does encourage enthusiastic driving.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good reliability, but watch for suspension and brake problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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