What Car? says...
If the Ford Puma name sounds rather familiar to you, well, there’s a good reason for that. It was originally a small coupé back in the late Nineties, and it was a jolly good one, too – it even picked up a What Car? Car of the Year award.
The trouble was, the original Puma didn’t sell particularly well, which might be why, when it returned to the Ford line-up some two decades later, it had morphed into a small SUV. It still looks sportier than most of the other cars in this class, though, and is more fun in other ways, as we’ll come on to explain.
If you want serious performance, there's a hot version called the Puma ST (which we've reviewed separately). It has almost 200bhp along with bespoke suspension to help it whizz round corners.
Here, though, we're focusing on the regular Ford Puma, so read on to find out how we rate it in all the important areas. And when you've picked the right car for you, we can also help you find it for the best price from a trusted dealer if you search our New Car Deals pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
All engines are 1.0-litre petrols with 48-volt mild-hybrid (mHEV) technology, which can shut the engine off to save fuel when you’re coming to a stop. As you engage a gear, the engine fires back into life in the blink of an eye, and a small electric motor adds a bit of zip to help you on your way.
Even the entry-level Ecoboost mHEV 125 was able to accelerate from 0-60mph in 9.6sec in our tests – far quicker than any Juke or the T-Roc 1.0 TSI. It pulls reasonably well from low revs and maintains cruising speed effortlessly. If you want more pace, the Ecoboost mHEV 155 is much faster, hitting 60mph from a standstill in just 8.5sec. That's as quick as much pricier small SUVs, including the Audi Q2 35 TFSI.
You get a six-speed manual gearbox on all Pumas as standard, with a seven-speed automatic gearbox available as an option.
Suspension and ride comfort
If ride comfort is a priority, you’d be better off looking at the Kamiq or T-Roc. Both have softer suspension, which means you feel less impact from lumps and bumps as they pass beneath the car. In fact, if you want the most comfortable Puma, Titanium trim is your best bet as it’s the only version to come without the even firmer sport suspension fitted to all ST-Line variants.
Even so, the Puma is far from a bone-shaker and never gets uncomfortable – it just follows the contours of the road more closely than the Kamiq or T-Roc. There's a positive trade-off too: better body control equals less bouncing along undulating country lanes. We think most buyers will quite like the compromise. The jiggly Juke jostles you around in your seat far more.
While we recommend sticking with 17in or 18in wheels, even the largest 19in alloys (optional on all but the entry-level trim) don't make the ride too harsh.
If you enjoy driving, the Puma will really win your heart. It's super-nimble by small SUV standards and you’ll notice this agility whether you’re merely scooting around a roundabout or flying down your favourite country lane.
To experience the Puma at its most entertaining, you'll want an ST-Line version with the sports suspension. This helps to keep the body more upright when cornering, although even entry-level Titanium versions dart into bends more eagerly than most of the competition.
Then there’s the steering. It gives you a far better sense of connection to the front wheels than you get from a Juke or even a Kamiq – again, something you can appreciate whether you're driving on quicker roads or zipping about town.
Noise and vibration
There are certainly quieter small SUVs than the Puma. Its engines have a slightly sporty rasp and there’s a fair amount of tyre roar at a steady 70mph – especially with 18in or 19in wheels fitted. On a motorway, the Kamiq and T-Roc will do a much better job of keeping unwanted noise from reaching your ears.
On the other hand, the Puma’s precise, snickety gearshift, feelsome clutch pedal and progressive brakes make it a really easy car to drive smoothly. Although the slick manual is our pick, the seven-speed automatic gearbox that's available with the 1.0 Ecoboost 125 engine is also smooth.
The stop-start system goes about its business incredibly unobtrusively, and you hardly even notice when the engine switches off and on.
Strengths Punchy turbocharged petrol engines; agile and entertaining handling; sweet manual gearshift
Weaknesses Quite a bit of road noise at speed; ride is firmer than in some rivals
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
No matter which trim you go for, the driver's seat is comfortable and comes with adjustable lumbar support to help prevent back pain on long journeys. Our only gripe is that the entry-level Titanium’s seats could do with a bit more side support, but that’s solved on all ST-Line versions by thicker bolsters.
All Pumas have seat-height adjustment and plenty of movement to get the steering wheel just where you need it, no matter what your shape or size. Some people might find the gear lever is set a little low down, though.
You don't sit quite as far above the road as you do in the T-Roc, but you are much higher up in the Puma than in some other small SUVs, including the Hyundai Bayon and Kamiq. The Puma's dashboard is easy to get the hang of, with chunky, intuitive controls for the air-conditioning.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Depending on your driving position, you might find that the aggressively angled front pillars block some of your view at junctions and roundabouts. Visibility out of the back of the Puma isn’t brilliant, either – blame the rising window line and the chunky rear pillars for that.
On the plus side, all Pumas come with rear parking sensors, while upgrading to the top-spec ST-Line Vignale gets you front parking sensors, too. A reversing camera is available as an option.
You can pay extra for LED headlights with ST-Line X trim (they come as standard on the range-topping ST-Line Vignale). They project more intense beams than the standard halogen bulbs. The rival Kamiq comes with LED headlights as standard.
Sat nav and infotainment
All Pumas come with an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, with DAB radio, Bluetooth, built-in sat-nav and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring (so you can use your phone apps on the car's screen). ST-Line X and ST-Line Vignale models add wireless phone-charging, and it's available as an option on the cheaper trims.
The operating system isn’t as modern-looking as the equivalent in the Kamiq or T-Roc, and the touchscreen sometimes takes a while to respond after you’ve pressed it. All things considered, though, it’s packed with features and easier to use than the system in the Juke.
If you go for ST-Line X or ST-Line Vignale trim, the standard seven-speaker sound system is replaced by a really punchy 10-speaker B&O setup. If we’re being picky, the sound quality it delivers isn't quite as warm or enveloping as the Bose system in range-topping versions of the Juke, but it's still good.
The Puma’s interior is dressed a little more lavishly than the one in the Bayon and Toyota Yaris Cross – which both have more hard, unforgiving plastics – with slightly squidgy surfaces on the dashboard and the tops of its doors.
ST-Line X models even have some faux carbon-fibre highlights as well as part-leather seats, while the range-topping ST-Line Vignale has full-leather seats.
Some of the dashboard plastics feel a bit low-rent, though, and the overall effect is more upmarket in the Juke, Peugeot 2008 and T-Roc, while the Mini Countryman is the king of interior quality among small SUVs.
Strengths Lots of driver's seat adjustment; smartphone mirroring standard across the range; easy-to-use, physical air-con controls
Weaknesses Windscreen pillars can impede your view at junctions; some of the interior plastics feel a bit cheap
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Unless you’re exceptionally tall, you’ll fit just fine in the front of the Puma and won’t find yourself struggling for head or leg room.
It's not as roomy as the T-Roc though – that car has a few more centimetres of head room, along with a slightly broader interior that provides more shoulder room between the driver and front passenger.
There’s plenty of storage space, with decent-sized door bins, a cubby in front of the gear lever, another one below the front armrest and a couple of cupholders between the front seats.
The Puma's small rear side windows don’t help create an impression of roominess and, in real terms, a couple of six-footers will have less knee room than in the limo-like Kamiq, or either the Taigo or T-Roc.
Head room is also worse than it is in both those rival cars, but in case that all sounds rather damning, you can still carry around three tall passengers without too many grumbles.
It’s best to avoid the Puma's optional panoramic roof, though. It lowers the height of the ceiling and reduces head room further, especially in the back.
Seat folding and flexibility
All Pumas have 60/40 split-folding rear seats, which matches what you get in almost all small SUVs (the Countryman is one of the exceptions, with its more flexible 40/20/40 arrangement).
It’s also a pity that there’s no ski hatch in the Puma, as there is in the T-Roc, or other neat touches, like the sliding rear seats in the VW T-Cross.
You can fit six carry-on-sized suitcases in the Puma's main boot compartment – one fewer than you’ll squeeze into a Kamiq, Yaris Cross or T-Roc. The Puma has a trick up its sleeve, though: if you lift up its boot floor, you’ll find a large well under it that can swallow two more cases.
The boot floor can clip to the rear seatbacks so you can stand two sets of golf clubs or a couple of large pot plants upright in the well. There’s even a removable plug at the bottom, so you can hose out any mud afterwards.
The boot floor is height-adjustable. When it's set to its highest position and the rear seats are folded down, there's no step in the floor of the extended load bay and only a very small lip at the boot entrance. The tailgate-mounted parcel shelf lifts up when the boot is opened to give excellent access.
Strengths Plenty of space in the front; good in-car storage; boot is big and clever, with huge underfloor area
Weaknesses Some rivals offer more rear head room; optional panoramic glass roof exacerbates this problem
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
There are no weedy engines in the Puma line-up, nor are there any super-basic trim levels. That explains why the car's starting price is higher than those of the Juke and Kamiq. However, in like-for-like form, it’s actually cheaper than both those cars, and also undercuts the equivalent T-Roc.
PCP car finance deals are really attractive, helped by the fact that the Puma is predicted to depreciate more slowly than many of its peers. It’s more economical, too – in our real-world True MPG test, the 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 averaged a very respectable 45.1mpg.
If you’re thinking about going for an automatic gearbox in the Puma, be aware that it’ll be more expensive to buy and run than a manual. It’s still more economical with slightly lower CO2 emissions than the equivalent automatic Juke, though. The Puma pumps out less CO2 than many small SUVs so it's a relatively cheap company car (just not as cheap as an electric car or hybrid car alternative, such as the Citroën e-C4 or Yaris Cross).
Equipment, options and extras
The cheapest trim, Titanium, doesn’t feel that ‘entry-level’ at all, with 17in alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, automatic air conditioning and heated door mirrors, alongside the standard infotainment features and parking aids.
You might also want to consider ST-Line trim (our favourite), which adds sportier styling, swaps the conventional instrument dials behind the steering wheel for a 12.3in digital display and adds more supportive seats. However, you do have to make do with manual air-conditioning, which blows warm or cool air on demand rather than automatically maintaining a set temperature.
ST-Line X trim does get climate control and also brings bigger 18in alloys for an even sportier look, along with privacy glass, part-leather seats and that great-sounding B&O stereo. Range-topping ST-Line Vignale gets full leather seats (heated in the front), a heated leather steering wheel and keyless entry. It's too pricey to recommend, though.
The Puma finished 17th out of 22 small SUV models in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, below the Juke, the Countryman and the VW T-Roc but above the Kamiq.
Ford as a manufacturer didn’t fare much better, claiming 27th place out of the 32 brands included. That’s a long way behind Mini, which took 2nd place, and below both Skoda (13th) and VW (22nd).
All Pumas come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty as standard, although that can be extended to five years (with a 100,000-mile limit) for an extra charge. That’s about average for a small SUV, but you get longer standard warranties with the Hyundai Kona and Kia Stonic.
Safety and security
All Pumas come with the modern preventative safety aids you’d expect, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition.
On the higher trims, you can add a Driver Assistance Pack, which gets you blind-spot monitoring and a couple of other clever safety systems: Evasive Steering Assist and Cross Traffic Alert. Either way, the Puma has six airbags to protect you and your passengers in the event of a collision.
Euro NCAP awarded the Puma four stars out of five for safety – a rather disappointing score. To keep would-be thieves at bay, all Pumas come with a Thatcham category one alarm and immobiliser.
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Buying & owning overview
Strengths Attractive PCP finance rates; good real-world fuel economy; even the cheapest trim is quite well equipped
Weaknesses Euro NCAP gave it four rather than five stars for safety; reliability record could be better
The Puma is based on the same underpinnings as the recently discontinued Ford Fiesta but is slightly larger overall. It's 4207mm long, 1537mm tall and 1930mm wide (excluding mirrors).
The Puma has a comfortable driving position and all versions have adjustable lumbar support to help keep your posture good on longer jaunts. However, some rivals – including the VW T-Roc – have a more comfortable ride and are quieter on the motorway.
The Puma has five seats and a big boot, so it's certainly big enough for a family of four. However, some small SUVs offer more rear leg and head room, which is worth bearing in mind if you have tall teenagers.
|RRP price range||£25,640 - £33,110|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||42.8 - 52.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,422 / £2,139|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,843 / £4,278|