Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
All of the engines are 1.0-litre petrols and all but one have 48-volt mild hybrid (mHEV) technology. This can shut the engine off to save fuel when you’re coming to a stop, while keeping the steering and air-conditioning supplied with power. Then, as you engage a gear, the engine fires itself 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 proved able to accelerate from 0-60mph in 9.5sec in our tests – far quicker than a Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI. It also pulls reasonably well from low revs, although the more powerful Ecoboost mHEV 155 version is much faster. This can hit 60mph from a standstill in just 8.5sec, making it as nippy as much pricier small SUVs, such as the Audi Q2 35 TFSI.
The only engine that doesn't have mild hybrid assistance? That's also a Ecoboost 125 but comes with a seven-speed automatic, rather than six-speed manual, gearbox. Indeed, if you don't want to change gear yourself, this is your only option. It’s the slowest option in the lineup, but not by much; official figures suggest it can cover 0-62mph in 10.2sec.
Suspension and ride comfort
If ride comfort is a top priority, you’d be better off looking at the T-Roc or Skoda Kamiq. Both of those rivals have softer suspension, which means you feel less of impacts from lumps and bumps as they pass beneath the car.
Mind you, the Puma is far from a bone-shaker in its more comfort-oriented Titanium trim. It just follows the contours of the road more closely than the above rivals, and there's a positive trade-off of that: better body control equals less unwanted bouncing along undulating country lanes. We think most buyers will quite like the compromise, which is better judged than the jiggly Nissan Juke's.
ST-Line and ST-Line X models have a firmer sports suspension setup that produces more of a thump over sharp bumps. Even this never gets uncomfortable, though, and, while we'd recommend sticking with 17in or 18in wheels, even the largest 19in alloys 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 just scooting around a roundabout or flying down your favourite country lane.
To experience the Puma at its most entertaining, you'll need to go for one of the ST-Line models to get sports suspension. This helps keep the body more upright when cornering, although even entry-level Titanium models dart into bends more eagerly than 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 simply nipping about town.
Noise and vibration
If you’re after a peaceful life, there are certainly quieter small SUVs than the Puma. It's engines have a slightly sporty rasp and there’s also a fair amount of tyre roar at a steady 70mph – especially with 18in or 19in wheels fitted.
So, if you spend a lot of time on the motorway, a T-Roc or a Kamiq would do a much better job of keeping unwanted noise away from 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, there’s also a smooth seven-speed automatic gearbox available as an option on the 1.0 Ecoboost 125 engine.
The Puma’s stop-start system also goes about its business incredibly unobtrusively – you barely even notice when the engine switches off and on.
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