Ford Puma ST review

Category: Sports SUV

The Ford Puma ST is a fast, fun and fantastic value performance SUV

Blue Ford Puma ST front cornering
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front cornering
  • Blue Ford Puma ST rear cornering
  • Ford Puma ST interior steering wheel
  • Ford Puma ST interior back seats
  • Blue Ford Puma ST interior driver display
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front cornering
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front left driving
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front driving
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front right static
  • Blue Ford Puma ST rear left static
  • Blue Ford Puma ST grille detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST headlights detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST alloy wheel detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST spoiler detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST rear lights detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST interior front seats
  • Ford Puma ST interior infotainment
  • Blue Ford Puma ST interior air-con controls
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front cornering
  • Blue Ford Puma ST rear cornering
  • Ford Puma ST interior steering wheel
  • Ford Puma ST interior back seats
  • Blue Ford Puma ST interior driver display
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front cornering
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front left driving
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front driving
  • Blue Ford Puma ST front right static
  • Blue Ford Puma ST rear left static
  • Blue Ford Puma ST grille detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST headlights detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST alloy wheel detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST spoiler detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST rear lights detail
  • Blue Ford Puma ST interior front seats
  • Ford Puma ST interior infotainment
  • Blue Ford Puma ST interior air-con controls
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Introduction

What Car? says...

If Sports Technologies sounds like a fancy name for the go-faster soles in your trainers, Ford begs to differ. It's how it brands its most exciting cars – including this Ford Puma ST sports SUV.

The Puma ST is the performance variant of the popular Ford Puma small SUV, and shares lots of parts with the Fiesta ST (which recently went off sale). In theory, that should mean it's a more practical version of one of our favourite hot hatches.

It has quicker steering than the regular Puma, stiffer suspension and beefier anti-roll bars. Plus, if you add the optional Performance Pack (available on manual versions only) you get a mechanical limited-slip differential and special tyres.

You might think that those serious performance tweaks come with an equally serious price tag. Well, no. In true fast Ford fashion, the Puma ST undercuts its all-wheel-drive rivals, the Cupra Formentor and the VW T-Roc R.

Read on to find out how we rate the Ford Puma ST against the best sports SUVs

Overview

The Ford Puma ST one of the most exciting SUVs we’ve ever driven, and it’s also immensely practical, comes packed with equipment and undercuts all its main rivals on price. We recommend the 1.5-litre manual version (rather than the mild-hybrid Powershift) with the optional Performance Pack.

  • Immensely enjoyable to drive
  • Surprisingly big boot
  • Great driving position
  • Occasionally bouncy low-speed ride
  • Auto gearbox version is underwhelming
  • A VW T-Roc R is bigger in the back
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Our Pick

OurPicksRRP £27,340
Ford Puma 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid mHEV 155 ST-Line 5dr
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The Ford Puma ST is available with a choice of a 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol engine with 197bhp, or a newer 168bhp 1.0-litre Powershift version, which has mild-hybrid tech.

The 1.5-litre engine is muscular from low revs and develops power in a pleasingly linear fashion. Its official 0-62mph time is 6.7 seconds, so there are quicker sports SUVs out there, but there’s enough performance for it to be a fun car to drive.

The Powershift version is 0.7 seconds slower from 0-62mph, which is enough to make it feel a bit pedestrian by the standards of this class. While it's still moderately peppy and flexible in everyday driving, you can’t help but feel a bit let down in comparison.

The other key difference between the engines is that the 1.5-litre comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the Powershift has a seven-speed automatic.

The manual has a short shift action and well-chosen gear ratios, helping you get the very best out of the characterful engine. The automatic gearbox shifts through gears reasonably smoothly and quickly, but you can change gear yourself if you like, using the paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

Whichever engine you go for, the highlight of the Puma ST is its handling. It will pivot progressively around its front wheels if you back off the accelerator pedal mid-bend, allowing you to position it perfectly to exit the corner.

Ford Puma image
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Its steering isn’t brimming with feel filtering up from the front tyres, but it is weighty, precise and lets you place the front end exactly where you want it.

If you go for the 1.5-litre engine, we’d recommend the optional Performance Pack to get super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, launch control and a limited-slip differential (LSD). The LSD gives you extra traction on the way out of corners – and that’s handy with nearly 200bhp at your disposal.

Unusually for a sports SUV, the Puma ST isn't available with four-wheel drive. In truth, though, you’ll only miss it if you decide to venture off road.

As for usability, this is not a particularly demanding car to drive, despite its improved athleticism. You can feel the optional LSD working away to drag the nose into apexes, but there’s none of the skittishness under power that requires you to hold on tight like in other powerful front-wheel-drive cars.

The Puma ST's ride is rather firm, and never quite settles down around town, but once you get some speed into the car, the suspension starts to breathe with the road.

Driving overview

Strengths Brilliant handling; non-Powershift ST has a slick manual gearbox

Weaknesses Not as quick as some rivals; the Powershift version is a bit underwhelming

Blue Ford Puma ST rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

To match the swagger of the Ford Puma ST's more aggressive body kit and rear roof spoiler, you get figure-hugging and supportive heated Recaro sports seats up front, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and plenty of "ST" emblems dotted around.

With adjustable lumbar support as standard, the seats prove comfortable over long distances and hold you in place well during hard cornering.

The driving position is fundamentally excellent, and you get a slightly elevated seat befitting the ST's SUV status. If you're looking for a higher seat, we’d point you towards the Cupra Ateca (although that's much pricier) .

The steering wheel and pedals are perfectly aligned with the driver’s seat, and are close together for a sportier feel.

The aggressively angled front pillars mean some drivers might find their view out at junctions slightly obscured, and the rising window line and thick rear pillars mean the rear view isn’t great.

Thankfully, auto LED headlights, auto wipers and, crucially, front and rear parking sensors are included. A rear camera is available as part of the reasonably priced driver assistance pack.

The Ford Sync 3 infotainment system is standard and comes with an 8.0in touchscreen and a wireless charging pad for your mobile phone. It's not as slick as the system in the Audi SQ2 but, for the price, is pretty decent.

It has sharp graphics, relatively simple menus and lots of features (including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a DAB radio and Bluetooth). You even get a premium B&O sound system, improving the quality of music on the go.

The driver gets a digital instrument panel in place of analogue dials. It's configurable and can show lots of useful information, including sat-nav mapping, audio menus and the trip computer.

In terms of interior quality, the Puma ST is reasonably good considering the relatively low list price. Key touch points such as the steering wheel and gear lever are wrapped in soft leather, the seats are finished in a grippy suede-like material and there are some pleasingly squidgy surfaces on the dashboard and tops of the doors.

If you search lower down in the interior, you’ll find some harder plastics, but that’s also the case in other sports SUVs.

Interior overview

Strengths Comfy sports seats; good driving position

Weaknesses Visibility isn't the best

Ford Puma ST interior steering wheel

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 Ford Puma ST. The front seats are quite a bit beefier than the standard Ford Puma pews, but there's still plenty of space to stretch out in the back seats.

For even more space in the front and back, consider the larger VW T-Roc R, which gives you even more head room and has a slightly broader interior.

There’s plenty of stowage space in the Puma ST, thanks to 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.

As with all Pumas, the ST can take six carry-on suitcases in the main boot compartment and two in the 80-litre MegaBox storage area under the boot floor. The rear seats split 60/40 to fold down (most rivals are the same).

Practicality overview

Strengths Decent passenger space; very useful MegaBox boot system

Weaknesses VW T-Roc R has more rear-seat space

Ford Puma ST interior back seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Let’s not beat around the bush, the Ford Puma ST is significantly cheaper than almost every other similar-sized sports SUV, including the Audi SQ2, the Cupra Formentor and the VW T-Roc R.

Even if you tick the options boxes for metallic paint and the recommended Performance Pack, you’ll still be getting a car that’s at least a few thousand pounds cheaper than the competition. The Puma ST's comparatively low purchase price and surprisingly low emissions help to lower benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax payments if you get one as a company car.

When you factor in the impressive standard equipment list – including 19in alloy wheels, wireless phone-charging, a heated windscreen, heated sports seats and a heated flat-bottomed leather steering wheel – the ST feels like great value. Cruise control comes as standard too (if you want adaptive cruise control, you can add it to the Powershift version as part of an option pack).

Like the standard Puma, the ST comes with plenty of preventative safety aids, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assistance and tyre-pressure monitoring. Blind-spot assistance and a couple of other safety aids come with the driver assistance pack.

Euro NCAP reassessed the standard Puma under more stringent 2022 standards and has downgraded its safety rating from five stars out of five to four. That was due to concerns over chest protection for the driver, the lack of a central airbag, the lack of an eCall system and poor whiplash protection for rear occupants in a rear-end collision. It’s hard to draw comparisons with rivals because they were tested under different standards.

Meanwhile, to keep would-be thieves at bay, the ST comes with a Thatcham Category 1 alarm and immobiliser.

Ford ranked a middling 17th out of 32 brands in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. That puts it above Audi (in 26th place) and Volkswagen (22nd), with Cupra at the bottom (32nd).

Costs overview

Strengths Competitive price; low company car tax rate

Weaknesses Slightly disappointing Euro NCAP safety rating

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Blue Ford Puma ST interior driver display

FAQs

  • It's at the more affordable end of the sports SUV category, and actually undercuts some rivals by several thousand pounds. You can check the latest prices on our New Car Deals pages.

  • Yes, you can describe the ST as the top-of-the-range Ford Puma. It's the most powerful version and comes with the most equipment.

  • The manual ST comes with a 1.5-litre engine producing 197bhp, making it the most powerful Ford Puma available. The 1.0-litre automatic Powershift version has 168bhp.

At a glance
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Target Price from £29,638
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From £18,800
RRP price range £31,760 - £33,110
Number of trims (see all)1
Number of engines (see all)2
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol
MPG range across all versions 42.8 - 44.8
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
Available colours