In association with MotorEasy
Car of the Year Awards 2022: Sports SUV of the Year
If you’d really like to be driving a sports car but can’t compromise on practicality, a sports SUV is just the ticket. The best are fun to drive, with scintillating pace and agile handling...
Ford Puma ST 1.5 Ecoboost 200 Performance Pack
Sports SUVs used to be brutish things, offering plenty of power and four-wheel drive to launch you out of bends, but little in the way of finesse. However, the Ford Puma ST delivers a very different and more rewarding experience.
Key to this is its low weight compared with rivals, making the car feel nimble and easy to place. And while the Puma ST sends all of its power to the front wheels, if you lift off the accelerator pedal mid-corner, the back end will pivot around gracefully to help you tighten your line or position the car perfectly for the exit. Add in weighty yet precise steering and the sticky Michelin tyres you get as part of the optional Performance Pack and you always feel in complete control.
The fun continues on the straights, because the Puma ST’s 197bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine (borrowed from the Fiesta ST hot hatch) feels suitably brawny. Plus, it’s linked to a six-speed manual gearbox that has a pleasingly short shift action and gives you a sense of engagement that you just don’t get in the Cupra Formentor and other rivals with automatic gearboxes.
As a bonus, sticking with that manual ’box and many other parts borrowed from the Fiesta ST has helped Ford to keep the price down; for example, the Puma ST undercuts the new (albeit more powerful) Hyundai Kona N by £5000, making it easily the cheapest new sports SUV you can buy.
Not that it feels like there’s been cost-cutting. To match the swagger of its aggressive body kit and rear roof spoiler, the interior features a pair of figure-hugging Recaro sports seats up front, along with a flat-bottomed steering wheel. What’s more, those seats are excellent, proving comfortable over long distances and holding you in place well during hard cornering.
On top of all this, the Puma ST is more practical than some much larger cars, offering plenty of space for four and a surprisingly big boot. Indeed, you can fit eight carry-on suitcases beneath its parcel shelf, thanks to the same trick underfloor storage area found in lesser Pumas, whereas you’ll get only seven in the back of Porsche’s Cayenne Coupé.
Even if it cost significantly more than it does, then, the Puma ST would be one of the most compelling options in this class. It’s nothing short of miraculous that it offers all that it does for such a reasonable price.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here