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Car of the Year Awards 2023: 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...

WINNER: Sports SUV of the Year

Ford Puma ST

Car of the Year 2023 main logo

Yes, we hear you: how on earth can the cheapest car in the sports SUV class (by far) really take down titans such as the Aston Martin DBX 707, Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne Coupé? Well, rather like when David went up against Goliath, the small yet mighty Ford Puma ST has vanquished all comers again this year, because it can do a fair percentage of the things that those rivals can do and more, but for a fraction of the price.

In fact, you’ll struggle to have as much fun in any other sports SUV when the road starts to get tight and twisty. You see, the Puma ST weighs less than pretty much everything else in the class, making it much more nimble through corners. Add to that the fact that its firm suspension gives it excellent body control, and that the steering is wonderfully accurate, and you have a recipe for something that’s predictable and easy to place on the road, making it very easy to drive quickly.

Sports SUV of the Year 2023 - Ford Puma ST rear

Doing so is a rewarding experience that soon becomes addictive, especially once you’ve mastered the art of lifting off the accelerator slightly midway through corners to help you progressively pivot the rear end for sharper changes of direction. And on the way out of bends, you can take full advantage of the 197bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre engine that sits up front, because the well-priced Performance Pack brings a mechanical limited-slip differential for maximum traction.

True, the Puma ST won’t sprint from 0-62mph as quickly as many other sports SUVs, but its time of 6.7sec isn’t slow either, beating the Cupra Formentor 2.0 TSI’s. In fact, we like the fact that its power isn’t overwhelming, because it allows you to rev the engine hard through the gears without the fear that you’re about to be relieved of your licence.

Sports SUV of the Year 2023 - Ford Puma ST dashboard

The six-speed manual gearbox is another feather in the ST’s cap, with a short, precise shift action that’s far more enjoyable and involving to use than the automatic gearboxes that you’ll find in almost every other rival, including the Hyundai Kona N.

Underlining all of that performance and driving fun is the fact that the ST is based on the regular Ford Puma, which is one of our favourite small SUVs. That means, when you stop hooning down your favourite road, you still have a car that’s cheap to run and easy to drive around in every day, as long as you don’t mind a firm low-speed ride. In fact, it’s practical enough to fit your entire family and their holiday luggage, with a cleverly designed and remarkably capacious boot. Overall, the Puma ST is proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a brilliant sports SUV.

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