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Car of the Year Awards 2024: 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 1.5 Ecoboost 200 Performance Pack

COTY 2024 logo with Motoreasy

In a landscape dominated by increasingly weighty, complex and expensive sports SUVs, the Ford Puma ST has been ‘keepin’ it real’, as hip hop collective N.W.A. would say. Eschewing four-wheel drive, adjustable suspension and a fancy dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the Puma ST is by far the lightest sports SUV.

That lends it hot hatch levels of agility in corners; if you lift off the accelerator on the way into a bend, the back end will pivot around gracefully to help you tighten your line or position the car perfectly for the exit.

And while the Puma ST sends all of its power to the front wheels, if you pay £950 for the optional Performance Pack, you’ll get a limited-slip differential that unlocks even more traction. It’s well worth the extra outlay to enjoy the Puma ST at its very best.

Ford Puma ST driving front

True, with its turbocharged 1.5-litre engine producing ‘just’ 197bhp, it won’t sprint from 0-60mph as quickly as many other sports SUVs, but its time of 6.7sec is hardly slow. And in a market saturated with 600bhp behemoths, the Puma ST’s more modest output means you can work it hard and make full use of its performance more of the time on the road.

That’s not to mention that the very task of keeping the engine on the boil is a joy in itself, thanks to a sweet-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. With most other rivals – including the Volkswagen T-Roc R – being automatic only, the fact that the Puma ST still provides you with that last layer of driver interaction makes it something of a novelty.

But don’t go thinking that the Puma ST is an uncompromising, hardcore enthusiast’s car, because underlining all of this performance is the fact that it’s based on one of our favourite small SUVs. That’s because it’s not only cheap to run and easy to drive, but also offers plenty of space for four and has a massive boot. Indeed, you can fit eight carry-on suitcases beneath its parcel shelf, thanks to the same clever underfloor storage bin found in regular Ford Pumas.

Ford Puma ST interior

Now, if you’re thinking “I really want one, but I bet it costs a fortune”, well, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because the Puma ST just happens to be the cheapest sports SUV you can buy. Even when you add the Performance Pack, it undercuts every other car in this class by a substantial margin.

That’s remarkable value for a car that has the swagger to match famous fast Fords of old, courtesy of 19in alloy wheels, an aggressive body kit and figure-hugging Recaro sports seats. In our mind, that leaves you with just one dilemma: which colour to choose (and you can’t have green any more).

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