Ford Puma long-term test: report 1

The Ford Puma is our favourite small SUV and 2020 Car of the Year, so we know it's terrific. Let's see if it lives up to those standards in everyday use...

Ford Puma long term

The car Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid 155 ST-Line X Run by Allan Muir, managing editor

Why we’re running it To find out whether our 2020 Car of the Year is as well rounded in everyday use as it's cracked up to be

Needs to Be fun to drive, practical, comfortable and economical, offering something over and above a regular small hatchback

Mileage 242 List price £24,420 Target Price £22,910 Price as tested £28,770 Options fitted Panoramic roof (£950), Driver Assistance Pack (£900), fixed LED headlights (£800), Desert Island Blue exclusive paint (£650), hands-free electric tailgate, keyless entry and motion-sensing keyfob (£600), 19in five-spoke alloy wheels (£450) Test economy 40.6mpg Official economy 50.4mpg

4 September 2020 – Ready to pounce

The puma is considered one of the most adaptable of the big cats that inhabit the American continents, being found not only in mountainous regions but also tropical jungles, forests, grasslands and even deserts, according to Wikipedia. Although you won’t see many examples of the Ford small SUV of the same name attempting to scale Ben Nevis, it shares that quality with its feline counterpart, being among the most versatile of its breed thanks to a winning combination of practicality, efficiency, value for money and driver appeal. That’s why the Ford Puma – our reigning Car of the Year – is a smart choice if you’re shopping for a new small SUV, as I’ve been doing.

Ford Puma long term

As was the case with the 1990s coupé with which it also shares its name, the reborn Puma is closely related under the skin to the Ford Fiesta small hatchback, but it’s higher off the ground and more practical. It also shares most of its engines with the Fiesta, including the 153bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that powers my car. The mild hybrid unit features 48-volt electrical assistance to boost efficiency and performance while providing an eerily smooth engine stop-start system. 

Ford Puma long term

While we recommend entry-level Titanium trim, I’ve gone a couple of rungs higher up the ladder, to ST-Line X, because I prefer the way it looks with that trim’s sporty body kit and bigger wheels, and because you get a lot of kit for the £24,420 list price. Standard niceties include a heated windscreen, power-folding and heated door mirrors, part-leather seat upholstery, a 12.3in digital instrument panel, a choice of five driving modes, rear parking sensors and lots of driver aids, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection. 

To this I’ve added a £900 Driver Assistance Pack that brings more advanced camera and radar-based AEB, blindspot monitors, adaptive cruise control, a parking assistance system, front parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Other options fitted include LED headlights (£800), a hands-free electric tailgate, keyless entry and a motion-sensing keyfob (a £600 pack) and, adding to the Puma’s sporty looks, handsome two-tone 19in wheels (£450) and vivid Desert Island Blue paint (£650). I was also tempted by the opening panoramic roof (£950), even though it robs me of some head room. For a total of £28,770, I’ve got an incredibly well-equipped car, it must be said.

Ford Puma long term

First impressions are that the interior is really quite smart, with more soft-touch materials than in the rival VW T-Cross and VW T-Roc, although it isn’t as plush as the Nissan Juke and Skoda Kamiq. It’s also roomier than you might expect, albeit not quite matching the T-Roc in this respect. The driving position is excellent and – hallelujah – there are regular physical dials and buttons for both the climate control and audio system that are much easier to use than the touchscreen-based controls that many of the Puma’s rivals are now using. The boot, meanwhile, is competitive in size and comes with a cleverly designed height-adjustable floor that can easily be propped up out of the way when you want to access the piece de resistance: the deep, 80-litre ‘MegaBox’ compartment underneath. 

Ford Puma long term

As promised, the Puma is great fun to drive, with remarkably agile handling and quick, ideally weighted steering that gives a good sense of connection to the front wheels. It feels light and alert at any speed; I already know that I’m going to enjoy every opportunity I have to drive this car. The only caveats at this stage are that the Puma doesn’t seem to be a particularly quiet car and the ST-Line X’s sports suspension brings a ride that’s on the firm side and can feel quite busy at low speeds, although it’s impressively comfortable on the motorway.

Ford Puma long term

It’s clear to me already that the Puma fully deserves all the accolades that have been heaped upon it so far. The biggest question now is: will it be able to adapt to day-to-day use in my hands as well as its feline namesake can to its chosen environment? Let’s hope the Puma can do the puma proud.

Read our full Ford Puma review

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